Bearcats on the Road

Be Not Afraid - My Trip to World Youth Day 2016

Posted by Helena Shoplik on Tue, Aug 09, 2016 @ 10:13 AM

IMG_2520.jpgWhen I signed up for World Youth Day in Kraków last fall, I never expected “fear” to be in the equation. I had been to Poland several times previously, and I had never been overly concerned about my personal safety or the safety of others on my trips. Poland, and the rest of Europe, seemed to be a very stable area and so I never gave terrorism another thought. 

This all changed during the few weeks before we were supposed to leave for Poland. The horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, followed by smaller attacks in Germany left me extremely on edge and concerned about what might happen in the gathering in Kraków. Two million Catholics all together in a large field would be an excellent target for an extremist. There were so many things that could go wrong! However, the trip continued as scheduled, and we were all assured that security would be top-notch for this event. 

The first few days of our journey in Poland, my fears began to subside. We were in the homeland of Pope John Paul II, a man who had grown up under the rule of the Nazis and still had the courage to become a priest. A man who did not despair when faced with communism, but rather defeated it with peaceful protest. A man who was shot and nearly killed by an assassin, but chose to forgive his would-be killer. If he could overcome his fears, so could I. This gave me, and all of the other pilgrims, great courage. 

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I witnessed tremendous strength and love in my fellow pilgrims throughout the trip. Despite long lines for food, crowded tram rides and aching feet, I have never experienced such joy and warmth from so many strangers before in my life. Everyone treated one another with respect and dignity. In such crowded quarters, it would have been easy for fights to break out, things to be broken or food to get stolen. However, everything was extremely peaceful. People laughed and danced and sang and cheered, day and night. We celebrated our diverse cultures that made us unique, as well as the Faith that made us one. I met so many amazing young Catholics on this trip, many of whom did not even speak the same language as me! They all challenged me, and continue to challenge me, to be courageous, to have no fear and, despite what the world says, to trust in God. 

And so, it is easy to be disheartened by what we hear in the news each day. With each new attack, with every moment of violence, peace seems less and less attainable. But I am here to tell you that I have seen two million young people come together from every corner of the world, from every diverse culture, and create true peace. We did not just get along, we thrived together. And the best part? We can go home to our home countries and cities and bring that peace to others, because we are young; we are the future. My experience has made me confident that the rest of the world will someday thrive in its diversity, and that we will all know peace. 

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“Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.” 

“Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace … peace will be the last word of history.” -Pope Saint John Paul II

Topics: Catholic, faith, pilgrimmage, World Youth Day, Krakow, Helena Shoplik, Poland, Be Not Afraid, Pope John Paul II

Traveling to Kraków for World Youth Day

Posted by Anastasia Jaeger on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

July 27:


This trip to World Youth Day (WYD) 2016 in Kraków, Poland, seemed to come quite suddenly. I had just gotten back from Rome on May 29. However, college is all about making memories and doing as much as possible. 

I loved how our flights were set up because it was a late-evening flight from Pittsburgh to Paris so it was easy to sleep through it. Then from Paris we connected to Warsaw. Upon arrival in Warsaw, Poland, we met our tour guide. We still needed to wait for another American group to arrive because they were signed up for touring under the same company. We would all be taking the same charter bus for five hours to finally reach Kraków. It was a long, solid 24 hours of travel, but we all made it safely. 

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Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Kraków-Łagiewniki

The weather here is very similar to that of my home (Ligonier, Pennsylvania). I feel like I'm in Pennsylvania sometimes because there is not too much of a difference. Our very first day we all had breakfast and then met at 8:30 a.m. and were given our meal tickets and WYD backpacks. Then, our tour guides helped us find the Divine Mercy chapel for Saint Faustina and a shrine for Pope John Paul II that he would sometimes visit. There were so many people all day, but especially during the opening Mass. People from all nations came together for a Catholic Mass. It was a great testimony of faith in Jesus, especially from young people who are so crucial to making changes in the broken world we live in now. It brought hope to a good number of people, I think. 


