For a week during my freshman year of college, I lived in a palace.
My morning began early with a light Austrian breakfast before a lecture on globalization or empathy beyond borders. My evenings consisted of a coffee with friends, grateful to share their thoughts of the day’s discussions. I was one of 10 students from my community college campus accepted to attend the Global Citizenship Alliance seminar in Salzburg, Austria where I lived in the Schloss Leopoldskron. (Yes, the palace where Julie Andrews serenaded and sasheyed in the Sound of Music.)
The seminar’s objective to inform us community college students about global citizenry prompted us to think about our world outside of the United States. Our European lecturers facilitated a “European model” of education through their lecture styles as well as lessening the formalities between professor and student.
Between every lecture, our professors would join us for tea time. We sipped our glasses, questioning our education traditions and the audacity of the American system. Never did I feel more European.
After dinner, my friends and I would go explore local Salzburg bars. The smell of German beers lingered as we cross the Salzach river walking past other local universities students embracing the city’s charm.
In the middle of our week in Austria, we crossed the border to observe the first concentration camp built in the Holocaust, near Munich. The pains of generation prior remain in Dachau as the cold air blew under gray skies.
Although I normally do not react emotionally, the gravity of the camp’s desperations weighs when I’m reminded of the tragedy.
That evening, I spoke with one of the professors about what I experience and he explained his own family history in relation to the Holocaust. The personal bearing of the Holocaust revealed itself to me that evening.
Being as though most of my seminar cohort were either Floridians or from warm weather countries, the seminar brought us to a snow-capped mountain at the border of Germany. My friends and I held tight as we climbed up feets of snow to the top.
At the end of the seminar, we spent our last weekend in Vienna, the country’s capital. A city rich in culture and beauty where we explored happily at our discretion.
Through laughs and conversations, the seminar was a culmination of intellectual kindling and global citizenry building. Although I learned plenty, the friendships developed in the palace is what I find myself remembering the most.