John Condon '13

On May 24th, on three hours of sleep and full of bittersweet memories, I was handed my degree.  As the entire degree is written in Latin, I’m taking their word that it is actually my degree and not just a piece of paper saying “Thanks for the two hundred grand, sucker!” signed by Dean Austin and Father Boroughs.  Humor aside, it was a beautiful ceremony and came on the heels of an even more touching Baccalaureate Mass on the preceding day.  The mass had its moment of levity too as the homilist, Father Savard, told the story of my friend Jake falling asleep in the Jesuit graveyard and scaring the daylights out of two passing girls when he woke up!  What Fr. Savard didn’t mention was that Jake was dressed as one of the Blues Brothers as the night in question was Halloween!

My friend Margaret’s mother was smart enough to organize a party at the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo, which sits on the river over by UMass Medical Center.  It was a wonderful way to talk to members of my friends’ families that I’ve come to know over the past few years.  Afterwards came the Baccalaureate Ball in Kimball Hall, a wonderful event colored only by the fact that it was blazing hot (every graduation event on campus was colored by this fact).  We managed to have a good time anyways and danced until after midnight.

The night preceding graduation and graduation day were duly emotional as everyone started to realize that we were leaving the Hill forever.  It struck me then that, if my degree really wasn’t an important credential (maybe not if it just read ‘thanks for the money, sucker’), I wouldn’t much mind.  In my four years at Holy Cross, I’ve gotten deep into two unfamiliar languages, written an eighty-page thesis, become a better writer, (somewhat) more numerate, picked up bits of philosophy, theology, music and literature, seen Europe and made friends that will likely last past last week’s graduation.  All in all, I did what I went there to do.  It is time to move on to other things.

For me, moving on means moving home.  I found a job in Hartford (I will start as an associate in Aetna’s Marketing, Product and Communications development program next week) and am back in my childhood bedroom for the time being.  When I was eighteen, I didn’t have a good sense of where I’d fit in at Holy Cross but as I graduate am absolutely sure that Political Science was the right course for me there.  I imagine that at twenty-five I’ll better know what the place for me is in the wider world.

I don’t imagine I’ll stay on as a blogger on this page; I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do this for two years and thank those at the Office of Public Affairs who made it possible. As I said in my sign-off last year, thank you to all readers: it’s been a pleasure to write.  AMDG.

Congratulations to those accepted to Holy Cross in the past weeks!  Choosing a college is a big decision and the Office of Public Affairs invited us bloggers to share what we think you ought to consider while making it.  Here is my list, in no particular order:

1) Holy Cross is a liberal arts college.  If you are open to taking courses in many areas of study then this should be a big selling point.  You will be required to fill many “common area requirements” (e.g. history, lab science, philosophy, etc.) and since your major will likely only require 10-14 courses, there is some room to explore other interests.  The flip side of this is that, when it comes time to seek employment, you will likely have to be prepared to talk a bit more about your background than someone with a more vocationally focused degree.

2) Holy Cross is small.  For me, the small size of the school made it possible for me to complete courses that I would have struggled in at a larger school.  The opportunity to get help during office hours from a professor and to have your questions answered during class makes a huge difference.  On the other hand, enrolling in classes can be a struggle and certain majors (Biology, Economics, Economics-Accounting come to mind) require an application to get into.

3) Holy Cross is a community.  There are lots of clubs, sports teams, and the like but the fairly small class size means that everyone knows a fair number of people.  The strong alumni organization means that this continues somewhat after graduation.  So if you were hoping for some sort of anonymity in college then HC might not be your cup of tea

4) Holy Cross is self-contained.  While the school shuttles make it fairly easy to get into Worcester, to Boston or to Providence on the weekends, the geography of the place makes it fairly difficult for younger students to just walk off campus at whim for shopping, dining or entertainment.  This doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people (all of those things are on campus and Worcester does have decent cab service) but it makes for a different sort of place than many urban campuses.

My final piece of advice:

5) Don’t worry too much about this: choose the right college is important, but not a make-or-break decision.  I recently met a high school student who was out to Holy Cross from California for the third time and I almost laughed at her until I remembered how much time I spent visiting colleges as a high school student.  Most of you are bright, hard-working people and will excel wherever you go to college.