A salt chandelier in the Salt Mines of Kraków

Today we went to the Salt Mines of Kraków. Salt was once a huge part of this city's economy and it had a beautiful underground church made of salt. Everything was salty! There was even some water at one of the deepest levels of the mine that exhibited characteristics similar to that of the Dead Sea. It was really beautiful. After the heat of yesterday, it was great to be somewhere cooler for much of the day. 

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Shots of the stage Tauron Kraków stadium and the opening Mass ceremony

We are scheduled to go to another catechesis session tomorrow. We’ve gone to one already on this trip. Everyone gathers together in this enormous stadium that celebrities like Justin Bieber and One Direction have sold out. It’s so beautiful because the stadium is filled for Jesus and not for a celebrity. There are speeches and talks about sharing the faith and living the faith. So after our second session, we will get ready to see the Pope and deal with more people than ever! This will be my third time in one year seeing Pope Francis because I saw him in Philadelphia, Rome and now Kraków. I’m looking forward to hearing what the Pope shares with the millions of young people from all over the world! I'm blessed to be here and I’m looking forward to the rest of this trip!


Topics: Campus Ministry, Pope Francis, Catholic, Anastasia Jaegar, Salt Mine, World Youth Day, Krakow, Poland, Shrine of the Divine Mercy

Wrapping It All Up: Coming Home

Posted by Samuel Geer on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

This is my last post from Bhutan, and I’m writing it from my couch at home in Pennsylvania. I got home late this morning after a 52-hour trip from Bhutan to Thailand to Shanghai to New York to Pittsburgh. As of the moment I’m writing this, I’ve been awake for 18 hours straight, and I don’t plan on sleeping for at least another five (take that, jet lag)! 
As I finally got off the plane in Pittsburgh today, I had one of the most exhilarating feelings of joy I’ve had in my entire life. I still feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins from getting to see my mom and my sister and my dog. At the same time, I feel like I’ve lost something. Something kind of amazing from the incredible journey I’ve been on. An adventure 7,700 miles away from the place I call home. I’m already catching myself questioning whether all of it actually happened, or if it was just a dream. Deep down, though, I can feel everything that I’ve gained from this experience and that lets me know how very real it was. 
On my last day in Bhutan, I hiked to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery near the city of Paro. This monastery is centuries old and home to several Buddhist temples that are held especially sacred by the nation. The hike took several hours straight up the mountainside, but when I reached the top, I was met with the stunning view of the structure perched on the cliff with a waterfall cascading down on one side. For just a moment, my mind wandered to contemplating the journey I’d come on.
I had traveled over four of the world’s oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic). I had flown over 11 countries (Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Russia and Canada). By a series of fortunate mishaps, I had the opportunity to explore three of these countries on the ground (China, Thailand and Bhutan). Even after all of that, I got to see in Bhutan, one of the most beautiful places on Earth that few others will ever get to see. I learned something new every day there, and, now that I’m home, I’m bringing back so much more than I left with: 
I have been humbled by flight changes, cold showers, new foods, amazing landscapes, foreign languages and by the sincere kindness of others.
My patience has been tested by 15-hour flights, complicated communication with home and testing my limits. 
I helped create a community of kind-hearted and supremely unique individuals far from any of our homes. 
I’ve emerged stronger and more determined than I was before, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with those around me at home and on campus. 
I want to acknowledge the School for Field Studies and my hosts at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in Bhutan. I’d like to thank Ms. Sara Hart for all of her help in making this trip possible for me. I’d like to thank Dean Kaylor, the Andreoli family and Saint Vincent College for their generous assistance in aiding me in my study-abroad endeavor. I thank you, the readers of this blog, for making it all the more enjoyable to share my experiences. Lastly, I want to say thank you to my friends and family for supporting me all along this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. 
All the best, 

