Isabella Bogdanos ('18) will never forget walking into the House of Commons the day after the historic 2016 “Brexit” vote, that decided the United Kingdom should leave the European Union.
She worked in the office of Gavin Williamson, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to then-Prime Minister David Cameron, and vividly remembers watching Williamson with his head in his hands shocked at the result.
“I was living and working with six other Catholic University students at the time, who were also participating in the summer British Parliamentary Internship in London,” she said. “Some of us were working in offices that supported the ‘Leave’ campaign, others in the ‘Remain’ campaign. It was an unforgettable experience to have a front-row seat to such a historic political moment.”
Bogdanos is just one of hundreds of students who have had life-changing experiences through the wealth of programs offered under the University’s Office of Education Abroad.
Every year, more than 370 students choose to travel abroad to participate in specialized programs on six continents. The University currently ranks 33rd among similar institutions in number of students who study abroad, according to the Institute for International Education.
Every major and discipline has at least one opportunity for study abroad, even majors that carry demanding course loads.
Alexis Anelli ('19), a nursing major, made the decision to come to Catholic University in large part because she could fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse while also traveling and learning about the medical field in other cultures during her University experience.
Anelli participated in the spring 2017 abroad program in Melbourne, Australia, where she studied at the Australian Catholic University School of Nursing.
“I was able to see a new country, to travel to new sites and cities almost every weekend, and not fall behind in my classes or my major,” she said. “I feel like I grew so much as a person and I gained great confidence in myself and in my profession.”
Nursing majors who are learning Spanish can spend spring break in Nicaragua, led by Spanish for Healthcare professor Jennifer Maxwell. They earn international clinical practicum hours working in the Roberto Clemente Clinic in Limón, administering vaccines and first aid care to underserved communities.
"When nursing students interview for jobs they reflect on their real-life international clinical experience with pride and are offered signing bonuses and positions over other candidates without this experience,” Maxwell said. “Students who participate in this program are better prepared to enter the job market.”
Like Maxwell, many University faculty members choose to accompany students on faculty-led study abroad trips. Robert Miller, associate professor of Old Testament, taught a class on the history and geography of Jerusalem in the fall of 2015 and then the following spring took his class to Jerusalem to experience the ancient city in person.
“Our taxi dropped us off at the gates to the Old City and we had to walk for 15 minutes through a middle-eastern bazaar to get to our hotel,” Miller said. “Once we arrived at the hotel, one of my students turned to me and said ‘that was total culture shock.’ I knew at that moment that these students were getting a real experience.”
Many programs, like the honors spring break trip, are unique to Catholic University. Most notably, the University has its own campus in Rome, Italy, known as the Rome Center of the Catholic University of America. Dozens of students in many disciplines travel each semester to experience the Eternal City.
Whether students chose to study in Hong Kong, Chile, or Ireland, faculty and staff at the University agree that the experience of other places and cultures is a fundamental part of what it means to have a liberal education.
Bogdanos, a philosophy and French major, never pictured herself on the scene witnessing an unprecedented moment in political history. But like most students, she only needed an opportunity and an open door to take in the experience of a lifetime.
And at this University, open doors abound.