By Katie Van Dyke, Guest Commentary -- The Beacon
We are writing on behalf of many Salzburg students in response to "Looking at the global picture" (April 14) by Megan House, a student currently studying in the UP Salzburg program. In her article, Ms. House tells her account of a program tour through Greece and Italy, specifically a very interesting encounter in a Greek port city. While we waited on our bus to load onto a ferry, men—most likely migrants and refugees escaping from the conflicts in North Africa—swarmed the bus, trying to escape their situation by stowing a ride onto the ferry and away from the economic problems of Southern Europe. For many of us, this was our first encounter with such immense human desperation, and many students were understandably frightened and disturbed. As is a common reaction to such intense situations, a small number of comments were made between close friends, comments that may seem harsh and even politically insensitive when taken out of context.
Many of us are offended by the implication that making private statements as a reaction to an intense, never-before encountered situation is equitable to blatant cultural insensitivity. As students who specifically chose to study abroad in order to broaden our worldview, we certainly do not "travel categorically judging others' cultures, cities, and treasures" for personal pleasure. We strive to contextualize and appreciate all cultures and situations so that we may understand more of the world, and thus grow as individuals.
The assertion that we "travel the world like kids in a candy store" is a gross misrepresentation of the UP Salzburg program, a program designed and dedicated to broadening students' world outlook and offering captivating cultural experiences. We hope that future students who get the opportunity to see the world through the UP Salzburg program will have as many illuminating experiences as we have been so fortunate to have.
Katie Van Dyke is a sophomore Sociology and German major, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Martina Hagan is a sophomore Global Business and German, she can be contacted at email@example.com