Experiencing a different culture, interacting with other college students from a variety of backgrounds and discussing global issues helped make traveling to Salzburg, Austria, a life-changing trip for three Tusculum College students.
Mitchell Taylor, Sam Underwood and Altoine Wilson attended the Salzburg Global Seminar as representatives of Tusculum in January. All three students, who were selected for the seminar based on nominations from faculty, are sophomores. Taylor, from Kodak, Tenn., and Sam Underwood, from Muncie, Ind., are business majors. Wilson, who is from Covington, Ga., is a film and broadcasting major. The session that the Tusculum students attended was the “Mellon Fellow Community Initiative Student Seminar on Global Citizenship: America and the World.”
In a presentation about their trip on Monday, March 28, Underwood encouraged her fellow students to travel internationally if they get the opportunity. “After this trip, we were truly changed people,” she said. “It changes your mindset.”
While the seminar is designed to introduce a variety of viewpoints to its participants and broaden their perspectives, Underwood noted international travel for pleasure can also have a changing affect in immersing individuals into different cultures.
Wilson said the three “didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it would be a chance of a lifetime and it was.” It was the first time for travel outside of the country for Wilson and Underwood. Taylor had taken an earlier trip to South America.
The trip was focused on learning, Wilson said, and the participants addressed many controversial subjects, as well as how Americans view the rest of the world and how the rest of the world views the United States. The students described one activity in which they acted out Plato’s allegory of a cave to illustrate how people sometimes live in a bubble and how painful it can be to be forced out of that comfort zone to look at what is happening in the world.
Taylor said that one of the most important opportunities of the trip was getting to know and make friends with the other seminar participants who came from a variety of backgrounds. Participants came from a number of Appalachian region colleges as well as universities across the nation.
“I was impressed by others’ passion for various issues and their desire to make a difference in the world,” he said.
The Salzburg Global Seminars are held at the Schloss Leopoldskron, a regal, 18th century castle surrounded by immaculate grounds with breathtaking views of the adjoining lake and the Alps.
“Our living conditions were really nice,” Taylor said. “The whole place was very beautiful.” The students’ living quarters were at the Meierhof, about 200 yards from Schloss Leopoldskron. There, students had access to a computer library, where they could stay in touch with their families, and a lounge area where seminar participants could relax at the end of the day.
The students took many photos of the palace’s ornate architectural features and the gardens and sculptures surrounding the palace. After the seminar sessions, students would gather for continuing discussion of issues raised in various rooms in the palace, Taylor said.
The Austrian cuisine served at the Schloss Leopoldskron reflected the surroundings. “There was amazing food at the Schloss,” Underwood said. “We were fed like royalty.”
Austrian food was similar to German cuisine, she continued, and all their meals featured quality meats and fresh vegetables. “All of the food seemed healthier and tasted better.”
Although most of the students’ time was spent at the seminar, the participants took a day trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany, touring what remains of the camp and visiting the museum and memorial at the site. “I can’t describe in words what it felt like,” Underwood said.
Seminar participants also had a couple days to explore Salzburg. In the older part of the town, “there was a ton of beautiful Gothic architecture,” Taylor said. “We also saw lots of street performers, but they weren’t like the guitarists you see on streets here. They were playing the harp and violin.”
Tusculum is currently planning international trips for the upcoming 2011-12 academic year. The current academic year has been the best for the college for international study as more students have participated in short-term study abroad trips than ever before, said Dr. Geir Bergvin, director of the Tusculum’s Center for Global Studies. Students have recently returned from trips to Central America and Europe.