Bearcats on the Road

The Student of Venice

Posted by Emily Samara on Tue, Feb 09, 2016 @ 04:00 PM

venice_1.jpgAfter a busy, busy weekend of traveling I am back home in Rome ready for this week of classes! Last Thursday a group of ten other students and me traveled to Venice, Italy. 

For my personal Study Abroad experience I have chosen to focus on seeing as much of Italy as I can, and Venice was my first venture outside of Rome. 

We left Thursday night and took a six-hour train ride through the night, getting us to Venice at around 5:30 a.m. We walked around for a while because the water buses weren't running yet. Because Venice is an island and surrounded by many other islands, the primary way of transportation is by boat (very different but very cool). 

We had some time to kill so all 11 of us found an outdoor restaurant that was open and had plenty of heaters. Oh, I didn't mention, it was FREEZING! I guess when we were all packing we didn't factor in the lower temperature from all the water. Whoops! After we warmed up a bit we headed to the water bus station, bought our weekend passes and headed to the island our hotel was on, Lido. After a quick check in and many layers added to our outfits for the day, we headed back to the mainland of Venice where Piazza de San Marco is, with the famous St. Mark's Basilica. A few of us bought our Venetian masks in honor of Carnivale and we found a cute lunch spot. Venice is known for its bellinis and its spritzes so we all tried the spritz, very delicious and a real venice_2.jpgVenetian treat! Friday was a great first day in Venice!

Saturday we headed to two separate islands, the island of Murano, known for its glass artistry, and the island of Burano, known for its beautifully colored houses. The way they created the beautiful pieces of glass in Murano was just amazing and so cool to watch. I fell in love with the island of Burano, I wanted to spend all day there. It was just beautiful and made me so happy; I highly recommend going there if anyone is ever in Venice! 

Sunday was a rainy day but we made the best of it, had a nice relaxing breakfast and headed to the main island. We toured the Palace of the Doge (like the King from long ago) and that was really amazing to see all the architecture. We stopped for lunch, did some last-minute souvenir shopping and headed to a café before getting on the train home. 

This was my first weekend traveling outside of Rome  and it was amazing. I got to see Venice and enjoy time with my new friends here!

This Thursday I'll be heading to Milan, so stay tuned for that adventure!

Topics: study abroad, Italy, Emily Samara, Murano, Venice, Piazza San Marco, Burano

One Week In Rome

Posted by Emily Samara on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

image1-2-2.jpgToday is Monday, Jan. 19, and it's my first day of classes here in Rome! I am studying at John Cabot University (America's University in Rome). I had my tour the other day, but today I got out of bed early and met my roommates for lunch on the Tiber campus (right across from the Tiber River), and then we started heading toward the other parts of campus.

John Cabot, although very close together, is made up of four main areas. There's the Tiber campus with classrooms, some offices and the dining hall. There's the Guarani campus with more classrooms, the library and the writing center. The Genicolo residence is where the students who study through John Cabot stay; the gym is also there and a few offices. The last place doesn't really have a name. It's more of a row of offices like admissions, financial aid and other offices like that. My first class is at 3 p.m. today and then my next one is right after at 4:30 p.m. It's going to take some getting used to not having class until this late in the afternoon but I'm sure I'll get used to it! 

Tomorrow, I will have officially been in Rome for 7 days! And I know now that as classes are starting I'm sure my routines will get easier and easier. Tomorrow I am going on a food tour with Study Abroad Italy and that should be really fun! 

IMG_6913.jpgYesterday I went across the river with one of my friends that I met who is from Pittsburgh and we went to the local Steelers bar. It was so cool! Although our Steelers didn't win, we had a great time talking to other fans from here and back home!

Tonight my roommates and I are going to the grocery store to get what we need for the week (a little different from Saint Vincent).

Oh, and also there are no classes here on Fridays! 

These two pictures are from Saturday and Sunday when I walked from my apartment to the Trevi Fountain and then on Sunday saw the Saint Vincent pennant hanging in the Steeler bar!