Topics: study abroad, Samuel Geer, Bhutan, Tiger's Nest Monastery, jet lag, Paro

Directed Research, Presentations and Packing Up

Posted by Samuel Geer on Tue, Jul 12, 2016 @ 10:00 AM


The past week has been entirely devoted to directed research. The complement of 22 students in the program were broken up into six different groups whose research groups included both physical and social science topics. Some of the most interesting projects, in my opinion, were: biodiversity in local forests, the growing cordycep (an extremely valuable Himalayan fungi) market, conservation around religious sites and, my own research project, the effects of forestry management practices on local forest stands. 

Being that the entire summer semester program is six weeks long, the directed research component is extremely compact. The first day of the project was spent writing a six-page research proposal with my three other colleagues. The next four days of the project were used to collect data at nearby Kikila Pass, a local conifer forest at the top of a mountain. This field research included coring trees and collecting data on the regeneration of specific pine species in a managed forest stand. The field research experience is a new type of learning that I’ve never been exposed to before, and it was something that I really enjoyed. I got to work closely with authors in the field who had written the research that I’d used in my proposal which provided me with an incredible wealth of information to tap into. 

Presentation.jpgAfter four days of data collection and in-depth data analysis, the hardest part of the research was upon me. The requirement for our research paper was 16-pages (single-spaced) written in the span of around 36 hours. In addition, we had to develop a presentation and a poster for a symposium. Needless to say, there was relatively little sleep the past several days, but the research materials somehow got finished! After giving the presentation to our classmates, I was selected with another member of my group to give the presentation again to the government staff the following day. 

Anyone who knows me somewhat well knows that presentations aren’t exactly my favorite thing in the world, but after another jam-packed 24 hours of work, I was ready to present the research in front of a crowd of 50 people in our symposium. I was the very first student to speak in the first presentation of the day, but I can say that the presentation went very well and that I also looked rather official in my all-black gho that I had to wear for the occasion.  

After all the stress of the research, the program directors decided that we were due for a bit of break. That break came in the form of an eight-mile hike to the top of the ridge above campus. Luckily, I enjoy rigorous hikes, but I can’t say the same for all my peers. It was a tough hike, too, but the payoff at the end was incredible. From the top, I was surrounded by prayer flags, whipping winds and around 40-degree temperatures (Yes, in summer! We were at about 12,000 feet). I could see the valley we have been staying in, Bumthang, as well as the neighboring valley of Chumae, which culminated in being one of my favorite experiences of this entire study abroad so far. 


So, now it’s time to move again. I’m all packed up and tomorrow we head off to one of Bhutan’s larger cities, Paro. We’ll be finishing up our studies there and visiting the world-famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery before heading back for the states on the 15th. It’s hard to believe it’s that time already.

Topics: nature, study abroad, research, Samuel Geer, Bhutan, presentation, Bumthang

People of Bhutan

Posted by Samuel Geer on Fri, Jul 08, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

The past several days have been filled with a plethora of cultural experiences with locals in and around campus. While simply walking down the street can tell you a lot about the Bhutanese people, it is something else completely to spend significant amounts of time talking with a Buddhist monk or staying with a family. Luckily, I’ve been able to do both of those things in the span of a few days.


As part of a field exercise, we traveled to a nearby monastery where a major Bhutanese religious figure was believed to have visited 1,300 years ago. This monastic community was in many ways like the one I’m used to at Saint Vincent, and in other ways, so very different.  None of the monks spoke English, so we had to communicate through translators who helped us pose our questions. We were welcomed with hospitality by the monks who dressed in dark red and orange robes with sashes across their chests that ranged in color from yellow to purple. For my time with the monk, I asked him two questions: what did he find most rewarding about his monastic lifestyle and what advice he had for a young American man? First, he told me that in his prayers and spiritual aid of others, he was able to help a lot of people he’d otherwise never be able to help. As for the life advice, he spoke for about three straight minutes. How much of the final product I got in translation, I can’t be sure, but here is the short version of what he told me: 

“Be mindful of your actions and try to do the greatest good you can. Be careful of unmindful action and how it can hurt others. Give willingly. Don’t assume that others are always trying to take advantage of you, and instead, give with a loving heart. And be happy.”

