Holy Cross’ Long-Term Study Abroad Programs Recognized for Tenth Year in a Row

From climbing the Great Wall of China to exploring the importance of food in Italy, Holy Cross students make the most of studying abroad
December 11th, 2018 by 

Sunset over Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, Italy
Michelle Hu '19 snapped this photo of a sunset over Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, Italy while she was studying abroad in England. The photo received honorable mention in the Study Abroad Photo Contest. Photo by Michelle Hu '19

This year, 86 Holy Cross students are spending the year — yes, the entire year — around the world in Germany, China, Italy, Argentina, Ireland, Spain, France, Australia, Senegal, Scotland, England, Japan and Sri Lanka. What’s more, another 140 students are taking part in one of 50 semester-long programs, bringing the total number of Holy Cross students who are engaged in studying abroad during the 2018-2019 academic year to 227.

While many schools have impressive study abroad options, Holy Cross’ yearlong global education offerings allow students to put down deep academic and social roots. This year, Holy Cross has been ranked No. 2 among baccalaureate colleges in the United States for long-term study abroad participation by the Institute of International Education. It’s not the first time the College has been on the list; in the past ten years, Holy Cross has stayed in the top three.

Stats aside, there’s nothing that captures the feeling of adventure, intellectual and otherwise, like hearing directly from those on the ground. Below, find some highlights from blog posts of students who are currently immersed in cultures far and wide.

Beijing and Shanghai, China

 Bryn O'Hara sits on stairs

Photo by John Buckingham

Name: Bryn O’Hara ’20
Major: Chinese
Abroad Location: Beijing, China in the fall of 2018 and Shanghai, China in the spring of 2019

It’s 8:00 a.m. and I am standing on top of the Great Wall of China.

I’m looking out over the sunlight just beginning to graze over the tops of the trees, and I’m standing strong in the face of the wind that could literally knock me over. In this moment, every difficulty I’ve faced since coming to Beijing doesn’t exist to me anymore, and I know it’s moments like these that I may never have again, and moments like these that inspired me to study abroad in the first place.

My classmates and I got up at 6:45 to start our climb. Especially with the wind, it’s colder than you would expect for a September day, and we learned this pretty quickly as we began to hike up the steep trail that would eventually lead to the Great Wall. When we finally reach the Great Wall, we continue to climb as the wind gets stronger and stronger, even climbing some sections of the Wall so steep that they almost feel vertical.

At the highest point, I stop and see water in the distance, and even buildings that look like specks, and I think about how people are probably just beginning to wake up down below, or how my friends on the other side of the world are probably finishing eating dinner or studying. I think about how many people helped build this wall and wonder how many people before me have walked along these stones. By now, my phone has died from the cold, and I am not able to take any more pictures to show to my friends and family back home; I try to soak everything in, from the invigorated feeling washing over me to the beautiful blue hue of the sky. It’s moments like these that I want to remember for a long time.

Read more from Bryn’s blog.

Dijon, France

 Sean Carroll stands in front of O'Kane Hall

Photo by Tom Rettig

Name: Sean Carroll ’20
Major: Economics and French
Abroad Location: Dijon, France

Bonjour à tous. As my first semester in France begins to wind down, I have been spending more and more time in Dijon, appreciating the city and “des gens” (the people) that I have come to know in the past couple of months. After all of my crazy trips, and oftentimes misfortunate traveling scenarios, I am always relieved to come back to the one city in Europe where I know that I belong.

For starters, I am pretty engrossed in my classes “à la Fac” (at the university) now. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of blunders à la Fac: sitting for 10 minutes in a German class that wasn’t mine, waiting outside of classrooms for courses that either hadn’t started yet or were canceled without notification, or simply not having an answer when asked about my opinion on America’s latest “des impôts agricoles” (farm taxes) in my Econ class. Yet overall, classes have been going surprisingly well, considering the fact that not a single word of English is spoken in any of them.

Although I have deeply enjoyed my time in Dijon so far, the most difficult part is “la solitude” (the loneliness) that I have encountered when faced with the fact that I am the only Holy Cross student in my city. Luckily, my solitude has forced me to go out and meet new people in Dijon.

I have met a few British and Irish students through various ERASMUS events (ERASMUS is Europe’s version of study abroad) that I really enjoy being around. And while we all speak the same language, it is clearly evident that their cultures are similar to each other’s and quite different from my own. One minute I’ll be fully engaged in a conversation with a group of them, but as soon as slang is used like “ey-up” or “quid,” and references from shows like “Coronation Street” and “the Inbetweeners” are made, it’s like I’m listening to another foreign language. If I have learned anything while abroad, it’s that smiling and nodding with a simple “ouais” or “yeah” thrown in there can get you through most conversations in most circumstances.

Read more from Sean’s blog.

Florence, Italy

 Kate Goza sits on stairs

Photo by John Buckingham

Name: Kate Goza ’20
Major: Religious studies, Italian minor
Abroad Location: Florence, Italy

Food is the foundation of most every culture, providing a path toward decoding a place’s heritage and social rituals. The case is no different in Italy where life revolves around good food. Pizza and pasta are the life blood of the Italian people and signify a food continuum that goes back hundreds of years.

One of the things that I’ve become accustomed to since arriving in Italy is the rhythm of eating. At Holy Cross and when I’m at home, I feel like each day I eat at a different time and am devouring snacks sporadically. But here my schedule stays the same and, at least in my head, has become synced with the inhabitants of the city.

The cooking and later communing in the presence of a good meal is like a combination of art and religion. It’s as if a true Italian feast is one that unfolds in accordance with past traditions while still feeling new each time. Every night my host mom, the Italian grandmother I never had, cooks dinner and presents the fruits of her labor with an impish smile.

Food carries a special weight in Italy, and it also carries a special feeling. There is a feeling impossible to articulate that comes along with breaking bread with people from a different country and being welcomed into their secret world of food. There’s a crossing over an invisible cultural threshold. It is an intoxicating and mesmerizing experience, and I can guarantee that I have a dumb smile on my face each time I get to do it.

Read more from Kate’s blog.

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