Good Luck!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  I hope you don’t mind the “cupla fócal” but Mid-March is one of the few times when my friends tolerate my Irish phrases and I need to squeeze everything out of it.  I was happy to find out that Holy Cross now has events on campus to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day instead of totally leaving it to us.  Last night we had an Irish music night in Hogan and tomorrow there are plans for food and drink on the Kimball quad.

In the time since the new year I have been busy with my (last) classes here and preparations for my life after Holy Cross.  Fortunately, they’ve sponsored a few fun events for seniors over the semester to give us a chance to talk to one another. At the “Hundred Days Dance” a few weeks ago, I spoke (and danced with) with some people I hadn’t seen in years!  I came to the dance from a job interview and a meeting in Boston; I was surprised by how relieved I found myself when I got dropped off back on campus.  Holy Cross truly has become another home.

However, there are exciting prospects for the future for many of the class of ’13.  I’ve heard from people getting great jobs in business, spots in top graduate schools and volunteer programs or working in government down in Washington, D.C.  My own plans have yet to be finalized so I’ll leave them off for the time being.  I’m trying to enjoy the great Holy Cross events and get the most out of my classes before May comes.

A wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day to all readers!

Finals came and went;  I, like most of my friends, breathed a sigh of relief after my last exam and then another one a week later when grades were posted online.  For the first two weeks back, I worked down in Shelton at Health Plan One.  Health Plan One was my SIP site over the summer and they were happy enough to take me back for a couple weeks to complete some end-of-year work for them.  It was great to see that they had a good business year and are continuing to expand their operation.

I’ve taken the rest of the time to relax, plug away a little at my senior thesis and ponder my future.  I got to see several friends from high school over the first few weeks here but many of them have returned to their respective universities as few places are as generous with time off as Holy Cross.

Getting together at Christmas gave my family the opportunity to reflect on last Christmas, which we spent in Ireland.  We ate the Christmas chicken on top of a bedboard which was propped up by chairs and my friends Kyle, Jake and I left after dinner to visit a fellow Crusader in Cork University Hospital.  I hope the group there this year is having a somewhat better experience.  Both me and my sister got sick during my family’s trip there, as well, so there was not a surplus of nostalgia this year.

We had a fairly quiet Christmas and New Years, although the break has not been without its big events.  For example, several of my friends and I went to a Connecticut Whale game on January 4th and saw the Whale climb out of last place with a win over the Adirondack Phantoms. So, just for those who may not have heard, the Patriots aren’t the only thing happening in New England sports.

As your Holy Cross events calendar undoubtedly shows you, the Christmas tree lighting isn’t for another few days and the Accapella Christmas Show isn’t until next Tuesday.  The first Sunday of Advent isn’t until Sunday (also note that the feast day of St. Francis Xavier is Monday).

However, lights have already sprung up on trees around campus and Kimball has already been decked out for the Feast of the Nativity.  Walking around at night, the pedestrian can occasionally hear Christmas music out of the window of a dorm room.  My roommates and I have been practicing our carols to entertain guests also with an eye to recording a “Christmas in Carlin” album to give as gifts to lucky friends and relatives (fortunately, most of them don’t read this blog).

Our scholastic duties continue, though, and tonight this meant a spot of Arabic translation.  One of the more interesting parts about being in the 200-level course is learning a bit of culture and history.  Recently, we listened to the music of  Omm Kalthoum, a national hero to Egyptians, who sung in a style that sounded unusual, if expressive and poetic.  One bit of lyric we looked at was:

“Sing to me, just a little bit.  Sing to me and take my eyes.

Let me make melodies that make listeners sway,

Leaves flutter with Narcissus and Jasmine

Just a little bit, a little bit, sing to me and take my eyes.”

Tonight I learnt about Palestinian-Lebanese Poet Mae Ziyada, a turn-of-the-century polyglot who drew inspiration from British and French Romantic writers just as much as she did from Classical Islamic thought.  She was also famous for maintaining a close written relationship with poet Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic at first glance but I figure ought to appreciate the writer who translated Conan Doyle into Arabic.