The next day after my visit to the monastery, I had the rare opportunity to visit the home of a local family with another student. We were paired with a local Bhutanese student who attends the local high school in Jakar. Our student, Tsherink, is in 11th grade at the high school and she hopes to one day be an accountant. She showed us around her home and around the town below. I got to hear what she had heard about the United States (she said she’d heard it was lots of big cities and people that had a lot of money), and I got to tell her a little bit about an American’s take on Bhutan. She was in awe when my fellow student and I showed her pictures of where we’re from. She was especially impressed when I showed her a picture of where I go to school (“it’s so beautiful” came up a few times). We finished the day with a dinner of rice, potatoes, assorted vegetables and chilies before heading back to campus. 

Neither experience was exactly in my comfort zone. It’s pretty hard to communicate when both parties have a limited understanding of what one another is saying, but they were experiences I’m extremely glad I had. Getting to interact with the locals up close has only reaffirmed my belief that they are some of the warmest and kindest people I've ever met. 

Oh, today I started my directed research surrounding the effects of forest management on several environmental factors on the top of a mountain pass, but I’ll save that for my next post.

Topics: study abroad, Samuel Geer, Bhutan, advice, monastery, monks

Beauty in Taiwan

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Thu, Jul 07, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

My time in Taiwan has been so non-stop that I’ve barely had time to write any updates! The trip is two days away from ending, and while sleeping in my own bed sounds marvelous, I know that I will miss this as soon as I’m gone. Taiwan is filled with so much beauty and I am so grateful to be here. 

Our first few days in Taiwan were spent hosting an English camp at a school in Taipei with students from Fu Jen Catholic University. It was so much fun to spend time with the students, and not just because they taught us how to use a Chinese yo-yo! Both the Fu Jen and grade school students were excited to be with us. They all have such good senses of humor that it is impossible not to smile with them.


After our time in Taipei, we spent one day at a middle school where we mostly played with the students. One group of girls let me braid their hair, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then they sang for me. The experience at the middle school was wonderful as well. 

Now, we are in a mountain village with a native tribe of Taiwan. The community here is so welcoming and good to one another. Everybody looks out for each other in the village (it is really like one giant family) and they were very kind to let us join in. Last night a few young girls were playing with me. They were very excited to teach me to count in Chinese, and they came up with a secret handshake for us.


Connecting with the people here is one of the greatest experiences I could ever ask for. The villagers are as beautiful as the mountains that surround them, and their singing surpasses any I have ever heard. I didn’t understand a word of this morning’s Mass, but the singing that took place was so beautiful. The tribe is famous for their musical talent, and rightfully so. Their harmonies were breathtaking as their voices vibrated through the church. Never have I experienced such a beautiful and genuine worship of the Lord; I imagine what I heard at Mass is close to what the heavenly choirs sound like. 

Being surrounded by such beauty in Taiwan has filled me with a deeper love of life, God and others than I’ve ever had before. It is so good to have life; it is so good to be a person. If there is one lesson that the Taiwanese mountain village has been screaming to me it is that no matter what happens, living is worth it.

Topics: Campus Ministry, Taiwan, service learning, Theresa Thimons, Fu Jen Catholic University

A Taste of Greece

Posted by Gianna Boburka on Wed, Jul 06, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

IMG_7427_2.pngAfter a few weeks of finally settling into the city of history, culture, arts, nightlife, food and much more; Thessaloniki, Greece, has become my stay for these 37 days abroad. Choosing a city (the second largest in Greece), that is not too common among Americans for studying abroad, was a place I  knew was going to be very different. For example, dinnertime does not start until at least 9 p.m., businesses close from 3 to 5 p.m. for afternoon nap time, a large number of Greeks are avid smokers and the surprising appreciation from locals when attempting to speak Greek. The differences, however, have shown me that there is much excitement that can be found from being immersed in unfamiliar places. Places that hold so much learning and discovery.

