"This trip was the best experience of my life because it gave me the opportunity to see amazing sights such as the royal apartments, flak towers, and Schonbrunn Palace. This trip also served as first hand reminder of the sobering past of Europe, with the expedition to Mauthausen concentration camp reminding me of all those who lost their lives in World Wars I & II. In addition to giving me a better understanding of history, this excursion exposed me to a culture that was different from my own through the wonderful food and friendly people that I encountered. This was an extraordinary once in a lifetime trip that and I will cherish its memories for the remainder of my life."
-- Erin Garrison
"Before our journey to Vienna and Bratislava I had never left America and I did not know what to expect on the flight across the Atlantic. After an eventful day of traveling, the exploration of the city began. Tours of the Imperial Palaces and museums, as well as stops at historic monuments in both Austria and Slovakia, filled our days as we took in as much of these European cultures as we could in our short time there. As a history major, this trip provided me with a valuable experience that added both depth and understanding to this area of study. In a way, coming into contact with these relics of the past put everything in perspective. For example, while visiting the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum we had the opportunity to see the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, as well as his uniform which had been stained with blood. While studying these items I could not help but think about the significance of this moment. Here I was standing in the same room as items that were linked to the spark that started the First World War. On our trip, we also toured the largest concentration camp in Austria, Mauthausen. Through my time at Jesuit I had read numerous books regarding the Second World War and the brutality that encompassed the Holocaust, but seeing the site of these atrocities offered me a new perspective on this event. Encounters with history, like the ones that occurred on this trip, do not happen every day and experiencing the past firsthand with other WJU students and professors allowed me to relate the story of Austria and Slovakia to the topics I have studied in class."
"The trip to Vienna was a once in a lifetime event. I had only seen architecture that existed in the city in pictures; it was amazing to see it in person. The boat tour of the Wachau Valley was very impressive as was the monastery in Melk. Everywhere that we visited was something new and exciting. I also liked the idea of having a few meals together as a group. The trip to Vienna was one of the best experiences I have had in my life thus far. It was an outstanding adventure."
-- Kodi Peterson
"Vienna is definitely one of the coolest places I've been. There is so much history and so much culture that it's impossible not to find something to do. If I had gone on my own, I would have been very overwhelmed and wouldn't know where to start. Luckily, the trip was well structured and very organized. We went to many museums which helped us learn about the history of the city so that we could appreciate it more. While we visited many historical places, we also went to places like the amusement park, making it an enjoyable trip for both history majors and non-history majors. Even though the trip was organized, there was still a lot of space for free time. Almost every evening was free for us to go exploring. Since we had all of this time we were able to find new restaurants where we could eat, new places where we could shop, and more places to visit. Overall, I really enjoyed the trip. The people were nice and welcoming and the city never felt dangerous. I always felt safe even if I was alone. It was also nice to visit other places in Austria and the surrounding area. It was interesting to go Bratislava, Slovakia and see how different it was from Vienna, and it was refreshing to visit Melk which was a quaint little town that was not overwhelmingly filled with tourists. I think this trip was a good way to put everything we talk about in class into perspective. Being able to see where historical events occurred and visit historical museums made me appreciate this experience and has encouraged me definitely go on the Berlin trip next year!"
-- Emily Teachout
"The week we spent in Vienna was rich with culture and history. I greatly enjoyed touring the imperial palaces of Vienna and learning about the royals who lived there. In the course of a week, we went to the many churches, museums, and palaces that Vienna had to offer. An eye opening experience was visiting the Mauthausen concentration camp. It is hard to imagine the horrors that happened during the Holocaust, but when you actually visit one of these camps, the sheer magnitude of the horror is all around you. While visiting Mauthausen, history came to life for me. Even though I am not a history major, I greatly enjoyed going on this trip and learning the history of Vienna which is all around the city. Everywhere you look in Vienna, there are remnants of the past and historical stories to learn. Overall, it was a great week shared with classmates and professors. I would love to go on another trip with the history department!
-- Patricia Paolini
"The trip was a marvelous adventure. Austria is a beautiful country, full of history, culture, and delicious food. It was incredible to see Vienna, a city that was home to one of the most influential families in European history. It was also amazing to be able to visit Bratislava. The mixture of medieval, baroque, and modern architectural styles spoke to the incredible evolution and longevity of the two cities. With the well-structured itinerary, we were able to see all the important sites. We also had sufficient free time to explore and experience large swathes of the city. The trip to Melk Abbey and subsequent river tour were both tremendous experiences. The excursion to Mauthausen concentration camp was an enlightening experience, serving as a sober reminder of history that should not soon be forgotten. Overall this trip was a splendid opportunity, with friendships forged, novel experiences, and a more personal relationship with history.
