Five Things I’ve Learned From Experiential Learning

Kara Cuzzone on a New York City street
Kara Cuzzone ’19

By Kara Cuzzone ’19

Between three community-based learning (CBL) sites and two internships, I’ve had my fair share of experiential learning opportunities during my time at Holy Cross. It’s ironic because when I started college, it wasn’t even on my radar. Sure, I had chosen a Montserrat course with a CBL component, but that was more about wanting to pursue a service opportunity, not an interest in learning outside of the classroom. Considering I’m writing this blog post, it’s safe to say that I’ve come a long way. That’s why I thought I would share some nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. Below, find the five things I’ve learned from experiential learning.

You’ll Never Feel Fully Prepared, Go for It Anyway

This is one factor that scares students (and even professors). Because classroom environments can be planned and structured, they are a lot more predictable than an experiential learning environment. As a result, you probably won’t feel totally ready before your first day, or even your first month, at you CBL site or internship position. That’s okay. In fact, these are often the experiences where deep learning occurs because lessons aren’t rigidly planned, so there’s room for discovery.

Be Open to What You Can Receive in CBL, Not Just What You Can Give

If you had told me in the beginning that I’d still be visiting my CBL site, St. Mary’s Healthcare Center, I don’t think I’d believe you. After all, I wanted to do something, not just sit and talk with my resident. I doubted that I was even making an impact there. Then, I started to just show up and be present. Almost immediately, the experience changed. I realized that not only was I forming a relationship with my resident, but she was having a profound impact on me. I always left our visits with a new perspective on life and a smile on my face. There is always something to be gained when engaging with those who are different from us, you just have to be open to seeing it.

Not Everything Can be Learned in the Classroom

It’s just true. You can read, study, and analyze a subject all you want, but until you get out and engage with it, you won’t get the full picture. I noticed this particularly through the Education Department’s Student Mental Health seminar I took this fall. In part of the course, we learned about trauma-informed teaching practices, and how to implement them to create a safe, welcoming environment for all students. That said, I didn’t fully grasp the importance of these practices until I witnessed them firsthand through a site visit at Woodland Academy. It took the conceptual and made it real.

Take Advantage of the Holy Cross Network

I know you’ve heard this one before, but I mean it. The New York Semester Program opened my eyes to how not only willing, but genuinely excited Holy Cross alumni are to mentor current students. Almost every week during the program, we attended a lunch or dinner colloquium where we heard from an alum about their career path and their current role. Through one of these colloquia meetings, I met an alumna who has provided me with invaluable advice and even helped me secure a summer internship.

Make Time to Reflect on Your Experiences

During my Montserrat course, we were required to write weekly reflections about our CBL experiences, and while I don’t do it weekly anymore, this is still a practice that I come back to. Experiential learning in itself is great, but sometimes I don’t even realize the lessons I’ve learned, or revelations I’ve had, until I sit down and write about them. By taking time to slow down and unpack what you’ve experienced, you’ll be able to gain new insights that you might’ve missed along the way.

Kara Cuzzone ’19 is a senior Anthropology major. Read more of her work at


How The New York Semester Program Shaped My Post-Grad Plans

Photo by Kara Cuzzone

By Kara Cuzzone

If you had asked me about my post-grad plans a little over a year ago, I would have answered with a shrug and a tentative, “Maybe a year of service?” While doing a year of service is a fitting option for a lot of students, for me, it was more of a placeholder; a way to buy myself more time to figure things out. Then, I did the New York Semester Program and that all changed.

During my first year at Holy Cross, I discovered my passion for writing through being an editorial contributor for, a website for college-aged women. After applying on a whim, I fell in love with pitching story ideas and writing my own articles. In the back of my mind, I wondered if maybe I could turn this newfound passion into a career one day, but I wasn’t sure what that would even look like. So when I learned that I could intern in women’s media through the New York Semester Program I thought, “This is my chance to see what it’s really like.”

Thanks to some help from the Center for Career Development, as well as advice from former New York Semester participants, I landed an internship position as a features intern for the print divisions of Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines. Fast forward to late January, and I found myself entering Hearst Tower and riding the infamous escalators in what felt like my very own movie scene. It would be nice if I could say that from that first day, I knew I belonged in the editorial world. However, that just isn’t true. The truth is that it took a couple of months in the position for me to realize two things: I wanted to work in women’s media someday, but I was curious about what working on the digital side of women’s media would be like.

