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 email@example.com.