-- Si Gammache
"The trip was like a 'dream-come-true' ending to my senior year and the years spent at WJU. My favorite things were getting to spend some quality time with my classmates and my professors. The sites were spectacular as well. I really enjoyed Metz and Trier for their quaintness and European 'authenticity.' The hostel stays were fun too because they gave us the full European young adult travel experience. Paris captivated me! Overall, it was just a superb trip!"
--Maria Petrasko, Metz/Trier/Paris
"The trip was one of the highlights of my time at WJU. It was set up in such a way that there was enough structure, but plenty of free time for us to explore. This trip helped bring together opportunities to learn about culture, history, and see the really famous landmarks in each city."
--Elizabeth Philbrick, Metz/Trier/Paris
"I had a great time on the trip! I liked how organized everything was. I had no time to prepare for the trip because I was so busy with graduation but it wasn't a problem because everything was taken care of. We also saw so much without feeling like we were rushing around everywhere. . . it really was a great trip."
--Maria Sauk, Metz/Trier/Paris
"I had an incredible time on the trip. My favorite city was Metz without a question. It allowed students to see how another culture lives without being too touristy . . . It was awesome as a whole."
--August Capiola, Metz/Trier/Paris 2012
"Our week in Germany was a mix of history, culture, and entertainment. We walked along the Berlin wall, perused modern and classical art museums, imagined royal life while touring palaces, felt small before memorials to the fallen of the Second World War, and relaxed at the end of the day in street cafes and beer gardens.
Traveling with classmates and professors enhanced this experience tremendously. I compared American and European culture with my friends as we rode the subway to yet another place that no one we knew had ever seen. And, once we got to the next historic site, we had historians in our midst to explain why this troop movement was crucial to ending the war and why that propaganda poster was especially heinous in German.
The trip also provided unscheduled time for self-guided activities. I took in a performance of the Berlin Philharmonic playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s fifth symphony during a free day. Getting to hear one of the classics of the orchestral repertoire, performed by one of the top-rated symphonies in the world, directed by one of the outstanding conductors in all of music today--Simon Rattle--thrilled me. Sitting in an audience of people whose language I did not know, I strangely felt connected to them; the music communicated something to us all that we could not have told each other with words."
"This was a great trip. It is one thing to talk about World War II in class, and to read about the atrocities that were perpetrated during that time. We visited a concentration camp in Berlin that had not been used for the express purpose of extermination. The caretakers of the property had not been able to keep up all the buildings, but had left markers in the place of the former living quarters of the prisoners. These markers were piled high with stones, a practice reserved for honoring Jews buried in cemeteries. We saw the Wall and everything we had read about became very real. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that only about a half century has passed since these events took place. It's like the difference between looking at a photo in grayscale and then again in color. It was hard to continue putting distance between myself and the things humankind has done when I was standing in the midst of it."
"I hadn't been off the North American continent before heading to Berlin with the Wheeling Jesuit faculty, but I would go back with them if I could. We had perfect cultural experiences like eating a Frankfurter in Frankfurt, trekking on the insides and outsides of kings' palaces in Potsdam, and in Berlin, we checked out the jewelry, tapestries, and paintings of one of history's most influential peoples. But the trip's effects went much deeper than the small pleasures of vacationing in such an important historical city.
These relaxing educational experiences were countered by our trip's sobering, awakening focus on World War II and the Cold War. Walking alongside the notorious Berlin wall and being beaten by the sun at an old Nazi concentration camp made me realize that much of what I had previously learned in history classrooms was part of a mental world unconnected from the tangible places we visited. To me, learning history has gained in dimensions - not only depth or breadth - because of the trip. I used to wonder why professors quoted gargantuan death statistics from battles and genocides. "Why wouldn't they just focus on quoting people's personal laments?," I wondered, believing no one could comprehend these meaninglessly huge figures. But standing on dry, sparsely foliated dirt in the endless expanse of the camp's inner yard established the terrifying reality of such statistics: tragedies never happen in textbooks. They happen to real people in real places."