Traveling alone is a scary thought for most, but not for Mary Kate Walsh ’18, of Philadelphia, who spent most of her junior year exploring the world. Walsh is majoring in English and secondary education with a French minor. Putting her French skills to use, she spent a week in Paris in July 2014; but she never imagined that that trip would spark what would be six consecutive months of traveling throughout her collegiate career.
Walsh spent the spring 2017 semester in Ireland attending St. Mary’s University College, Belfast. Finding Ireland’s Belfast region “much friendlier [than Philadelphia],” she recalls an experience that is beyond far-fetched in American culture: accepting a ride from a kind stranger while she was with a friend in the beginning days of her travels. As insane as the idea sounds, Walsh was able to learn from the locals and apply her new street knowledge to her entire experience. Isn’t that what studying abroad truly means?
While taking classes at the university, Walsh enjoyed a lifetime of experiences, including traveling during a three-week spring break where she explored various corners of Europe. It was through this period of exploring different cultures and self-discovery that Walsh learned how to “listen to other people and their stories.” The experience has contributed to her growth and solidified her passion for traveling.
Reflecting on her travels, Walsh says her experiences make her feel “more whole” and influence her life for the better.
As the spring semester came to a close, it was time for Walsh to come back home to Philadelphia, but not for long! A few days after returning from her semester away, she packed her bags and met fellow students for their six-week study abroad trek through Peru. While there, Walsh taught English classes to students in a classroom setting where English was the only language permitted to be spoken in the room. “It’s so different from classes here—in our Spanish and French classes, we break into English once in a while, but there [they do not switch languages], not at all.”
The various areas of Peru that the group visited provided a new cultural experience at every turn. From scaling Machu Picchu to immersing themselves in old Incan traditions, the group of student-teachers were given the opportunity to learn all that they could about a culture that was so new to them.
Reflecting on her travels, Walsh says her experiences make her feel “more whole” and influence her life for the better. The opportunity to travel sparks creativity and individuality in college students. Those two traits could come together to create a wonderful influence for students by opening new doors and opportunities in the students’ futures.
Walsh learned from Sister Elaine Glanz, IHM, director of IU’s study abroad program, “You can’t be worried about the little things; just get yourself over there.”
Walsh wholeheartedly agreed with Sister after her experience abroad. Walsh advises, “You will learn more about yourself and your culture. Once you find that passion to travel, don’t hold back, and just go.”
Immaculata has become the home space for Walsh, sparking creativity, a craving for travel and much more in her four-year career at the university. After graduation, thanks to this experience, Walsh hopes to travel to Greece as an English teaching assistant with the Fulbright Program. If selected, Walsh would receive a grant to travel in September and teach in a Greek school. Eventually, Walsh hopes to teach high school English in the greater Philadelphia area or in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and complete a master’s degree in educational leadership.