Written by Cynthia Villalobos, COSS Multimedia and Communications Student Assistant
Eighteen Fresno State Criminology students had the opportunity to study abroad earlier this year to gain international knowledge about the history, culture and criminal justice system of Berlin, Germany.
While in Germany, the students engaged in an array of activities including visiting the Moabit Prison, Sachsenhaunsen Concentration Camp, the Stasi Prison Museum. These opportunities helped further their studies and learning experiences about the German criminal justice system and German – U.S. relations.
On their first day, students visited many historic sites that they have learned about in their history classes, such as Hitler’s bunker, the Brandenburg Gate, the government quarter with the Reichstag Parliament and the Berlin Wall.
“The moment I was waiting for was visiting the Berlin Wall. I experienced a culture shock when I was able to touch a piece of history that I have read about in my history books back home in the U.S.,” said Jennifer Barajas, a Fresno State Criminology student.
While visiting, students talked with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of State. This opportunity gave students a chance to ask questions on several topics pertaining to U.S. Embassies, as well as the application process for employment opportunities in the Foreign Services after graduating.
During their day-long tour of Moabit Prison, the Governor (Warden) and her next in command, personally walked students through the entire facility including the general population, special units, and segregated housing. The Governor talked about the philosophy of the prison and incarcerating people, inmates’ rights, as well as rehabilitation and work programs and how they differ from the United States prisons.
“We perceive our criminal justice system as the best system out there, but in reality, every country has their own unique system that adapts to the type of crimes they come across,” said Mariana Aranzazu, a Fresno State Criminology student, “The way inmates are treated in Germany would be considered a luxury for some of those incarcerated here in the United States.”
During their visit to the Stasi Prison Museum, a political prison that was opened in 1994 in former East Germany, students learned more about processing, interrogation, torture, and how inmates were housed at this facility. They learned about the atrocities that occurred at the prison and the process by which one was selected to serve as a guard within the prison, as well as the need for allegiance to the Communist Party. After the prison was liberated, students were shocked to learn that both inmates and guards were free to live within Germany together.
All 18 students who attended the study abroad program received funding from the College of Social Sciences and The Division of Continuing and Global Education for a total of about $1,500 each. These awards provided the opportunity to strengthen their knowledge about the criminal justice system at international levels.
“Studying abroad gives me a humbling experience and allows me to see parts of the world I never thought I would get to see,” said Alexis Guerrero, a Fresno State Criminology student, “Being able to go on these trips and broaden my knowledge is a blessing in itself.”