Vienna—Crossroads of Central Europe
A Message to Students and Parents
I grew up in the small German town of Bad Schwalbach. This idyllic town of eight-thousand inhabitants, nestled in the Taunus Mountains near the wine-growing region along the Rhine, inspired my love of history: I climbed around many ruins of medieval fortresses along the banks of the Rhine. When I was seventeen, my family moved to New York. Perfect timing to move from a small town to the big city. After the fascinating anthropological experience of attending an American high school for six months, I started college at Hofstra University on Long Island, where I studied History and French. I spent my junior year abroad on the French Riviera studying at the Université de Nice. My year in France was a fantastic experience, so I always urge students to take the opportunity to study abroad--it will change your life! I attended grad school in history at Yale University, where I studied early modern German history. I spent three years doing research in archives and libraries in Bavaria. That’s when I started exploring nearby Austria, hiking and mountain climbing in the Austrian Alps. After writing a Ph.D dissertation on the “down and out” (most notably executioners) in early modern Germany, I started teaching at UC Davis in 1992. I continue to do research on crime—my current book is about homicide, a project which has taken me to archives all over Austria. (To learn more about my homicide research, listen to my interview with Ira Glass on “This American Life”). One of my favorite things about Summer Abroad is teaching history “on location”: when we learn about the plague, we visit the catacombs of St. Strephens Cathedral where hundreds of skeletons of the plague’s last victims are laid out. We experience the Baroque walking through the Ballrooms of Schönbrunn Palace. We learn about international relations by spending a day at the United Nations. And finally, I love introducing students to exotic food—which is why I give extra credit for adventurous eating! “Blunzengröstl”, anyone?