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Students conduct research and serve over winter break

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

While many Notre Dame students spent winter break catching up on rest and relaxation, others traveled the world, performed service projects or furthered career ambitions.

Senior Kiki Gelke spent a week in Poland on a grant from the Nanovic Institute of European Studies.

While in Poland, Gelke said she conducted research for her capstone essay on Catholicism in modern Poland, a requirement for her European Studies minor.

Gelke said she spent the first part of her trip staying at a convent outside Krakow, and then toured famous religious landmarks in Krakow and Lubin, where she saw Poland’s religious influences on display.

“Poland is the frontier between the Catholicism of Western Europe and the Orthodox faith of Eastern Europe.” Gelke said. “These influences were very prevalent.”

Gelke said her favorite part of the trip was celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany in Krakow.

“In Poland, the Feast of the Epiphany is a huge religious day,” Gelke said. “The dinner was incredible and filled with traditional Polish Christmas carols, the breaking of the traditional opÅatek bread with good wishes and blessings to all present in the year to come, and of course, traditional Polish food.”

Senior Adam Cowden went to Botswana for 10 days to do research for his senior thesis with funding from the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement and the Glynn Family Honors Program.

Cowden said his thesis topic explores the role of Social Security and welfare institutions in family planning decisions.

“I travelled there to conduct interviews with individuals about their attitudes toward social security and family planning and to collect data from various government departments,” Cowden said.

Cowden said the data he collected in Botswana provided strong material for further developing his thesis.

“Now I have a lot to write about,” he said.

Sophomore Brendan Moran participated in Urban Plunge, a one-credit seminar sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) in which students spend two days of their winter break exploring urban poverty in a major city, according to the CSC website.

“While I was on my Urban Plunge, I was able to directly serve the impoverished community of south Boston, reflect on my experiences, and ask the important questions surrounding urban poverty,” Moran said.

Moran said he and other Notre Dame students lived and volunteered at the non-profit organization My Brother’s Keeper, where they slept in a warehouse at night and delivered food and furniture directly to the needy during the day.

“I had a great time on Urban Plunge,” Moran said. “I was able to get out of my comfort zone and participate in a cause that I truly believe in. I met some amazing people along the way, and I feel that my experience revitalized my morale and spirits, which in turn prepared me for another long semester.”

Sophomore Caroline Ramsey did a one-day job shadow in New York City, sponsored by the Career Center, which pairs up Notre Dame students with alumni in appropriate fields.

Through the program, an editor at a children’s book publishing company mentored Ramsey.

“She answered the questions that I had and taught me a lot about the field of publishing,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said participating in the program made her feel confident she wants to pursue a career in publishing.

“I hadn’t realized that working as an editor could integrate my interest in writing and design,” she said. “It combines creativity and business in an exciting way.”

Ramsey also said experiencing office life firsthand was worthwhile.

“Reading about a career or even talking to someone in that career is obviously very helpful,” she said. “Fully entering into an office and being able to participate in the daily activities of that office is invaluable.”