February 26, 2018
Among the many things senior Marielle Miller learned on her Global Opportunities experience in Austria, perhaps most striking was the country's Nazi past.
GO Austria: National History, Global Responsibilities is a three-week study abroad program that takes students to Salzburg and Vienna, as well as nearby Munich, Germany.
Before her GO experience, Miller, a public relations major from Shamokin, Pa., pictured the Austria of The Sound of Music, in which the Von Trapp family bravely escapes the Nazis after leading a concert hall audience in the song Edelweiss, in defiance of the Nazi regime.
She visited some of the film's historic landmarks, but learned the reality of Austria's relationship with the Nazis when visiting the Mauthausen concentration camp. In fact, many Austrians welcomed Hitler upon the Anschluss in 1938, when Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany. The villages of Mauthausen and Gusen existed quietly within eyesight of the concentration camp where easily more than 150,000 were murdered.
"Today they want you to know that they welcomed the Nazis and they want you to know they made a mistake," Miller said.
Visiting the camp was heavy, Miller said. She was particularly struck upon seeing her own last name memorialized upon the gas chamber floor. She was also surprised to see young children touring the camp-now required by the Austrian government.
"In Austria they want to make sure the generations they are sending into the world don't make the same mistakes," Miller said.
Miller also got a closer look at Europe's refugee crisis when visiting Vienna and Munich, and learned about how this crisis has influenced the political climate there.
"In Munich, there is lots of resistance against refugees," she said. "In Austria, it's very subtle, but gaining more momentum."
Miller and her classmates also explored cathedrals, medieval castles and attended attend concerts and operas. Preparation for the trip included history lessons on the country's culture and basic German lessons. After their return from Austria, the group shared with each other what they learned in the required reflection course that follows each GO experience.
"I'm more of an active citizen now. I pay attention to what's going on in other countries," Miller said. "I got to learn more about this country that I didn't really know about. This was outside the box for me."