My experiences at the International Summer School at the Seggau Castle in Leibnitz, Austria this summer were invaluable. At the end of the two weeks, I learned how lucky I am to live in a country with countless possibilities and opportunities, how an issue in this country might not be an issue in another country and many other signifcant lessons. However, most importantly, I learned a lot about myself. In this article, I will highlight my activities while in the program and you might just find yourself wanting to apply to do the same.
The theme at this year’s Graz International Summer School was “Shifting Perspectives: Europe and the Americas.” The group consisted of 81 Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D students that represented 31 countries from Europe, the Middle East as well as North and South America. The diverse participants were challenged to discuss issues from different perspectives.
The energetic organizers booked the two-week program with lectures and activities for the students. In the morning, the students had the pleasure to hear two or three professors from various universities lecture and be immersed into the realm of social, political and geographic topics concerning Europe and the Americas, from deconstructing stereotypes in the Balkans to geopolitical issues in the Caribbean.
After a lunch that often consisted of several savory, traditional Austrian foods, the participants were separated into different modules or afternoon seminars. The program offered seven modules in total: Politics and Law; Media, Society and Culture; Ethics and Economics; State, Society and Religion; Literature of Transformation; Aging and the Life-course and History and Power. On days when the sun wasn’t shining too strong, the seminars where conducted outside.
On the weekend, a round trip to Graz, a city (by European standards) with a large student population and cozy coffee shops at every corner, was scheduled. It is also home to the University of Graz, from where the summer school was sponsored. On Sunday, the students who wished for another day trip could join the staff for an excursion to Maribur, Slovenia.
In the evening, various entertaining activities were planned. Students were required to represent their countries in what was called the International Presentations. There was a science slam, a competition where people had 5 minutes to present a topic they were passionate about and make the audience just as passionate as well as a karaoke night and sports competitions. During one nightly event, a representative from the American consulate in Vienna came to speak about the importance of studying abroad and plans of how to get more American students to study abroad.
On Tuesdays, after the modules, the participants were free to do as they pleased. The pool located between the main castle building and the youth hostel was a popular attraction considering the abnormal heat wave in Western Europe this year. This is also the time where students can share how things are different or similar in their countries or just socialize. Over the course of the program, students were asked to submit pictures they took during the day, which served as the Picture of the Day according to the organizers.
In conclusion, the topics discussed during the morning lectures, the afternoon seminars as well as the constant social interaction with all the diverse participants make this program the perfect fit for students who wish to immerse themselves into European and North and South American studies.