In a few weeks I’ll be finished with this work, though, and free to return full-time to planning my future. Yikes!

As the last full week of classes before Thanksgiving, this week is quite busy.  At the moment, my paper on the Clayton Antitrust Act shares the top-slot on the list with tomorrow’s quiz in Arabic.  But I’ve had some adventures recently.

Despite Wednesday night’s snowstorm, I flew to Atlanta last Thursday morning to attend a reception and all-day interviewing event at a hotel near Coca-Cola’s headquarters. Coca-Cola brought college students from all over the country to interview for management trainee positions and they brought two HC seniors down  for full-time positions and two juniors to interview for part-time positions.

While I haven’t heard back since leaving, it was interesting to meet with people inside the company and students from so many different places. I’d had few interview prior to this year and experiences like this help me get better at articulating my experience in them.

Either way, it was a relief to climb onto the plane on Friday night and somewhat of a surprise to find that I was flying business class.  If I haven’t got a job, at least I’m moving up in the world in some ways.  Overall, Atlanta was a pleasure: I didn’t do any sight seeing but found the people to be friendly, the food to be good (if calorific) and the weather to be warm.

My senior thesis proceeds… if not apace then at a pace allowing for my other work.  The research is continually stretching my mind in new ways and forcing to continually reevaluate everything I write.  While I struggle to get a handle on the phenomenon of “pooled sovereignty” that is regional integration, I’m grasping at the myriad models of social scientists working in political science, economics and sociology.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about my reading is how much light these ideas shed on history, particularly the pre-1914 age of globalization and the gold standard. It jarred my mind to consider a time when one could travel from Paris to St. Petersburg without a passport until realizing that, with the European Union, you could conceivably still go east as far as the Baltics (or the Balkans, if you pleased). Some questions don’t lose relevance, I suppose.

A very happy Thanksgiving to all readers!

We’re a few weeks in now and things are starting to get into their normal routine. I’m taking Classical Political Philosophy with Prof. David Schaefer and we’re nearing the end of our first reading, Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.  I’d been pretty receptive to reading this, as I’d read September 1, 1939 in which Auden writes,
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“Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave
Analysed all in his book…”

Prof. Schaefer seems to agree; When not drawing parallels with Greek and Enlightenment philosophy, he delights in comparing players in Thucydides’ narrative with modern day actors. He has, for example, compared the Delian League with UNESCO and Athenian orator Athenagoras with Michael Moore.

I’m also taking Public Policy with Prof. Eric Filipiak. He’s new to Holy Cross but already has a healthy enthusiasm for our sports teams. Unfortunately the football team hasn’t given him much to cheer about. The class is a bit hard to get around although he’s very enthusiastic about getting us paging through statutes before long.

In other news, I’ve been developing a senior thesis with Professors Cass and Lieb about the connection between regional political integration and migration. Its promising to be quite a project, drawing from a lot of the stuff I covered at UCC last year in Geography and European Studies modules.

Speaking of which, I came across this poem in while reading Frank O’Connor’s A Backward Look: A History of Irish Literatures which had me pining for Cork. It was written by Cork native (and Jesuit priest) Francis Mahony.

WITH deep affection and recollection
I often think of the Shandon bells,
Whose sounds so wild would, in days of childhood,
Fling round my cradle their magic spells.
On this I ponder, where’er I wander,
And thus grow fonder, sweet Cork, of thee,
With thy bells of Shandon,
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the river Lee.

I have heard bells chiming full many a clime in,
Tolling sublime in cathedral shrine;
While at a glib rate brass tongues would vibrate,
But all their music spoke nought to thine;
For memory, dwelling on each proud swelling
Of the belfry knelling its bold notes free,
Made the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

I have heard bells tolling “old Adrian’s mole” in,
Their thunder rolling from the Vatican,
With cymbals glorious, swinging uproarious
In the gorgeous turrets of Notre Dame;
But thy sounds were sweeter than the dome of Peter
Flings o’er the Tiber, pealing solemnly.
Oh! the bells of Shandon
Sound far more grand on
The pleasant waters of River Lee.

