Salzburg Trip Inspires Change, Challenges And Brings About Global Awareness

It was 6 a.m. when I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar. The five of us were huddled together, Monica Rivero scrolling through the news on her phone as we clogged the bike lane in Salzburg, Austria, causing the town’s early morning riders mild discomfort.

We had set out from Schloss Leopoldskron, the 17th century rococo manor featured in The Sound of Music, at 5 a.m.  The rest of the Miami Dade College Salzburg Global Seminar students stayed in their hotel rooms sleeping, preparing for another day of lectures. More than 40 MDC students attended the seminar, a seven day globalization educational program in Salzburg, Austria for U.S. colleges, from Feb. 25 through March 5.

I set the direction the five of us rode, having explored Salzburg twice before at 4 a.m. The rest of the group had blind trust that I knew where I was going. They only started to have doubts when we reached the industrial part of Salzburg. Even then no one was worried.

As we rode through the closed shops (Salzburg’s a city that’s early to bed and late to rise), each of us thought of the absurdity of doing the same thing in Miami, riding through with no destination in mind. The freedom we had in adventuring, the things we were willing to risk, didn’t resonate with who we were back home.

People say I’m a solitary person. I packed five different novels for the trip, not expecting to talk to many people, even my own roommate Barry Neal. However, as the trip progressed, I became part of a core group of nine friends, each of us experiencing the connections and separations friends usually face in years, in eleven days.

The Salzburg Seminar, which touched upon globalization, climate shifts, and the global refugee crisis, had one unifying topic: change. Accepting disruptions when they come, surrendering to new experiences, being willing to put your own character on the line, to, as Global Seminar Student Phanthira Pugdeethosapol put it, “go with the flow.”

Accepting change lay in the background of the trip as we took part in the program, visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, meeting with university students who had been refugees, exploring the city of Vienna in the aftermath of the Hapsburg Dynasty.

These different experiences addressed how, as Miami Dade College students, we can accept change. It challenged us to think whether it is right to use South Florida and our Hispanic backgrounds, as shields against global issues. More than that, it demonstrated how we can address shifting global situations, while standing for our own beliefs.

In Dachau there is a gate with Arbeit macht frei engraved in it, “work will set you free.” Dachau, surrounded by dead trees and barbed wire, lay isolated, alone, it’s horrors memorialized by that single phrase. The crimes that took place there stemmed from a refusal of the present, a blindness to progress. That is what the seminar fought against, the refusal to accept what time brings about.

Alexander Aspuru

Alexander F. Aspuru, 18, is a liberal arts major in the Honors College at Kendall Campus. He will serve as a staff writer during the 2015-2016 school year. Aspuru, who graduated from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 2015, aspires to work in Antarctica as part of the McMurdo Station support staff.