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CIS cultural trips are one of the most-awaited experiences for some of the students at CIS during the school year. In October and February, all of them have a chance to join a group trip to one of the European destinations. This time, our students got a chance to experience the unique atmosphere of Berlin, observe the beauty of Budapest, and learn more about the history of Krakow. Reem Sleiman was among those, who explored the second Polish capital.
Reem Sleiman
Grade 11th student
Reem Sleiman is a Syrian and Circassian student at CIS. She loves to learn about religions and philosophy, as well as art and mathematics. She speaks English, Arabic, Spanish and Catalan fluently. She was born and lived in Saudi Arabia before moving to Spain at the age of 14. Now living in Karlovy Vary, Reem is doing the IB diploma program at Karlovy Vary.

Reem is contributing to CIS blog. Reem has been together with CIS for over a month now, and she thinks it is a right time to share her thoughts of the school now.
"What we did over the course of five days has been one of the most insightful and enlightening learning experiences of my life."
Visiting Poland surpassed my expectations and showed me that there was so much to see outside the Western world. There was so much to learn and take from, especially from a country so rich in history and culture.

I find visits like this so essential especially in the IB program and in CIS, where experiential learning is valued the most. I will take my effort to recall as explicitly as possible the series of events that I was fortunate to see in person.

One of the first things we did was a Jewish culture tour, something that is so prominent in Poland. We learned so much about Jewish culture and people who lived in Krakow before WW2, which was at least a positive element in the middle of the country's depressing recent history.

We then took a walk where all these people used to live and visited a market that is still open to this day. The most interesting thing about the tour, however, was the beautifully built synagogues with so much detail in their architecture. We visited the interior of the synagogues which was breathtaking. We then saw the cemetery that was right next to it where, apparently, some gravestones were broken from WW2 and they gathered all that stone from after the war and built a wall instead near the cemetery. Overall, the experience was enriching and it was amazing seeing what we used to learn in our textbooks in front of us, for us to see, explore and learn from.

Next was the communism tour. The city was made to be a ''perfect'' city and for that reason, it had no churches to maintain that neutrality. After a long tour, we went for lunch at a traditional local Polish restaurant where we had Russian dumplings, which is actually a traditional Polish dish. Even the lunch breaks we had were still technically part of us delving into Polish culture.
On our way to the next stop, a steel factory which we could not access from the inside because of the safety regulations, our passionate tour guide gave detailed and interesting explanations and anecdotes that I think are worth mentioning because now they can be contrasted to the world we live in today. Because of communism, there was a small depression where toilet paper, for example, was a luxury as valuable as gold that people wore it as necklaces. This is how life was only a few decades ago, and it is interesting that these little details can prove how dramatically the world has changed in such a short time.

On the second day we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On our way there we had the privilege of watching a film with footage that showed the people who were sent to Auschwitz. There was a room with artefacts and possessions of the people that were taken in, like shoes, glasses, combs and suitcases. The tour guide then raised a question which I found very interesting: if these people truly hated Jewish people and thought of them as less than human, why were they so set on taking away their belongings and using them themselves?

We then saw laboratories where they used to conduct human experiments like injecting people with diseases to see the effects, amputation, making women infertile, etc. We weren't allowed into those labs but it was a horrifying image itself to see and imagine from the outside that there was no reason to enter.

We then visited a crematorium where they used to poison people with gas and burn the bodies. There was a railway where they separated the old and the young. This day was one of the most touching days and the most emotional one.

This trip has been the highlight of this month and I am glad to know that this will not be the only trip but there will be more to come throughout the year. I am enjoying how my experience at CIS gradually gets better and better, making me rest assured that the time I am having here I will not forget.
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