Life in Greece is not like most countries in Europe. Here, everything moves at a slower pace (literally). Being on time for anything does not happen often. Whether it’s waiting for the bus to take you into town or to school, your professors strolling in 10 minutes late or ferry rides that are well past half an hour due departure, the Greeks are ones that appreciate their relaxed, cultured life that has been present for a great number of years. They also like their mid-day naps very much. 

IMG_6906.jpgDespite this leisurely lifestyle, Thessaloniki boasts an immense amount of entertainment and events. Whether it’s strolling along the boardwalk and capturing the views of the Aegean Sea (pictured right), sipping a frappé (created by the Greeks) in the numerous coffee shops around town, shopping in the marketplaces, visiting the many museums and churches surrounding the city or checking out its well-known nightlife, Thessaloniki presents itself as a place for one to always keep busy, even in a laid-back lifestyle.

Part of experiencing Europe deals greatly with the food, which the Greeks excel at. Going to local, traditional restaurants around the city and to bakeries and gelato places have been a daily discovery here in Greece. Traditional meals like gyros, souvlaki, moussaka and Greek salads are among my favorite dishes. My second day in TBougatsahessaloniki consisted of a food tour around the city, where I drank a hot Greek coffee and received a Greek fortune from the remnants in the cup. I tried the popular Greek breakfast treats of bougatsa (pictured right) and sesame bread rings at a bakery. I also toured the huge marketplace that sold fish, meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, olives, pastas and more. I even experienced a Greek cooking class, where I made Tzatziki (a dip for bread) and grape leaves. In addition to eating out in local restaurants, the Greeks will often give free desserts of either ice cream or Greek yogurt and fruit. Food is well-admired among the Greeks.

While seeing the city, tasting the food and attempting to live like a local have made my time so far in Greece very adventurous, I’ve learned that much more awaits when one studies abroad. One of the most important things I’ve learned thus far was from my theology professor, who has stressed the most important thing to take from being here is experience. It’s not enough to just read and see pictures and dream of things. Experience enables us to be immersed in places that give a deeper understanding and realization of others beyond our familiarity. Experiencing life is what makes all of us much more fulfilled in our own endeavors.

Topics: study abroad, Greece, Food, Thessaloniki, culture, Gianna Boburka

An Excursion through the Himalayas

Posted by Samuel Geer on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

During the past week, we left the relative coziness of our dorms on campus to go on a trek through the surrounding valleys. It was a three-day hike that would begin with us hiking across the Bumthang Valley where our campus is located. After the flat portion of the trek, we went straight up over the extremely small Himalayan Mountains in the area (only 12,000 feet high — the Laurel Highlands are a small fraction of that). Once on the other side, we’d be in the neighboring Tang Valley where we’d camp another night and hike to a cultural site to finish off our learning adventure. 


The trek was an amazing experience. On the first night, we were camped at the base of the mountains near a river where there were ruins of a Dzong (a Bhutanese fortress). After hiking for seven miles, we climbed up the steep hillside to the site of the ruins before dinner, and it was one of the most rewarding sites I’ve ever been too. The view I had was that of the entire river valley with sunlight peering through some light rain. The next day is when it started to get interesting as we would be going over the top of the ridge and down the other side in one day. I awoke to fog gathering around the tent and horses grazing outside. The hike on the second day would take eight hours over 10 miles and see an increase of 1,500 feet of elevation on the front side. On top of that, it also rained for seven of the eight hours that we hiked, but it was surreal coming to the top of the ridge and seeing the rainbow of prayer flags blowing lightly in the rain. 