Topics: study abroad, Steelers, Saint Vincent College, Rome, Emily Samara

Much more than Big Ben - My first week in London

Posted by Logan Nawrocki on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

7 days. That is the amount of time that has elapsed since I arrived In London. My first week out of the US has been exciting, shocking, fun and a little bit weird. Those are about the only words to describe my journey so far, because London is a city that will leave you speechless.

If you ever hear an American talk about how similar Screenshot_2016-01-19-13-52-16-1-546221-edited.pngEngland is to the USA, they are completely wrong. I am not talking about driving on the left side of the road. The language is about the only thing we have in common, barely. The accent can really throw you off and not to mention they have almost a whole different urban dictionary for household items. Trust me, ordering something at a restaurant that you have never had before becomes a bit more challenging when you can only make out half the words that the server is saying. However, when you do bridge the gap and put in your order, the food that comes out is delicious. It could be Indian, Ethiopian, Thai or even classic pub food, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be good.

The transportation in London is almost like a symphony. Every single part must be played in harmony for things to go right. The London Underground, or the Tube, is the most simple and enjoyable way to get around the city. More than 10 different lines can lead you to hundreds of different stops throughout London.

The culture is different. For as loud as the city can be, the people are extremely quiet. No new friends are made on the Tube, that is for sure. The adjustment to the time change has been the roughest part, but the city and all of its commotion give you little time to stop and sleep on the idea.

It seems as though time goes by a little faster from 4,000 miles away. London is so much more than Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, and I can't wait to see what else this city has in store for me.

Topics: study abroad, London, England, Saint Vincent College, Food, London Underground, Logan Nawrocki

Moving On

Posted by Abby Bryant on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 04:12 PM


“All good things must come to an end, but I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way or with any other people.”

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I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog, so I wanted to give you all an update on some of the things that have happened since then. In July, I left my site for the last time, and goodness, it was rough. I had been so busy thinking about and planning for my upcoming cross-country move that I had spent very little time dwelling on my looming departure or preparing for a going-away party. Having heard numerous disappointing accounts of despedidas (going away parties) going wrong, I had very little expectations for anything my gente might put together. 

And honestly, I was okay with that. 

So I was moved to tears (nearing sobs, if we’re being honest) when various community members organized not one, but two events to show me how much my two years had meant to them. My actual despedida was an official party organized by one of the teachers in our little school. Like me, she’s not from the village and her family lives about 12 hours away, so she understood more than most what I was going through when I went through feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Each family in the community contributed $5 (almost a whole day’s wages) in order to provide a community lunch and gifts for me. They decorated our community pavilion and then, one by one, they stood up and shared with me their favorite memories and their thanks for how much Peace Corps has done for the community and how much they would miss me. Many of the families even made me extra gifts like hand-crocheted bags, jewelry and hair accessories. When it was finally my turn to speak, I blinked back tears and tried to focus on the speech that I had been practicing for the last week. 

Despite my best intentions, I only made it through a few sentences. Later on in the day I mentioned to someone how frustrated I was that I hadn’t been able to share all of the thoughts, feelings, and memories that I had wanted to. In response, she told me, “I understand.  But Geli, what you couldn’t say with your mouth, you said with your eyes.”

The despedida finished after lunch, and after a community photo shoot I spent the afternoon visiting as many families as I could, knowing this would be my last chance to say goodbye. 

After dinner with some neighbors, I planned to have my final meeting to make coffee on our new eco-stove and answer any last questions the community members may have had about the project. I expected there to be a handful of people who would spend 20 or 30 minutes with me but was surprised by a second despedida!

More than 40 people - men, women, children, and teenagers - showed up with Johnny cakes (my favorite local coconut bread) and a cake that one of my Baking & Business students had made for me. After making coffee and enjoying the food, a teenager who I had sent to one of Peace Corps’ youth camps suggested that anyone who had not been able to attend the earlier despedida take the opportunity to share memories and thanks. “But first,” he said, “everyone should turn off their flashlights so that everyone can cry and nobody will feel bad about it.”

