BY SARAH ALLISON
This year Franciscan University’s Austria Program welcomes both warmer weather and a new residence director. The spring semester in Austria will now begin three weeks later, taking place Feb. 2 to May 23, 2014, instead of beginning in January.
“It’s so that you can enjoy more of the springtime and actually be there for all the major feasts,” said sophomore Cecilia Caro who will be going to Austria next semester.
Mark Hanrahan, Director of Student Success and Austria Enrollment, explained the reasons in further detail. Students were already able to attend feasts such as Easter in Rome, he said, but practical reasons prompted the schedule change.
“Our spring enrollment in Austria has traditionally been struggling and much lower than our fall enrollment in Austria,” he said, “and that causes multiple problems for us on main campus.” One such problem is simply the amount of available beds.
“The spring semester, although it had some great benefits, always had a negative connotation for bad weather,” said Hanrahan. “That was the major reason for the three-week shift. Take away those three weeks of snowy January weather and replace it with the most beautiful weather Austria has all year.”
Senior Abigail Simon offered a different perspective. She traveled abroad for the first time when she went to Austria in spring 2012.
“It was an amazing experience,” Simon said. “It was a little bit freezing when I went, but it didn’t stop me from doing anything.”
Although she described the weather as a cross to carry, Simon said that ultimately it added to the experience. She found a visit to Poland more moving because she was able to feel some of the same conditions that prisoners in Auschwitz endured.
“I’m glad that they changed the schedule, for the warmth factor, but a lot of people don’t like it because it cuts into the summer,” Simon said. “They had good intentions, but if you’re an underclassman then you have less time for mini-sessions.”
Sarah Harmon, the new Residence Director in Austria, has also spent the winter in Gaming before.
“I realize the schedule change has pros and cons,” she said, “but I think that the improved weather allows for more travelling for the students. It allows them to experience more of Europe without numb limbs, which is always a plus.”
Harmon is an alumna of Ave Maria University. In 2012 she moved to Gaming, Austria, to teach at the Language and Catechetical Institute (LCI), where Eastern European and Chinese students are taught English and Theology.
The LCI is based in the Kartause Mariathron Jesu, the same place where Franciscan students stay while in Gaming.
“In getting to know many of the students, I began to discover the ‘spirit’ of Franciscan University, and found it to be very attractive,” Harmon said. Her interactions with the students influenced her decision to apply for the position of RD, which she now holds.
“She was a perfect fit for the RD position because she knew the Gaming campus,” said Hanrahan.