There’s a bell in Moscow, while on tower and Kiosk, O!
In St. Sophia the Turkman gets,
And loud in the air calls men to prayer
From the tapering summit of tall minarets.
Such empty phantom I freely grant ’em,
But there’s an anthem more dear to me:
’Tis the bells of Shandon,
That sound so grand on
The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

Thanks to the generosity of the folks from the Office of Public Affairs, I will continue to blog this year.  What a year it will be!

As I’m writing this, groups of alumni are gathering outside my window to take pictures and meet with Father Boroughs.  Father Boroughs was sworn in today and, although I missed the ceremony, I caught the end of his speech online.  He seems to be a thoughtful, intelligent man and a great asset to Holy Cross.

I’m living on the first floor of Carlin this year with five friends of mine.  It’s a pretty good setup although the proximity of the quad means that I wake up in the morning and am right in the middle of the campus bustle.  If nothing else, it’s an impetus to getting up early in the morning.

Over the summer I worked at Health Plan One, LLC in Shelton, CT.  Health Plan One is an online health insurance brokerage that, though alumni connections, often offers internships to Holy Cross students.  I enjoyed working there, especially the exposure to the ballooning business of online marketing.  A big part of this year is making future plans and this is good experience to have on the resume.

This semester, I’m taking three political science courses, Arabic and developing a senior thesis with Prof. Cass.  Things are off to a good start and I look forward to keeping you updated as the semester progresses!

First, many thanks to any and all who have stopped by this blog over the last ten months to see what I’ve been up to.  It’s been nice to get comments from family and friends even though I did a pitiable job of keeping in touch with most of you.  Many thanks to the Holy Cross Office of Public Affairs for letting me keep this blog: it’s been a nice record of my experiences.  As for my fellow Crusaders, I hope this has given you  a sense of what it’s like to study abroad in Cork; Vicki Pearson, Holy Cross’ point woman at UCC, tells me that there’s a large group of you headed over next year and I wish them the very best.

I’d like to address study abroad specifically in this space as it seems to me both overpraised and unfairly maligned: held up as an invaluable educational opportunity and denigrated as formalized goofing-off.  I had a wide range of American acquaintances in Ireland and I saw many people lean both directions.  Some people I knew took classes and made connections that changed the course of their lives.  For example,  a good friend from Albany, NY studied English at UCC while practicing European languages with the continental students and is moving to Barcelona in the fall to become an English teacher.  Others, it must be said, used the opportunity to disengage from schoolwork.

Holy Cross bucks the national trend in pushing us to go abroad for two semesters. Most American student largely take elective courses (often outside their major) and don’t spend extended downtime there like we do.  There’s sometimes not enough information available to make this calculation, but I’d suggest trying to determine how time abroad fits into your long-term goals.  The Study Abroad office does an admirable job of pushing you to do this (and the smartest among you will) but if you can look a few years into the future then you’ll save yourself a lot of worry while you’re gone.

That’s enough advice for one post.

Now, regarding the exam period: I spent many days studying and then sat in a large exam hall with hundreds of other kids to take them.  It’s not terribly different from taking exams at Holy Cross except that it’s spread out over four weeks and it’s a little more of an intimidating test-taking environment.  During the last week, I said some good-byes to friends, made last visits to old haunts and helped the other Crusaders move out.  During a free day, I made a long-put off visit to the historic Cork City Gaol and regretted it almost immediately.  I didn’t want to further explore the city I was leaving.  Since I didn’t jet out until the beginning of June, I had a long final of idleness ahead of me.  I was curling up with my knitting one night when there was a knock on my bedroom door.

“Hey, would you like to come to my gaff for a few days?” It was apartment-mate John Cashman, inviting me to the family farm in Lismore, Co. Waterford.  So, I threw my things together and took off with him.  His family exhibited the Irish penchant for hospitality by feeding me, putting me up and showing me the area in exchange for my exercise… of absolutely no farming skills.

“Have you never worked with animals before?” His father asked, quizzically, around the kitchen table that first night.

“Do you have cousins that farm?”  John asked.

