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Students research, volunteer during spring break

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Many Notre Dame students chose to forego traveling back home or relaxing on the beach this spring break, deciding instead to spend the week pursuing academic research or volunteering.

Spring BreakKelly Konya | The Observer

Over the break, 10 students traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, an organization that constructs homes for those in need.  The students participated in Habitat for Humanity’s annual Collegiate Challenge, making this year the 10th year that Notre Dame students have lent a hand in the program.

Charles Moore, Habitat for Humanity president and CEO, said the Collegiate Challenge provides students with an opportunity to build affordable houses on a local scale.

“The work they’ll do during their spring break will have a lasting impact in our community,” Moore said.

While some students volunteered close to home, others traveled to Europe with grants from the University’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies, which supports undergraduate research.  The Nanovic Institute provided $51,695 this year to 23 students interested in spring break travel and research, the Institute’s student coordinator Jennifer Fulton said.

Sophomore Connor Hayes, who received a grant from the Nanovic Institute, spent his spring break in Dublin, researching how early nationalist newspapers in Ireland responded to various sodomy trials in the 1880’s and 1890’s.

Hayes said traveling to Dublin was necessary to pursue the research, as the documents he needed were contained within Dublin archives.  However, traveling to Dublin allowed him to view his research in another light.

“Being there made it feel less like a pure academic pursuit [and] much more connected to the stories, because instead of just being in the United States I was actually in Dublin — in the location that this happened,” Hayes said.

Freshman Khaoula Morchid traveled to Germany to research the influence of Arab migrants on German economic growth and to inquire whether they wished to return to their home countries.

She said her interest in the subject began with research for her writing and rhetoric class, yet traveling to Germany gave the research a new dimension.

“I could have probably interviewed people over Skype, but being there, seeing the small details that people wouldn’t usually tell you, I think was very helpful in understanding the general context of the research,” Morchid said.

Sophomore Steven Fisher, who researched the role of politics and the influence in the International Tribunal for the Formal Yugoslavia (ICTY) court proceedings in The Hague, The Netherlands, echoed this sentiment.

“Whenever I would sit down in a cafe and study my research, I’d happen to share tables and bump elbows with politicians debating over a beer and legal students with books fresh from Jongbloed Juridische Boekhandel, a famous bookstore specialized in legal literature,” Fisher said.

“Thus a culture of international politics and legal justice enveloped my experience not only inside the courtroom, but also in the very streets of the city.”

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