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CLA Studies Abroad!

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts


A handful of College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students had the opportunity to travel to Florence, Italy this spring and came back transformed.

study-abroad-photo-4-michael-murphy.jpegMichael Murphy, C’25, heard about this trip and did not want to let the opportunity pass him by. However, he also had goals of majoring in both history and economics. He was worried that being away from the Mount might put him a step behind his classmates but was pleasantly surprised with the variety of courses that were offered. While abroad he took western civilization and economics courses, checking off some core requirements while simultaneously drinking in Italian culture.

The way the program is organized simplifies the many aspects of studying abroad. There is a bottomless list of places you want to go, foods you want to try, and sights to see, but it can be hard to do it all on top of being a student. However, in Murphy’s experience: “there was always a great balance between organized activities and personal time.” He ventured to Venice, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Rome and the Vatican City. Studying abroad can be overwhelming and scheduling weekend trips around your classes can be daunting. Associate Professor of Economics Alejandro Cañadas organized the program so that all students were placed in weekly Italian life and culture and Italian language courses. In the Italian life and culture course, the class met in a new space every week to create an engaging, living classroom. “Being there with the students, you can guide them and integrate the knowledge they are getting from their classes to the place that they are visiting,” Cañadas said.

study-abroad-photo-2-monserrat.jpegMonserrat Hernandez-Casillas, C’24, also got to soak up the sights and scenes of Italy last semester. She is studying political science and plans to minor in history and international studies. She had done some world traveling herself visiting family in Mexico, but she had never been to Europe. Before going to Italy, she was most excited to see Rome and wanted to get there as fast as possible. However, as soon as she got to Florence she fell in love: “FLORENCE IS AMAZING”, she said with gusto. She eventually had the nerve to tear herself away from Florence and explore more of Italy. “I got to see the Trevi Fountain, rode a gondola through Venice…I felt like a princess in Milan ducking between all the castles and cathedrals,” she recalled. It’s unique being in a place where you tour a centuries-old castle by morning and are pouring over the latest fashion coming out of Gucci and Versace after lunch.

The Florence program also has weekly trips that take students all over the country from coast to coast and top to bottom, including Venice on the Adriatic and the picturesque towns of the Amalfi Coast like Sorrento and Capri. “Seeing the Vatican City and everything you only see in pictures…you can’t believe that these places actually exist and aren’t just out of a textbook!”  Murphy explained. Gawking at Rome and Florence and witnessing firsthand the evolution of art and culture over thousands of years was something Murphy had never experienced before this trip. Italy is a one-of-a-kind place where each city is unique in its journey from its founding to the present day. There are so many stories of success and failure, rich times and dire ones, and the distinct culture of each city echoes their rich history.

After three months overseas, Murphy and Hernandez-Casillas admitted that they had missed the Mount, their friends and their families. Being abroad was transformative in many ways. Hernandez-Casillas said that the most important bit of wisdom she brought home was to follow your passions and appreciate every opportunity that is presented to you. “In life, you should be passionate about what you do; don’t do things just for the money or success,” she said. Murphy succinctly noted what he learned: “there will be challenges…I missed my family, but it was good for my growth.” College is a time to explore interests like trying an acting course, joining a club sport, leading a service project or living abroad. All these opportunities are available for Mount students who are willing to fearlessly throw themselves into the unknown.

Michael Hershey
Graduate Assistant, College of Liberal Arts