In two years, I had never once seen anyone in the village cry, so seeing such strong emotions prompted by my departure meant more to me than I could even begin to describe in a blog post. 

Not having access to electricity, people generally go to bed quite early in my town, but on that night my neighbors and I stayed up together until almost 1 a.m., after a while not really saying much but also not wanting to end the night, and thus, my two years in the village. Almost painfully, I finally made it back to my house where I finished packing up my things and tucked myself into my hammock one last time. 

As my favorite taxi driver picked Massy and me up at 6 a.m. the next morning, I said final goodbyes to one of my favorite families who had gotten up extra early to see me off. They prayed for me and I promised that I would call as soon as I arrived safe in my new house, knowing that it would be a long time before it becomes a home like the one I was now leaving behind.   

Even Rolando, my sweet taxi driver, shared in the goodbyes. “The town may have other Peace Corps volunteers,” he said, “but there will always be only one Geli.” 

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"We will miss you a lot. We will remember you forever. Thank you for everything you have given us, and may God bless you forever."

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Q. Pita was my town and Gely (Geli) is my indigenous name

Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad

Finally Here!

Posted by Emily Samara on Fri, Jan 15, 2016 @ 08:52 AM

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It's day three here in Rome and, after all the walking and eating, I notice how adjusted I am becoming to living the Roman life. I arrived on Tuesday around 4:30 and was shuttled to my apartment here in the city. All of my roommates were already here and unpacking, so I had some catching up to do. 

We decided to go out to our first Italian restaurant and this is when we learned that 6:30 is a little too early for Italians. We were the first and only people in the restaurant and left right as the next people were coming in! 

On Wednesday, we took a tour of John Cabot and got to meet some of the other people in the SAI (Study Abroad Italy) program. We had a few hours in between appointments, so a few of the other students and I went exploring. 

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Rome is a great city full of beautiful streets and restaurants and architecture. Even just walking around is so fun and a great way to learn more about how Italians live their lives here. I am so excited for classes to start next week; both of John Cabot's campuses are so beautiful and so far the students I have met are so nice and welcoming. 

This weekend I am taking an Italian course just so I can have the basics of the language which might help a little. My roommates and I also decided we are going to explore Rome some more which means walking, taking photos, eating and more walking! 

Ciao from Roma
Emily 

Topics: study abroad, Italy, Rome, Emily Samara, Exploring

One Step Closer

Posted by Emily Samara on Mon, Jan 04, 2016 @ 02:23 PM

Well, it's been quite a journey to get my visa for my trip to Italy and I could not have done it without my parents. The first day we went to get my visa from the Italian consulate at the embassy of Italy in  Washington, D.C. (thankfully only a 30-minute drive from home) I quickly realized I left my visa application at home. During the drive back I realized how important organization will be when I get to Italy. 
 
After a lot of copying and many calls to the Embassy, we headed back four days later. We had all the paperwork we needed and I got the confirmation that my visa would be ready on Dec. 31. Today we set out for the third trip to the Embassy! After many phone calls, a lot of copying, two separate trips to D.C. and double checking, I received my visa!

One step closer to Italy!

Happy New Year!

Emily

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Topics: study abroad, Italy, Rome, Emily Samara

Getting Ready for Rome

Posted by Emily Samara on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 @ 03:42 PM

In less than a month I will be making the trip to Rome! All my final preparations are being made and when I get home from my last exam on Thursday I will be in full Italy mode. Its been pretty difficult trying to figure out all the fine details with my parents being in another state but with all the help from Ms. Hart and even my friends this is already an experience I would not trade for anything. Just yesterday I received an email giving me my apartment address and the names of my roommates in Italy! I am so excited to immerse myself in a new culture and environment not knowing anyone or really anything. I might need to learn a few Italian phrases before I leave!

Only 27 more days!

Buona notte!

