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Alumni Stories

Adventures in Salzburg

by Melissa Atkins

I think the initial reaction when someone finds out they are going to be thrust into a new country for an extended amount of time is both fear and excitement. I know I was definitely flooded with both of these emotions when I was contemplating whether or not to go on this trip, but I made the decision to take a deep breath and make a leap of faith by letting go of my fear and going on the Salzburg 2022 study abroad trip. I am so grateful that I did. When I arrived in Salzburg, I was somewhat thrust into the thick of the city. I was astounded with myself by exactly how quickly I was picking up on how to engage with people, use transportation, and do simple things like walk with confidence as if I belonged. At the end of the day, I was shocked at all the things I had achieved, especially since I would consider myself someone who struggles with socializing with people. The anxiety did not really get to me because I was so busy studying and having adventures.  Every day we would have classes in the morning and then excursions or free time in the city from midday to evening. During this time we visited a lot of historic sites, such as the Festung, a giant white fortress on top of a mountain that looms over Salzburg, cathedrals throughout the city, Mirabell Palace, and more. In these places, it was impossible not to meet not only interesting locals but travelers from all over the world.

Mirabell Palace.

I wanted to challenge myself more, so I started talking to the people I crossed paths with. Engaging with these new wonderful people has taught me a lot about myself. I saw myself in them and the parts I did not recognize I was fascinated by. An example of this is when I met an individual who was also studying here in Salzburg. She was a lot like me – she was curious and excited to be here. We got along great. Though when we discussed what we would like to see in Salzburg, her views were very different being that she was from Italy. She thought that Salzburg was small and cute, while to me, at least when I arrived, it was large and overwhelming. The cultural differences that struck her as shocking were completely different than mine. In the end, I learned to understand her view of things and values and appreciate my own values and experiences. This interaction also helped me gain the courage to communicate in a more confident way and more often. I believe overall I have become more open-minded, understanding, receptive, and tolerant of new ideas, values, and cultures after my study abroad trip to Salzburg.

View of Salzburg from Festung Fortress.

The KIIS Salzburg study abroad trip offers free weekends where students can take a train and travel to whatever destination they choose. This is obviously an exciting opportunity, but it’s also a challenge to become more independent. On my free weekend, I traveled to Linz with a group of friends. Linz is a smaller town that is a lot less touristy. There we walked throughout the city and popped in and out of a multitude of shops and gorgeous churches. We admired the ancient architecture, colorful building paint jobs, and a statue in the town square that was built to celebrate the survival of the black plague. We soon reached the Danube river which was a bright shade of blue. The enticing color was enough for us to roll up our pants and get knee-deep in the mild current. It was a perfect local for rock skipping and collecting. Only a couple of pesty pigeons were disturbed in the process. Some of these pigeons even donned pink and red feathers that stood out against their traditionally gray brethren. In that instance, we were truly the spitting image of living in the moment. We encapsulated freedom and independence but soon the sun was going down so we soon walked back to the bustling train station to our next destination Hallstatt.

Myself (in the middle) and my friends eating gelato in Linz.

There we were immediately struck by its beauty. Hallstatt is a quaint village that sits on the Hallstätter See or as the locals like to call “little sea”. Hallstatt sits on one side of the sea and another tiny village called Obertraun sits on the other side. Both the sea and villages are surrounded by mountains that tower over the locals. We stayed the night in Obertraun. Here we swam in the freezing cold water infested with swans and rode boats disguised as giant swans. The following day we took a traditional ferry across the “sea” to Hallstatt. The village is small but offers a multitude of gardens, churches, and medieval art/architecture. We journeyed up threw the town and partially up a mountain to reach a church that looms over all of Hallstatt. Here we saw a highly decorated graveyard and scared alters. This journey was made daily by the local monks in the medieval era. This church gave a great scenic view of the villages and natural wonders within the mountain borders. Later in the day, we visited a salt mine that was carved deep into one of the mountains surrounding Hallstatt. In this spot, it seemed like the entire historical significance of Hallstatt hit us at once. We could see how the mountains provided protection and wealth to the people of this village. How the beauty of the geography became sacred. We were not looking at a picture or reading from a textbook instead we were experiencing history. We took it all in and let that moment challenge and change us. After expiring all of that, we sat down and ate schnitzel and potatoes, an Austrian staple at a restaurant that sat on the water of the Hallstätter See. With full bellies, we then took a more modern ferry back to Obertraun. In Obertraun we sat and waited at a small train station that felt like it was right out of a fairy tale for our ride back to Salzburg to contemplate everything we experienced over the span of just two days.

View of Hallstatt.


Melissa Atkins

KIIS Salzburg 2022
Music Education
Murray State University

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