Finding Global Connections in Central Europe
Senior Michaela Bunke credits Professor J.B. Shank’s course on European intellectual history with inspiring her unexpected passion for history. This class changed the trajectory of her college career by opening her eyes to the compelling and vast field of study. It wasn’t long before Bunke had declared a major in history. She was especially interested in European history, thanks in part to that class and in part to several trips she had taken to a small town in the Czech Republic in high school to lead English camps for Czech students.
As she continued her studies, she began to focus on central Europe. But reading about it was not going to be enough for Bunke; she wanted to see it for herself. She applied for and received the Hedley Donovan Scholarship, which awards students with $8000 towards an exceptional program of study, research, or work, which can be conducted either locally or abroad. She soon found herself in Vienna, Austria, digging through local archives to find works by and about 19th- and 20th-century Viennese intellectuals.
What she discovered in Vienna was larger than a research paper. As she continued her studies, it became abundantly clear to her that the perspective she was cultivating on this era of Austrian history also helped her to understand other times and places. She was developing a framework of thinking that could be applied to other contexts and to an overarching context. As she fell in love with Austrian history and culture, a greater understanding of world history came into focus. Bunke says that "as westerners, knowing where we've been and understanding the kinds of patterns that have emerged throughout our history are essential and foundational elements in figuring out where we may be headed in the future." Through her research, Bunke has gained a much clearer understanding of how cultures can and do interact, and is able to find parallels between our world’s history and present-day realities.
Bunke is grateful for the faculty in the history department, who have inspired her passion for history and regularly encourage and challenge her. She is also thankful for the Donovan Scholarship which gave her the opportunity to go abroad. As a result of this experience, she has grown as a person, a scholar, and as a global citizen. She encourages other students to connect with their professors and to consider studying abroad if they can. Bunke hopes to return to central Europe soon, with the dream of moving there to continue her work.