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Topics: study abroad, Italy, Rome, Emily Samara

Bocas to Darien: Three Years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama

Posted by Abby Bryant on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 @ 09:31 AM

Abby Bryant teaches business in Darien, Panama

One of my favorite perks of being a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama is the opportunity I have to travel throughout the country to facilitate business trainings in other volunteers' sites. Since I'm on a pretty tight budget, longer trips take a little more planning, and a few months ago I was finally able to visit one of my new favorite provinces - Darien.

While the Darien is infamous for wild jungles, drug traffickers, and being one of the only impassible land border crossings in the world, I see it quite differently. My visit to the Darien was filled with productive trainings, beautiful sites, and incredibly sweet locals who made sure that not a moment went by without my belly being filled to it's highest capacity. Obviously, we got along great.

Though the main point of the trip was to teach business to several indigenous artisan groups, I also had somewhat of an ulterior motive...

The Peace Corps has volunteers in just about every region of Panama and though the country isn't much bigger than South Carolina, it takes a lot of work and travel to support over 200 volunteers in 9 very different and distinct provinces. Since our office staff is limited in both personnel and location (the office is in Panama City, which is up to 14 hours of travel from the most remote sites), each province has a Regional Leader.

Regional Leaders (RLs) are 3rd year volunteers selected by the Country Director to work in a variety of roles within each province. RLs locate and prepare communities to be future Peace Corps sites, offer organizational and emotional support to volunteers, assist with safety and security issues, act as liaisons between Peace Corps and partner government and NGO agencies, and host regional meetings for volunteers, staff, and agencies every four months.

Abby Bryant in indigenous dress of Embera tribe, Panama

Though I have always loved working with the Bocas RLs, I didn't start considering the job for myself until a few months ago. Similar to the thought process that led me to the Peace Corps in the first place, I began outlining what I wanted for myself personally and professionally when my service ends in July/August of this year.  

I love living in the jungle, but I'm also quite ready to have some modern amenities back. Electricity? A refrigerator? Smoothies?? Internet?! Ah, yes. I'm quite ready for those. But am I ready to give up this beautiful, multi-cultural experience I'm having? Not quite yet.

The more research I did, the more I realized that the Regional Leader position was just what I wanted. I would get to live in a regional capital with access to most of the amenities that I'm missing, work in a more official and professional role with the national office and local and international government agencies, and still have frequent travel to the remote Peace Corps and potential Peace Corps sites I love so much.

Abby Bryant is a Peace Corps volunteer living in Panama

So how does the Darien play into that? Once I decided to apply, I knew that during my interview I'd be asked about what region I wanted to work in. While they obviously prefer to have RLs work in the same region they served in, there's usually some shifting around due to candidates and their work styles and preferences. Since I knew one of my best Peace Corps friends from Bocas was also applying and wanted to stay in Bocas, I took that as an opportunity to look around and think a little more about where I would want to spend my 3rd year in Panama.  

Panama's cultural diversity beautiful ecological landscape make that quite a hard choice, but when I thought about which province intrigued me the most, it became quite easy- the Darien. However, having never visited the area, it seemed pretty naive to ask to move there, hence my tour of the area.

And herein lies the big news - An incredible week of travel and a great interview later, I'm very excited to accept my new position as the Darien Regional Leader and can't wait to move out there and get started in July. Though my new job won't affect my current position at all, it does mean that I'll be in Panama a year longer than I thought. I know that that's bittersweet news to my friends and family back home, but I'm sure that a month-long U.S. trip in December will help that a little bit.

Accepting the new job has made the end of my service in Bocas feel a lot more concrete, and that's bittersweet for me as well. I have loved the time I've had here and look forward to another great year!  

Abby Bryant teaches business and baking in Darien, Panama

Topics: Peace Corps, Panama, Volunteer Abroad, Abby Bryant, life after college, Business Seminar

Continuing My Turkish Adventure 2015!

Posted by Patrick Coyle on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 01:53 PM

Greetings again, dear guest! <------ (Our tour guides would constantly use the phrases dear guests/friends)

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Now, I have quite the story to tell: a story about four students, four faculty, and the wives of two faculty members.

