Robert Austin from Geneva

December 27, 2014

Return to Europe:

The journey began with a wine-tasting experience in the cellar in an Austrian castle. Fresh off a plane from Toronto, we were a group of 30 students that had arrived at our luxurious hotel, ready for our Summer Abroad classes to start. A few days later, we had to say goodbye to the green Austrian countryside and headed to Graz.

It wasn’t difficult to appreciate Graz’s UNESCO heritage historic buildings and cobblestone roads with a skyline adorned with a clock tower on a hill. It was hard to escape the experience of this city even for a minute, but when we arrived in class, we were quickly captivated by the reason which brought us together here: to learn about the prospects of bringing the Balkans into the European Union. We began with a historical context of the region. During the first weekend there, we took a side journey and visited Croatia’s capital. Seeing the effects of history and what we learned in class, particularly Yugoslavism and Tito’s memorialization, really helped us to experience the effects of what we studied in a classroom. Over the next two weeks, we were back at Graz and were taught through lectures, readings, and BBC’s The Death of Yugoslavia, how Bosnia’s messy constitution came into force, the perpetual problem of Macedonia’s name, and why Kosovo thanks certain states. Before we knew it, the crash course was over, and we got on a bus for our field trip with research papers on our minds.

The powerful experiences of visiting the genocide memorial at Srebrenica, touring Tito’s museum in Belgrade, and standing at the corner 100 years after the fatal shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, changed many of our minds about the essay topic to integrate what we had seen in our essays. This was the best course I have ever taken, not only because of the vivid memories created with the other fantastic participants of the program, but also because I know that the experiences and lessons learned from seeing the places first hand will be something I will never forget.​