Daniel Matalon is so desperate to become a doctor that when a court ruling granted German students equal access to Austrian universities, he drove all night to cross the border and be first in line at Vienna's medical school.
Hundreds of other Germans did the same, swamping Austria's three medical schools and provoking an outcry in the small Alpine nation that over the past century has felt dwarfed by a northern neighbor more than four times its size and 10 times more populous.
"We Germans had to line up in front of the university, and suddenly an Austrian showed up, pushed in and started to argue, saying we were applying for his place," Matalon said. "In some way, I understand the Austrians, but what they had done before was discriminating. I mean, as an Austrian, you had always had the chance to study in Germany."
Now Austria, like many of the other 24 countries of the borderless European Union, is feeling the pressure of having to gradually open its doors, economy and classrooms to its partner-nations.
Until now, E.U. students seeking college admission here had to show they could not get a place at home, but the European Court of Justice ruled this summer that all applicants were eligible, and since Germany and Austria speak the same language, German applicants naturally were the most numerous.
With Germany's unemployment at record highs, Germans are also Austria's fastest-growing immigrant group, taking white-collar jobs, waiting tables, even teaching skiing in a nation fiercely proud of its mastery of the sport.
"This is a short-term and rather unexpected development," said Rainer Baubock, a university lecturer and senior researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
Others were less understated. In one flashy, though factually dubious statement, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel declared that German workers were crossing the border for Austria's supposedly more generous unemployment benefits. An Austrian magazine, News, ran a story on the influx of German workers featuring a cover photo of a man ripping open his shirt to reveal a German flag.
"It is a small-brother-big-brother relationship not so different from Canada and the United States or even Britain and Ireland," said Anton Pelinka, a professor of political science at the University of Innsbruck. "It usually involves the over-sensitivity of the littler brother and the lack of sensitivity of the big brother. The Germans don't get how the Austrians feel about them.
"Austrian national identity has always been defined as being not German," Pelinka said. "We may speak like Germans, but we are not Germans."
The sentiment became especially acute after World War II, when Austrians, having cheered Adolf Hitler when he took over their country in 1938, switched to describing themselves as the first victims of Nazi aggression.
The sensitivity was aggravated in the postwar years as Austria, seat of a once great empire, witnessed Germany's "economic miracle" of recovery from the ruins of the Third Reich.
But lately things have begun to look different. Since May last year, Austria's benchmark stock index has risen 72 percent, Germany's 25 percent. Austrian unemployment is 6.2 percent to Germany's 11.4 percent, and Austria's annual growth rate in the first quarter of this year was 2 percent, compared with 0.8 percent in Germany.
A cornerstone of the Austrian welfare state is the automatic right of every citizen with a high school diploma to attend a university. But the European Union says Austria cannot make different rules for others from the bloc, and this summer it was supported by a ruling from the European Court of Justice.
Opposition parties accuse the government of failing to make plans in case it lost the suit. And schools have had to scramble to accommodate the deluge. The medical school in the southern city of Graz will teach a first semester online to all comers -- 1,765 from Germany and 826 from Austria. Then the students will be tested, and only a few hundred will be allowed to continue.