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As a wave of graduates departed last spring for their next stage of life, many Principian undergrads embarked on their own journeys. Goals were realized as students lived out their wonder years traveling abroad or interning at their dream job.
Ten Principia students with the Leadership Institute traveled in May to Geneva, Switzerland, for two weeks of learning about how culture affects leadership. Institute director David Wold served as the group’s leader, along with his wife, librarian Deb Wold, and post-graduate intern Laura Perry. Unlike lecture-heavy seminars, the students had open conversations with influential leaders from organizations like the United Nations, the Red Cross and Caterpillar.
“It was incredible,” senior Brian Simpson said. “The 13 of us were sitting with highly-distinguished individual speakers. We were able to frame our questions into much more of a running dialogue to be completely tailored to our abroad outcome.”
For senior Becca DeNicholas, visiting the UN’s Geneva campus was a major highlight. “Meeting with leaders from all different global companies, all touching on leadership and their experience with other cultures, it was really cool to hear actual people working in these global organizations,” DeNicholas added. “The main thing I took away was how important it is to get to the point of understanding, to have a sense of open communication and to be willing to learn from other cultures.”
Although a majority of the days were designated to absorbing words of wisdom in discussion, the students also had some opportunities to explore Geneva. Some group highlights included hiking Mont Saleve, visiting the Olympic Museum and the Patek Philippe Museum, and having nightly gelato at Manu.
But Geneva wasn’t the only city housing students. Europe was hopping with Principians this summer. On the Iberian peninsula, senior Christian Thomas marveled at the unique architecture of Spain. The Spain abroad not only immersed itself in the Spanish language, but also observed the rare phenomena of the three major monotheistic religions coexisting in harmony, expressed in the Spanish culture and historical relics. Thomas appreciated the immersion in regards to language and cultural learning, saying, “a textbook can only tell you so much about a culture. You’ve really got to live it in order to understand.”
The Russia abroad had to switch gears last spring because of the intensity of the political situations in Russia, and the trip was rerouted to Nice, France.
For junior Denisse Scholz, the trip’s unexpected change of plans was, in the beginning, hard to accept. “I was really excited to go [to Russia]. For people that were very much into Russian culture, like me, it was very sad to know that we would not be able to go,” she said. “But at the same time, I feel like it was safer not to go.”
Within a week, the program was reshaped into a new abroad program, centered around Russian cultural, language and cross-cultural studies in Nice. Many students were concerned about the potential lack of the cultural experience that they signed up for, and the idea that they would not have a lot to do in France, as well as wary about the change in the educational programs that went along with the drastic changes in itinerary. However, not only did the trip prove to be interesting and engaging, it was a way to explore Russia in a critical moment in history – the way it lives, moves, creates and expands – outside the confines of its own country through cross-cultural understanding.
In addition to visiting museums, monuments and historical sites that held meaning to the program, students stayed with Russian families that generally spoke little to no English, and studied both at a school and independently with the Principia professors. Typically, students would have Russian classes at the language school in the morning and then either participate in a cultural activity such as going to a museum or a town nearby, or do homework and hang out at the beach.
For Russian enthusiast Scholz, the highlights of the trip were whenever the group had the opportunity to do or see things that mixed the two cultures. For instance, the opportunity to see a recital in commemoration of Russian author Alexander Pushkin’s birthday. In this way, Principia students could witness Russian culture speaking for itself in the coastal French city. It wasn’t Russia, but it was a great cultural experience.
Anyone could tell you how important internship experience is for finding a job. Over the summer, a number of students had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as interns. Most internships spanned eight to 12 weeks, taking students to Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Palm Springs and even the World Cup.
Senior Nate Waters interned at New England Sports Network (NESN) in Boston. He described his experience as exciting, new and valuable. Although Waters has his roots in summer camp, he testified to the importance of interning. “It is invaluable for Prin students in particular to have at least one internship,” he said. “It provides you with amazing work experience, where you are able to apply your camp skills and knowledge to a different environment.”
Waters was passionate about this summer internship, as it was a perfect application of his mass communication major and affinity for sports. He even had the opportunity to attend the World Cup in Brazil and blog about it. Whether analyzing the success of TV ads or watching Red Sox batting practice at Fenway Park, he gained a new level of appreciation for sports marketing. “Playing sports for most of my life seemed to go hand in hand with the type of work I would be interested in, and it is an extremely fun and exciting atmosphere to work in,” he said.
Junior David McClelland was one of many Principia students who interned at TMC Youth in Boston. One of McClelland’s main responsibilities was transcribing media for the Journal, Sentinel and Herald. The long work days inspired him to be enjoyably diligent. In addition to improving his work ethic, McClelland saw the value in teamwork, saying, “I learned how vital good communication is between coworkers.”
Senior Abbie Steckler tested the limits with two internships in the film industry. Her days were filled with networking, reviewing scripts, researching and running errands. Of all her various tasks, “the most difficult was trying to remember what type of coffee all the producers wanted every morning,”she said. “They were very particular about that.”
Although Steckler had a demanding summer, she still found it inspiring. Her advice to prospective interns was to “do everything with a good attitude, no matter how mundane the task is,” she said. “Approach every experience as an opportunity to learn more.”
In DC, several Principia students worked diligently on Capitol Hill. Senior Lyssa Winslow interned for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who represents Winslow’s home state of New Hampshire. Junior Shontee Pant spent her second summer as an intern for Rep. Rodney Davis, who represents the Illinois district that Principia resides in. Junior Colby Bermel had two Hill internships. One was with Rep. Joe Kennedy, his local congressman in Massachusetts; the other was with Rep. Lamar Smith, one of two Christian Scientists in Congress.
Senior Briggs DeLoach found himself interning for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, his local congressman in Georgia. He was able to embrace the fast-paced environment performing a variety of tasks from representing the views of Georgians to meeting with constituents. Only two weeks into the internship, DeLoach was sent to represent the interest of Georgians regarding a new liver distribution policy where he “grilled the creators of the new network, which included professors from Yale and UCLA and policy experts, about the fairness of the system,” he said.
The summer was packed with opportunities to learn and connect. The allure of establishing connections resonated with DeLoach. “I cannot stress the importance of networking enough,” he said. “It is critical for success in the real world.”