By the time we’d camped that night, the rain had finally stopped. The next day we awoke to the sun shining and headed out for our final destination on the adventure. We hiked an additional three miles to the top of another nearby mountain where there was a feudal fortress turned museum. There, we were able to see a wide variety of cultural artifacts that were up to 700 years old. In addition, we had a guest lecture by a distant relative of the Bhutanese royal family who spoke about the role of women in Bhutan and the changing nature of the gender roles in the nation. 


Later that day, we headed back to campus, having hiked approximately 30 miles in three days. It was an incredible experience that I will probably never get to do again. Despite the rain and the mud, it is not often you get to have a hands-on learning experience on a hike through the Himalayas. 

This coming week, I’ll be focused on studying for a series of examinations as well as preparing for directed research to begin.

Topics: study abroad, adventure, Samuel Geer, Bhutan, Himilayas, hiking, gender studies

The Last of China

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

My time in China is coming to a close, and I just got kind of good at figuring out the subway system. It’s sad to know I’ll be leaving in the morning, but I am excited to arrive in Taiwan and begin the next segment of this trip!

Since you’ve last heard from me, I visited the Great Wall of China and the Pearl Market, as well as spent two more afternoons with the orphans at New Hope. The Great Wall was incredible - I was not prepared for the beauty that I saw. Similar to the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, no photograph can do it justice. Initially when we arrived at the Great Wall, we were amused by a sign that read, “do not appreciate the scenery while walking.” A few minutes into our hike, however, we understood. (And yes, hike is the appropriate word to describe walking the Great Wall.) It was a difficult hike, but it was breathtaking. I honestly think that it's worth a trip to China to visit the Great Wall alone. 


This past morning, I went to the Pearl Market to barter with vendors and buy souvenirs for my family. I don’t have much experience with bartering, but I soon found that I loved it! When I saw something I liked, I would ask the vendor, “how much?” and they would take their calculator and punch in a number. They would then hand me the calculator and I would make a counter offer, usually about 10% of their original price. Of course they would always say no, and sometimes they would even laugh at me, but if I was stubborn enough and would only raise my offer slightly, I could get a good deal. The trick was  walking away at some point. These vendors are hungry for business, so they will chase you down and lower their price. That is not the point at which you stop; that is when you make another counter offer and, with some stubbornness, get the vendor to agree. Needless to say, bartering gave me quite the adrenaline rush and I loved the experience!
Of course, I have to talk about my last days at the orphanage. I spent a lot of time with my favorite buddy in a wheelchair (mentioned in my last blog post). When I walked in on my last day, his face lit up. I walked over to him and he took my hand in both of his and kissed it. My heart sinks when I think about how I will likely never see him again, but I will forever be grateful for the joy he gave me and that he allowed me to show him love. Someday a family will be very lucky when they adopt him.
Although it’s hard to leave this place, I am excited to go to Taiwan in the morning! I can’t wait to see what adventures will come with being in Taiwan. I’m ready to go, but I know that there is one thing I’ll be leaving behind; a piece of my heart will always be with the boy from New Hope orphanage. 

Topics: China, Hope Foster Home, service learning, Great Wall of China, Theresa Thimons, Pearl Market, Beijing

Talking Without Speaking (in China)

Posted by Theresa Thimons on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

