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Scholarship Launches Student’s First Global Experience

Georgian Court University student studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain

Mary Katherine McNamara never believed that studying abroad was part of her journey. However, when she discovered the application for Georgian Court University’s (GCU) Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education just before the deadline, she took the risk and applied.

The gamble paid off, and Mary Katherine became the 2022-2023 recipient of GCU’s Sister Mary Catharine Sullivan Award for Global Education. The senior from Freehold, who is double majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and Elementary Education, studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain for two weeks this January. The award, open to education and Spanish majors, made the trip possible for Mary Katherine by covering her study abroad program costs and homestay immersion.

“Because I had never been abroad before, I was nervous about figuring things out on my own, overcoming the language barrier, and finding my way around. Studying in Barcelona made me confident that I can tackle new experiences by myself and be more than okay,” said Mary Katherine.

She traveled with a group of American students from all over the country. The students completed a Spanish Art and Culture course, which was supplemented by field trips relevant to the course material. Professors led the students on adventures including tapas tastings, exploring the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi, and attending a Flamenco show. Mary Katherine was welcomed home each night by her host family.

“The people I spent time with made the experience so amazing,” said Mary Katherine. “The couple that I stayed with was so kind. They did our laundry, cooked us breakfast and dinner, and gave us sightseeing recommendations. I will absolutely keep in touch with them.”

Mary Katherine was surprised just how much the experience influenced her dreams of becoming a teacher: “My professors gave a lecture for a couple of hours, and then we would go on a field trip to get real-world experience about what we learned,” she said. “That is the type of engaging, hands-on approach I want to use with my students one day.”

One of Mary Katherine’s goals before leaving for Barcelona was to open her mind to new ways of thinking. The trip exceeded her expectations: “Studying abroad completely changed my perspective on my lifestyle at home. In America, we are always rushing, and there is a constant sense of urgency. In Spain, everyone was so relaxed, and no one pressured me to rush. The experience reminded me to enjoy my time with the people I love.”

“The Global Education Department made the application process very smooth. Laura Grodewald was very helpful, answered my emails right away, and walked me through the whole process,” Mary Katherine continued. “I encourage anyone considering studying abroad to go for it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

To read Mary Katherine’s blog about her time abroad, visit her Global Education Blog. To read other student testimonials about their abroad experiences, you can visit the GCU Global Education Blog.  For more information about global opportunities at GCU, students can visit the Global Education Programs page or email Laura Grodewald at

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.