“Do you not even have pets?” His brother added.

I coughed uncomfortably and tried to give a portrait of life in the “inner-ring suburb.”  Nonetheless, they took me around the pastures and on one occasion I even helped control the herd during the rather bloody process of de-horning the cattle.  I was amused to hear that they’d had a neighbor named Jim Condon who kept a thatched cottage on his property until a fateful accident that involved falling asleep in it with a pipe in his mouth.

Considering far relations, they were gracious enough to take me to nearby Dungarvan when they heard that my great-grandfather had grown up there.  The best remarks they could gin up about it, though, was that the locals were “mostly scumbags.”  John remarked, “It’s a good thing your family left, it’d have been a shame for you to end up inbred.”

Well, that’s about all.  As I opened this blog with my account of a public lecture by a Communist economist, It’d be appropriate for me to leave you with a few wise words from the Irish socialist party.  This was posted viz. the Fiscal Treaty Referendum that took place at the end of May in Ireland but the metaphor is one I try to keep at the mental forefront as I advise my friends on their day-to-day lives.

Since finishing up classes a mere three weeks ago, I’ve visited the Netherlands, France and Spain and walked off the plane in Cork with a backpack full of dirty clothes, a lighter wallet and a greater understanding of how little I understand the world.

The greatest enigma award goes to the Dutch.  My fellow Crusaders and I dutifully shelled out to see the magnificent Rijksmuseum, the national art and history museum which details the country’s process of independence from Spain, accumulation of wealth during the Golden Age and domination by France under Napoleon.  We dutifully did a walking tour of the city, hit the Anne Frank Huis, studied through the Van Gogh Museum, peeked into the churches and visited the strange museum of “Our Lord in the Attic” (a semi-secret Catholic church built in the 16th century). I even ate copious quanities of stroopwafel sweets and gouda cheese, tried a bit of the genever drink and sought out the highly-rated Indonesian food.

I was a bit steamed about my lack of understanding.  How had I gone through the school system with only the faintest details about Henry Hudson?

Walking through Amsterdam University, I was held up for hours in the English-language bookstore (“the American Book Center”) because it was the best book store I’ve ever been inside.  Moreover, no one objected to me sitting down and reading an entire book.  What is this place doing in Holland?

The Dutch speak native-sounding English, house several international institutions, have given over much of their historic capital city to drug and sex tourism, have turned one of their most impressive churches (the Nieuwe Kerk in Dam Square) into a Jewish history museum and came close to electing Pim Fortuyn to high office.  Color me confused.

I next spent five days in Paris, marveling at the usual delights and trying to soak up the legendary atmosphere.  It was refreshing to see so many Americans again- at time I felt like I was in Washington or New York.  I spent Easter Sunday in Paris, participating in the Mass at Notre Dame and wandering around the Musée d’Orsay for the rest of the day.  Due to a seating shortage, I ate lunch in the museum cafe with an older woman who had taken the train up from Provence for the day just to catch the temporary exhibition on “Degas and the Nude.”  Old French ladies have spunk.

From then it was on to Barcelona to meet up with a group of Holy Cross kids before embarking a trip through Andalusia with my friend Jake.  I only got the quick tour through Barcelona and didn’t hear much Catalan spoken so the whole experience fed my curiosity.

Andalusia was a trek from one cheap accommodation to another, hiding from the sun and dragging ourselves into the region’s gargantuan cathedrals.  However, as a veteran of high school Spanish and longtime Spanish guitarist, I got a lot out of stretches in Seville and Cordoba.

The Andalusian leg, brought the highlight of the trip.  Our one full day in Granada, we hauled ourselves out of bed before sunrise to stand in line for tickets to the Alhambra Palace-Fortress nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  A relic from Moorish Spain, the Berber rulers built the Alhambra to defend against attack and to create palaces and gardens that would approximate the Koran’s description of heaven.  They were successful in the latter.

Sight-seeing can’t last forever, though.  Who would want it to?  Returning to Ireland was a huge relief despite the exams breathing down my neck.  Study abroad was a chance to become a part of one place, to create a second home in a foreign city.  That spot –be it ever so humble– is Cork.