Elizabeth Topolosky ’14 earns two prestigious scholarships; rediscovers her family history abroad

Elizabeth Topolosky ’14, a double major in German Studies and International Affairs, spent her junior year abroad after earning two scholarships that funded her studies. The prestigious DAAD Undergraduate Scholarship (also known as the German Academic Exchange Service), allowed her to intern with the Deutsches Amerikanisches Institut (German American Institute or DAI) while studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany.  The DAI is an organization that works to bring the United States and Germany closer together. They have hosted a number of international speakers as part of their events, including Jane Goodall and J.K. Rowling.

“As an intern, I worked in two main areas. I assisted with the international kindergarten and helped to plan some of the children’s events. On the other hand, I also worked with the director of the DAI, putting together an awareness campaign for sexual slavery and human trafficking,” said Topolosky.

In addition to her internship at the DAI, Topolosky also worked on a travel-intensive independent research project about her family history, specifically a relative named Bohumil Topolowsky, who was killed during the Holocaust. “He was strangely well documented for an inmate, even as a political prisoner, and bounced around the camp system for awhile before he died in Mauthausen,” said Topolosky.  Her second scholarship, the Susan Gibble Wolf Fellowship, helped to fund this research. 

During her time abroad, Topolosky visited several concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Dachau, as well as traveled to France to visit Natzweiler. 

“The Holocaust has always interested me, especially because of my close familiar ties to the event: distant cousins on my mother’s side served as camp guards, while another set of maternal cousins were themselves interned in camps as was a distant paternal cousin. Throughout these camp visits, I was able to connect to both history and to my own familial past, something for which I am very thankful,” said Topolosky.

Topolosky hopes to pursue a career that is focused on international relations, possibly the US Foreign Service, Peace Corps, or a focus on international law.

Read Elizabeth’s reflection on her research with the Susan Gibble Wolf Scholarship