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What could this story possibly be about? Well look below and if you can name the country highlighted in green, then you already know!

 

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(For those who did not know/read the first post, that country is Turkey!)

Lets go over some basic information:

- We were in Turkey for eight days. 
- We spent 50 hours travelling to Turkey, around Turkey, and back from Turkey.
- The trip was extremely INEXPENSIVE! We were setup in numerous high quality hotels including the Izmir Sheraton, a resort in Cappadocia, and the VIP administrative suites of Turkey's top high school (Fatih Koleji). 

 

What did we do in Turkey?

- We went to three family dinners, all organized through the Pittsburgh Turkish Cultural Center which is alligned with the Hizmet Movement, an organization seeking a democratic and secular future for Turkey. 

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- We visited three universities:

  • Fatih University (Very conservative, most of the women wore headscarfs.) - Istanbul
  • Gediz University (Extremely western, almost none of the women wore headscarfs.) - Izmir
  • Meliksah University (Centrist, some of the women wore headscarfs and others did not.) - Kayseri

- We also went to Ephesus, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (along with many other bazaars throughout the country, such as the one in Izmir) , Mary's House (I poked it), Topkapi Palace and a plethora of other cultural landmarks. 

Here are some pictures from Ephesus

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(Cats are everywhere in Turkey, the Turks love cats.)  

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(If you like animals then Turkey is the place to be, even the strays are friendly.) 

Some fun facts:

- We met one of the top ten richest men in Turkey.
- The Turks eat soup with basically every meal.
- Basketball and soccer are huge in Turkey. 

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to Turkey and the many cat pictures.

Güle-Güle! (Bye!)

Topics: Turkey, Patrick Coyle, travel abroad

I Left My Heart in Ling’An

Posted by Maggie Loya on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 01:32 PM

This past weekend, I was finally able to escape the city and get my first glimpse of “real China.” As beautiful as Shanghai is, I was a little bit sick of the constant noise and shoving and rude behaviors. I threw caution to the wind and decided to sign up for a weekend hiking trip to Ling’An, which is in Zhejiang Province, southwest of Shanghai.

It’s about a four and a half hour drive by bus, and we left in the evening. Three hours passed by, and I really started sweating it. I had signed up for a mountain summit hiking trip—and there were still skyscrapers and neon lights and English translations everywhere. I was tired of looking out of the window and was almost about to doze off when I saw a huge black shape rise out of nowhere and then disappear. Then, another one appeared, and I realized that these were extremely oddly-shaped mountains, rising up in between commercial districts. The mountain ridges continued to multiply until they outnumbered the buildings, but we were still on a major highway, travelling through huge cities.

We finally turned off of the highway and drove through a large, modernized town until we took a small side road. The asphalt road turned into a one-lane road, and then a gravel road, and then a dirt road; we were in for a hair-raising, twisting drive straight up into the mountains. Even the small van had difficulty making it through some of the turns. It was nearly midnight, and the fog had settled in, so we only got glimpses of tall stone cliffs and mysterious mountain ridges.

When we arrived at the guesthouse about half an hour later, we were exhausted and ready for bed. 

Maggie in a Ling'An Village

The guesthouse was extremely luxurious according to the Chinese standards I’ve adopted. We had hot water (no shower, though), beds, and electricity. We had a heater as well, and when I went to go and turn it on, I saw the largest spider I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo or a pet shop. It was about three inches across and was just chilling on the wall next to the heater. Eeva, my roommate, tried to knock it off the wall and trap it in the trashcan, but it lost some legs in the process and she had to kill it with a shoe. I was watching and providing emotional support the whole time—it was quite terrifying.

After the bug fiasco, we settled in for a good night’s rest. I was woken up in the morning by a very odd ringtone: a horse neighing. At first, I genuinely thought it was Eeva’s alarm, but when hers went off, I realized that there was an actual horse right outside our window. On the left is the morning view from the guesthouse:

Our group ate breakfast and set out for the hike. Our plan was to reach three summits, all about 5200ft. Starting out, we hiked through the village and then started up the mountain on a stone step path.

