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Students return from abroad

Sarah Gunn | Thursday, September 3, 2009

Senior Sarah Fink spent a year in Maynooth, Ireland, after spending a semester at American University in Washington D.C.

“I think I have come out of this past year as a more assertive person … I say that traveling abroad was a great personal experience and studying in D.C. was a great professional experience.”

As well as completing coursework in history and sociology, Fink was able to research her senior comprehensive project. She also had the opportunity to attend President Barack Obama’s inaugural events.

“There is something especially fulfilling about seeing what you’ve studied in class in person, whether it be how things worked on Capitol Hill, or seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre,” she said.

Senior Rachel Piontek also returned from Europe, after being one of the first Saint Mary’s College students to participate in the London internship program.

Piontek said the College prepared her well for an internship abroad.

“The amount of reading and research that we typically do in SMC classes – primarily focused on political science – helped prep me for the basic research work that I did on a day-to-day basis at Free Tibet.”

Piontek said she thoroughly enjoyed “walking all over the city, from the main sites along the Thames to any one of the glorious parks they have.”

The political science and religious studies double major said she was fortunate to be able to travel around the U.K. and experience places like Edinburgh and events like Wimbledon.

Piontek said it is important for her “[to realize] that I was at the center of one of the most amazing, historic, and culturally important cities in the world.”

Abroad for Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program, Saint Mary’s nursing senior Alison Russell said she had an inspiring experience in India.

While working in the city of Kolkata, Russell assisted the poor and elderly for eight weeks at a dispensary started by Mother Teresa.

Russell said she “helped with medical related tasks and also helped with the normal volunteer work which consists of washing and drying clothes by hand, helping exercise patients, taking patients to the bathroom, feeding and helping them eat dinner and preparing them for bed.”

Russell said that the experience was moving because “These most basic tasks became sacred and holy as we slowly formed relationships with these women.”

Russell elaborated on what made the experience memorable for her.

“Learning small and big ways to immerse myself in Indian culture, embracing the feelings of confusion, outrage and helplessness that came with the poverty and corruption that was evident around every corner and openly loving the women of Kalighat are the beginning of lessons I learned during my time abroad,” she said.

Piontek said she experienced reverse culture shock upon re-entry into the United States and “noticed how big everything is in America.”

Russell said she is surprised at little things throughout the day that remind her of her “women in India.”

Students are also returning from popular programs in Italy, France, Spain, Australia, Austria and China to name just a few.

Alumnae of these programs are invited to a “Welcome Back Party” hosted by The Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership. The party will be held in Haggar Parlor on Thursday, Sept. 10, starting at 4 p.m.