Valerie Doze '21
Program: Austria Fall Semester
Major: German & Biochemistry
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
A major reason I chose CSB/SJU was because of their outstanding study abroad opportunities. As a German minor, my decision was always between the Austria and Germany programs, but after speaking with the program director for Austria, who is a German professor, I felt confident that continuing my German practice in Salzburg would offer enough growth opportunities while I explored the culture with twenty-three other Bennies and Johnnies. The Salzburg program offered German courses at my level as well as a European Politics course that allowed me to continue to learn about my interest in international policy. Additionally, the professors who teach the CSB/SJU students have been with the program for years and, as I heard from Salzburg veterans in my German courses, were amazing and dedicated to helping them get the most out of their semester abroad experience.
Ultimately, I wanted to study abroad to improve my German language skills and decide if I wanted to apply for internships, fellowships, or jobs abroad in the future (spoiler alert: I definitely want to now!), and Salzburg offered this opportunity as well as mountains for my love of hiking, running, and skiing, and music and art for my love of piano, art, and Mozart!
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Our excursion to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Upper Austria was emotionally challenging for the group but necessary because study abroad is also supposed to push you outside of your limits and cause you to ask the hard questions about yourself and human nature. While I have always been interested in WWII, I did not realize the extent of the role that Austria had in the Third Reich, and it was personally and academically educational to see the development from the atrocities committed during this time to the country that Austria is today. Going to the camp with our Austrian German professor was even more powerful, as her family was directly impacted, showing us the effect that history has.
Our courses at the University of Salzburg also stressed the importance of remembering the past, as well as how the past defines the identity of a nation. “How did Austria really react to being annexed by the Nazis? Why do we rarely hear about the role of Austria in WWII?” were questions that became apparent while preparing for the excursion. What we learned at the camp did not just end there; throughout the semester, our art professor took us to the Salzburg memorial of the 1938 Book Burning, and we watched a movie in German class that examined how present-day Austria continues to address its past. I had the opportunity to write an article for The Record about the excursion, and it was powerful to hear my peers’ and professors’ words about what the experience meant to them.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I came into the Austria program with high expectations and preconceived notions of how much I would learn about the language and culture of the area, as well as how much I would grow. Even though I had known for years I would study abroad, all of my expectations were exceeded as I embarked on my best semester thus far. The connections I made in Austria were unparalleled.
Since Austria is in Central Europe, I was able to visit other countries, and some of my best memories come from staying with Greco-Roman friends in Athens and Ireland friends in Galway (when else in your life will you have friends who are built-in tour guides in other countries?). Although I was able to visit 11 countries in the European Union (and Bosnia!) this semester, I truly discovered that visiting a country is not the same as calling one home. Salzburg’s food, streets, and German language became another home for me, so much so that I would excitedly read the German signs and feel relaxed hearing German after a weekend excursion to a non-German speaking country. From the path by the river that my friend and I ran on multiple times per week to my German professor Bea’s apartment, where I learned piano duets with her and talked to her children, Salzburg was an amazing home that I cannot wait to visit again.
The excursions through our program were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities; even though I plan to spend more time abroad in the future, I will never be able to attend the Vienna Opera, hike for three days in the Austrian Alps, or tour the Jewish quarter in Prague with twenty-three amazing Bennies and Johnnies who became my friends. Having peers to share these experiences with made them even more meaningful, and these memories will last us forever and continue to be a bond that, while we cannot always put it into words, we will continue to share.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
Academically and professionally, my German skills have grown more than I imagined they would this semester. I never thought I would be able to conduct interviews in German and translate them into English at this point in my college career, but I was able to do so for The Record and a course paper. Because I have grown more confident in my German-speaking skills, as well as improved my writing and reading, I decided to change my German minor to a major, which was one of my most exciting decisions in 2019! I am even more committed to pursuing a Fulbright, DAAD, or other fellowship program for research or teaching in a German-speaking country after college, and I am hoping to intern in the science field in one of these countries as well.
The Salzburg professors and program directors provided opportunities I might not have found without their connections. My German professor, Bea, was not only a great teacher, but she also connected me with a refugee whom she had tutored before because of my interest in working with immigrants. Throughout the semester, I was able to practice speaking German with him, which inspired me to interview others in Austria as part of my final experiential learning project. This one-on-one connection was pertinent to my plan to volunteer with refugees and hopefully teach English as a second language and work with refugee and migrant populations in healthcare in the future.
Additionally, I had the amazing experience of shadowing an orthopedic surgeon at a Salzburg hospital. Because of my interest in medicine and healthcare, it was beneficial to watch different surgical techniques as well as ask about the difference between the U.S. and Austrian healthcare systems, which became a central focus in my European Politics paper. This experience reinforced my interest in medicine and healthcare policy, and it allowed me to more seriously consider applying to graduate or medical school in a German-speaking country as well as to schools in the United States.
Overall, these experiences helped me personally discover what I want out of graduate school and a career, as well as the rest of my undergraduate experience. The Austrian and European dedication to moderation and sustainability was also inspiring, and I was continuously learning about the different policy approaches and societal structures that could benefit the United States, as well as ways the United States could be a model for other countries. Therefore, I more clearly see the importance of cultural exchange and would like to facilitate this exchange in whichever future career I pursue.
What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Go now! What other time in your life will you be able to take a whole semester to experience and study in a country? If you plan to work/volunteer internationally in the future, study abroad will stand out on your resume, as well as help solidify your interest in foreign work. It can be scary to be away from home and your friends (especially if, like me, your home is only four hours away from CSB+SJU), but going on a program where I knew few people allowed me to be more vulnerable and form lasting friendships.
There are programs for everyone’s interests at CSB+SJU, and I think everyone loves their study abroad country(s) as much as we loved Austria. Austria is one of the more affordable programs, and there is a scholarship to help finance study abroad. If you have any financial concerns, contact CGE or Financial Aid; there are also amazing short-term study abroad programs if you don’t have enough time or finances for a semester. If you are deciding between programs or have questions about one you are interested in, do not hesitate to speak with a student who has gone before. I received many helpful tips from the previous Salzburg program; they enjoyed speaking about their experience, and I could tell from their excitement that I had made the right decision.
It is more challenging to find time and money to study abroad after graduating college, so the best time to do it is when there are multiple faculty, staff, and students at CSB+SJU to help you become accustomed to international travel. After study abroad, travel becomes less intimidating, and barriers to you working or studying abroad in the future are significantly lowered.