‘More simple and uncluttered’
GAMING, Austria – The classes may have been about history and language arts, but the lessons Johanna Moch took home after a semester abroad were more about living life itself. Like many students who go abroad to study, Moch, who will be a college junior this fall, looked forward to seeing new sights and learning how other people live when she headed to Austria for a semester last year. She spent the last four months of her sophomore year of college in beautiful Gaming, Austria, in a picturesque little town in the foothills of the mountains. It was part of the Franciscan University’s study abroad program. The Catholic university Moch attends in Ohio has a campus in Austria, where classes are taught mostly by American professors. The students are required to carry a full schedule while abroad, enrolling in at least 15 credit hours. Much of the courses offered have a European focus, Moch says.”It’s so we can learn European history,” she says. Learn about other cultures and traveling are important parts of the program, she says. Students have core curriculum requirements, but also may choose electives. Moch opted to learn some German and took a class on the French Revolution.
‘Life-and-death issues’ A psychology major, with a minor in sociology, Moch says she also enjoyed the discussions generated in her theology class. They revolved around many of today’s most pressing issues, including marriage, abortion, euthanasia and morals, she says. “There were a lot of life-and-death issues,” says Moch, who graduated from Eagle Valley High. “It was a good class to take and evaluate all these different issues that are popping up in the world today.” But Moch says the lessons outside the classroom were just as inspiring. Despite the full load of classes, students are given Friday through Sunday off to discover the surrounding countryside. Moch traveled to Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Holland, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy – quite a marathon in such a short time.Much of it, she says, was lovely and fascinating. Some of it was poignant, such as the tour of Auschwitz in Poland. “That was definitely one of the most moving experiences I had over there,” Moch says.
While in Poland, the group of students she was with also visited Pope John Paul II’s birthplace, walked through his house and toured the college he once attended.”We were over there when Pope John Paul II died,” Moch says. “We’d just seen all these places, and it was really touching, and gave me even more of a special place in my heart for Pope John II.”She and some of her fellow students then endured a 12-hour bus ride to Rome and waited five hours in line to participate in Pope John Paul II’s viewing.Her four months abroad enabled her to “actually experience my Catholic faith,” she says – from tracing the footsteps of great saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, to ascending the spiraling stairs to the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. “Everything that I saw, felt, tasted, touched, and can now attest to, rings out like a choir in perfect harmony amidst an age that cries chaos and despair, a testimony of God’s ever-faithful and present loving hand in this world,” Moch writes in an e-mail. Family meals
Day-to-day European life will stay with Moch as well, now that she is home and working full time in her summer job at the Vail Valley Adventure Camp at Eagle Valley Elementary School, she says. “I definitely noticed that European life is a lot more simple and uncluttered, compared to the way Americans live life,” Moch observes.Although it is hard to put a finger on it, Moch says that the simplicity she found in Europe involves everything from the communal travel on trains and buses (instead of everyone driving individual cars) to the absence of a fast-food culture. Europeans, she mentions, linger over and even revel in family meals, she says. “Cooking and preparing a meal is a festive occasion, and they are proud of that, and the sharing of it, taking up most of the night,” she says. “You don’t see that, typically, in America much.”More than that, she says what struck her about Europeans was their more casual approach to life – the lack of strict schedules to adhere to, and the offhand acceptance of the unexpected. “There’s a lot of despair in America because people think things have to go a certain way,” Moch says. “It’s not about schedules and order over there. It’s about getting the most out of your day and the people in your life, and realizing how important they are to you.”Vail, Colorado
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