With the commitment to play Division I athletics, student-athletes sacrifice the opportunity to spend a semester, or even a year abroad as many other Holy Cross students opt to do. The Maymester program offered us a chance to experience a new culture during the summer, while not missing out on our respective athletic contests during the school year. Our trip not only broadened our perspectives of the world outside of Mount St. James, but also drew us closer as student-athletes and part of the Holy Cross community.
We spent five weeks in the ancient city studying and mastering the cobblestone streets that emperors and gladiators alike walked. During our time in Rome, we took classes and lived at Loyola University of Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center. Studying like the ancient philosophers once did in Rome, we took two classes: Italian and Roman Topography. It was neat to learn a language in a country that speaks it, enabling us to practice our Italian every day as we traversed the streets of Rome. We put what we learned in class to use when asking locals how to get places and ordering meals in Italian.
Our second class, Roman Topography, was onsite in downtown Rome. The Holy Cross students would meet in the lobby of our dorm and take the bus together to various sites around the city where we would meet our teacher. We learned a lot about Rome including its long history, the city’s development and of course the famous sites within the ancient city through our class. We loved having a native show us around the city and even taking us to some of the best gelato places in Rome!
Having class Monday through Thursday enabled us to travel throughout Europe during the long weekend. Collectively we visited four countries, including Italy, during our five weeks as we travelled to the major cities of Sorrento, Florence, Venice, Prague, Barcelona and Budapest. Adapting to a new city and culture is difficult, so having a network of Holy Cross students helped ease the transition into life abroad.
Finding time between classes and weekend travel to keep up with our summer workout packets was difficult, but manageable with the student-athlete network on the trip. As a player, I find I push myself harder when surrounded by my teammates as opposed to working out alone over the summer. For this reason, it was nice to have seven other classmates and teammates from the Holy Cross women's lacrosse family to train with over the summer recess.
Extending workouts beyond my immediate teammates was fun as well. When we are on the Hill, we spend so much time practicing our respective sports that we do not have time to train with other athlete friends from different teams. For this reason, it was interesting and fun to cross train with everyone on the trip including our good friends that do no play sports at Holy Cross. On multiple occasions we went on group runs and workouts. The gym in our dorm resembled a mini Hart Center because of the familiar faces we saw in the weight room. I think everyone would agree it was nice to have your teammates and athlete peers on the trip to get you moving instead of getting sucked into the pasta repertoire that is oh so fabulous in Italy.
Our five weeks in Rome were unforgettable. I asked several student-athletes on the trip to sum up their experience in Rome and this is what they had to share:
Junior women’s lacrosse player Anna Johnson: “Being able to spend five weeks with my teammates and best friends was such an amazing experience. We became so close and I am so happy I had the opportunity to travel the world with them.”
Junior women’s track and field runner Allison Maier: “It was amazing how everyone meshed so well together. The group ranged from track to lacrosse to non-athletes, but never skipped a beat. The experience was indescribable, but the company was that much better.”
Junior softball player Emily Krisanda: “Aside from the food and travelling, the best part was that I met so many new people I wouldn’t have met in school otherwise. I also really loved being disconnected from technology a bit and being able to enjoy Rome and live in the moment.”
Junior men’s lacrosse player Liam Driscoll: “Prior to this trip I had never been out of the country. I thought I knew everything about the Catholic faith because I took Theology courses and European history classes, but the truth is, I barely scratched the surface. Robin Williams tells Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, 'I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.' So, I stepped into the chapel with this line in mind, but when I went to smell the Chapel, I found that Michelangelo had taken my breath away. To gaze at his work makes you question the limits of mankind. What makes his ceiling more powerful, more uplifting? Sharing the experience with your best friends. Looking up at the masterful paintings, then looking right next to you, knowing you now share a memory with your closest friends, that lies too deep for words. Not many people have been fortunate to be granted this gift, so I am in debt to the people that made it possible.”
Even though these student-athletes described their experience, it is hard to sum up such a trip. When travelling the world, you learn a lot about yourself and those that accompany you. For us, this was an opportunity to become closer as teammates off the field and thousands of miles away from Holy Cross. I am thankful for this once in a lifetime experience with my best friends and teammates.