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Family history inspires student to work for justice

Victoria Herrmann '12 has traveled extensively during her Lehigh education.

Never again.

Those two words drive Victoria Herrmann to appreciate life to the fullest and to work for justice throughout the world.

Herrmann, a senior majoring in international relations and art history, is a third-generation Holocaust survivor. Her grandfather, having lost his entire family, immigrated to the United States to start life anew after he was liberated from Auschwitz.

Herrmann’s goal is to do what she can to prevent such violence from happening again.

“My grandfather died a year ago, and I tell his stories to remember what happened and for future victims of ethnic violence,” she says.

Herrmann first traveled abroad in high school. Her destination was Germany, her grandfather’s home country.

“It was important for me to see where he came from,” she says.

Her family’s history inspired Herrmann to major in international relations and study global justice.

“[Their past] makes me appreciate life, my opportunities, and my family more,” she says. “I study for the benefit of the victim, for those who have lost their voice.”

Herrmann focuses on the victims of climate change and environmental racism, especially minorities in developed countries, such as those affected by uranium mining in the United States.

A new perspective

She has traveled throughout her years at Lehigh. This year, from January until June, she visited 10 countries, including Armenia, Israel, Bulgaria, Austria, and Switzerland. After completing a three-month internship with the U.S. embassy in the Office of Political and Economic Affairs in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, she stopped in other countries week-by-week on her way back home.

One of her goals was to explore unfamiliar societies.

“I want to learn about other cultures, and I need to understand other nationalities,” she says. “I went on www.couchsurfing.org and stayed with strangers as I traveled. It was great to see how people live.”

To keep her family informed during her travels, Herrmann started a blog “The Long and Winding Road to…,”  which developed into something bigger than she expected.

“It grew, and many people were reading it,” says Herrmann. “It was a good way to reflect on my travels, and I hope to continue blogging in the future.”

Recently, Herrmann went to Ghana for a class called International Social Entrepreneurship (ENTP 307). Students focused on educating farmers and teachers about improved agricultural practices and on implementing SEAD (Sustainable Empowerment through Agricultural Development), an organization created by students in the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation.

After graduation, Herrmann hopes to obtain a Fulbright scholarship to study in Canada, the United Kingdom or Ireland.

Seeing the world while discovering new perspectives is an experience of potential value to all students, says Herrmann, who also serves as president of the Association of Student Alumni (ASA).

“Go out and learn,” she says. “You don’t know what’s coming after graduation, so this is the time to explore the world. It will change how you see things.”

Story by Caitlin Prozonic

Posted on Monday, December 05, 2011

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