The Ling'An VillageThe beautiful mountains of Ling'An

This is where the major issue started. I had been coughing for almost two weeks at this point, and I was still having some trouble recovering. I supposed that the fresh air and exercise would help me get over my cold. On the hike, though, whenever I tried to take a deep breath, I would have a coughing fit and then lose my breath. Within half an hour, I knew I couldn’t continue. One of our guides had to take me back to the guesthouse, and the rest of the hikers continued on without me.

At this point, I was in extremely low spirits. I love hiking, and I’ve never been unable to finish a trek. I was angry at myself and my lungs and all of the people who told me that I should’ve gone to the doctor a week ago. The Chinese guide who took me back, though, was so kind. Her English name was “Twelve.” (Chinese-English names are often very unique—I’ve also met a Bumblebee and an Echo.) She took me to some paths and we hiked up a hill to a bamboo forest. We didn’t see any pandas, so I decided to pretend that I was one:

Maggie Loya is a Panda!

We went back to the village for lunch, and the sun was shining. The fog had cleared, and the mountains were incredibly stunning. It was such a clear, peaceful, beautiful place.

The village of Ling'An

The skies were bright blue, vibrant yellow flowers grew in huge patches in the valley and on the mountains, and walnut trees were just starting to bud. No matter where you were in the village, you could hear the rushing water of the river and the many mountain streams that fed into it. I forgot about all of Shanghai’s dirt and pollution and rudeness, and I wanted to just stay in the valley forever.

Actually, I ended up leaving the valley within two hours. While we were eating lunch, a Chinese couple joined us. We had a great time; I got to practice my limited Chinese and they got to practice their limited English, although Twelve had to translate most of the conversation. Tōng and her husband ended up inviting me to their home for the afternoon, so Twelve and I got in their car and drove an hour and a half with them to their home. I met Tōng ‘s mother, younger sister, and son, and then we all ate a huge dinner.

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That evening, we had to go back to the village, and we got there just in time to join the others at the bonfire. The night sky was filled with stars. It was the perfect ending to a perfect, if unexpected, day.

The next morning, my cold was even worse, and I was miserable and unable to do any hiking. We left in the afternoon and travelled back to Shanghai. I’ve been home for over 24 hours now, but I am still missing the countryside. I never could have predicted the things that happened this weekend. I didn’t reach any mountain summits, but I met a wonderful family and spent the day with a very talented guide. I got to see the bamboo forest and take beautiful pictures of the mountains. I got to walk through fields of flowers and eat delicious fresh foods. I had to say goodbye to Ling’An, but it won’t be for the last time. This is the first of my many adventures outside of Shanghai!

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Note: In China, it is a cultural insult to refuse an invitation to a stranger’s home, because you honor them by being a guest. In America, this is a great way to get kidnapped. Please don’t try this at home. 

Topics: study abroad, China, Maggie Loya, Shanghai

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

About the Authors

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Emily Samara
Major: Psychology
Year: Junior
Location: Rome, Italy
School: John Cabot University
 

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Logan Nawrocki is currently a sophomore management major at Saint Vincent. Employed by Under Armour, Logan enjoys playing golf and tennis in his spare time. He covers the Pittsburgh Pirates for FanSided.com. Logan is a member of Saint Vincent’s pre-law society and the school’s chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta, as well as serving as an Admissions Ambassador for the college. After graduation, he anticipates obtaining his Juris Doctor degree and pursuing a career as a sports attorney. Logan is excited to spend the spring of 2016 in London and share his adventures with the rest of the Saint Vincent community.
 

Abby Bryant

Abby Bryant graduated from Saint Vincent College with degrees in Marketing and International Business in 2013. That June, she joined the Peace Corps to work as an Agri-business Volunteer in Panama, teaching business practices to local farmers. 

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