As I think about the events of this first full day in China, the word that rings the loudest is joy. After a tour of the Forbidden City this morning, led by our wonderful tour guide, Jim, the group headed out for lunch in the food court of a nearby mall. Ordering and paying for food may not sound like an adventure, but it is when you and your waitress can’t even guess at each other’s languages. I was amazed at the success of our communication without the use of words. The waitress took a table of people from the other side of the world and was able to help us order and pay without any problems. People are really incredible.
After lunch, we headed to New Hope Orphanage where we were given a brief tour explaining how the orphanage is run specifically for children with health problems, mainly surgically correctable diseases. The orphanage loves and cares well for these children, gets them the surgeries and medical help that they need, and hopes that they will someday be adopted into a loving family. Once the tour was complete, we were free to play with the children all afternoon. These kids have such big personalities; my heart was touched by each one. Again, the amazement of communicating without words struck me. One young boy kept touching underneath my chin, and I soon caught on that this meant he wanted me to tickle him beneath his chin. A little girl who had some trouble with walking held my hands and pulled me upward. Then she shuffled her feet in circles, and next thing I knew, we were dancing! Another boy who especially captured my heart was having the time of his life play acting with me. We would take turns playing pretend and making silly faces, and he would laugh so hard and smile so wide that I couldn’t help but do the same.
When Fr. Killian was at the door, the boy slammed the door shut with his wheelchair and started cracking up. He may be a sneaky one, but between his unique personality and the plethora of laughter that passed between us, this boy and all of the children left me bursting with joy. Each and every child in that orphanage has a heart full of love, and if our group from Saint Vincent brought them half as much joy as they brought us, then today was a complete success.
Between ordering lunch and playing with the children, one lesson that really rang true today was that actions speak louder than words. Because of this lesson, I was able to find out something else. Although in the van back from the orphanage we were all speaking the same language, the actions of the group spoke much louder than our words. Loud laughter filled the van in a way it hadn’t before that moment, and it was clear that this was because of the joy that the kids brought us. The words being spoken were pointless conversation about the trees and Oompa Loompas (two things that were, believe it or not, related in this conversation), but the unspoken words were so much louder. Our smiles were all brighter, the way we interacted with one another held such a deep and true friendship. Our actions told their own story of how volunteering at a Chinese orphanage for medically-handicapped children brought joy to a group of college students. I cannot wait to go back to the orphanage, and I am excited to continue to observe the actions throughout both the tourist and service aspects of this trip to see how the story unfolds.

Topics: China, Hope Foster Home, service learning, laughter, Theresa Thimons, Beijing

About this Blog

In Bearcats on the Road, students chronicle their lives while studying abroad or completing internships away from campus.

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How can you study abroad?

Learn more about studying abroad at Saint Vincent College

Current Bloggers 


Hi! My name is Gianna Boburka. I am an international business major with minors in operational excellence and entrepreneurship. I will be studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece, this summer for five weeks. In addition to taking two classes abroad, I will be exploring many different sites around Greece.


Theresa Thimons is a sophomore majoring in mathematics. She is the proud little sister to nine siblings and aunt to seventeen nieces and nephews. Theresa believes that each encounter she has with another human is an opportunity to better understand the heart of Jesus, as every person is the result of God’s love. In whatever career path she ends up taking, she looks forward to solving problems and hopefully inspiring more people to explore the world of fun that is found in math.


My name is Sam Geer. I’m from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and I’m a junior at Saint Vincent. I’m getting my major in Environmental Science and minoring in Public Administration. I’m a work study at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve and am a member of the Benedictine Leadership Studies Program. This summer, I'll be traveling to Bhutan in the Himalayas of Central Asia, home of the bearcat, where I’ll be studying environmental sustainability and Bhutanese culture. 


Hi! Im Gabrielle Kohl, an avid reader who loves to travel around the world! I love to experience new culture, literature, people and food. I aim to make a positive impact in the lives of people with whom I interact in order to make the world a happier place.


Hi! My name is Nicole Berry and I am currently a junior studying communication and psychology. I also am minoring in children studies. I am a commuter and currently live in Delmont, PA. I am hoping to graduate in May 2017 and go on to graduate school for my Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctorate.


Anastasia Jaeger is a junior English education major with a minor in German and a minor in peace and justice. She has always dreamed of being able to travel around the world and is thankful that Saint Vincent College has these opportunities available to students. When she is not at college, she is likely working her part-time job at a local bakery. In the future, she hopes to travel more and do humanitarian work or teach high school students English.


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