With these new revelations in mind, I decided to start looking for a summer internship at a digital publication. I ended up securing one at, a beauty and wellness site. From day one, it was a completely different experience than working at Hearst. My internship at Byrdie exposed me to the fast-paced world of digital content creation. It also solidified my belief that, at least at this point in my life, I prefer the cadence of digital publishing.

Because of these internship experiences, I know that I want to move back to New York City and pursue a writing career in women’s media after graduation. Not only that, but since I have already had experience in both the print and digital sectors, I can use my insights from those positions to seek out publications that I think will be a good fit for me. I also met wonderful editors through both internships who I feel confident in turning to for advice on the job search process. Had I not done the New York Semester program, I highly doubt I would even know where to begin in forming my post-grad plans.

Kara Cuzzone ’19 is a senior Anthropology major. Read more of her work at

How Community-Based Learning Prepared Me for My First Internship

Some of the 2018-19 CBL Interns

By Kara Cuzzone ’19

I was first introduced to community-based learning (CBL) through my Montserrat course, “Exploring Differences”. To be honest, at first I was pretty ambivalent about it. The idea of going to St. Mary’s Healthcare Center once a week and visiting with a resident seemed a bit mundane. After all, what would I really be doing?My previous service experiences had always been concrete. I went in with a purpose like making sandwiches at a soup kitchen, or tutoring elementary school students. My professor’s recommendation to “avoid expectations” and just see what happened seemed a little impossible given my goal-oriented personality. But nonetheless, I decided to try.

By the time I completed my first semester of CBL, that all changed. I was hooked. I was in awe of just how much I had learned by simply showing up, and being present at St. Mary’s. My visits mostly involved listening to my resident talk about her childhood, and filling her in on the details of my life. Objectively, it didn’t seem like very important work. But after she asked for a hug and told me that she loved me after one visit, I realized that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.

This experience prepared me for my first internship as an editorial intern for Cosmopolitanand Seventeen magazines because in a lot of ways, an internship is a similar to a CBL experience. Since you’re not in a concrete position, you’re basically required to show up and do whatever needs to be done, pitching in any way you can. You’re also not usually doing the “important” work. While this can feel disappointing to some, when I began to think of it in relation to my CBL experiences, it didn’t bother me. I realized that the small, sometimes tedious tasks of interns are often necessary in order to keep the larger operations running. So in that sense, the work is actually is pretty important and meaningful, you just have to look at it in a new way.

I enjoyed my CBL experience so much that I decided to apply to be a CBL Intern during my sophomore year. If you’re unfamiliar, the position involves assisting the daily operations of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning and deepening one’s understanding of community engagement. The application process requires a resume, a detailed application, and an interview. Considering I was still a first-year when I applied, this was my first real experience with applying and interviewing for an internship position, so the process served as a great learning opportunity for me.

After being accepted, the CBL Intern program also greatly prepared me for my first internship in the real world. As a CBL Intern, I learned how to interact professionally with supervisors, collaborate with team members, and assist in day-to-day operations of an office. It served as a great stepping stone before venturing into an internship position that was unaffiliated with Holy Cross. Without my CBL office experiences, I definitely wouldn’t have been as confident in my abilities to successfully contribute to a working team.

All of this is to say: take advantage of leadership and community engagement opportunities at Holy Cross whenever possible. They are a great low-stakes way to test the waters and get some experience in the outside world while still having the support of the Holy Cross community when you need it.

Kara Cuzzone ’19 is a senior Anthropology major. Read more of her work at

Read This When Things Don’t Go As You Planned


By Kara Cuzzone ’19

In typical Holy Cross student fashion, I am a planner. But I haven’t always been this way. In fact, when I first arrived on The Hill, I hadn’t given much thought to what my four years here were going to look like. At all. Chalk it up to denial about having to leave home, or anxiety about the future, but I didn’t allot much time to daydreaming about my college days before I found myself right in the middle of them.

Then, I had my first anxiety attack. It turns out that thinking of the next four years as some sort of uncertain void isn’t exactly a great strategy. So I became a planner. My first big plan was that I would go abroad during my junior year. Italy, I decided, for no particularly strong reason. I’m part Italian, and I was already enrolled in Italian 101, so it seemed like a rational choice. Plus, the pictures I had seen of the Amalfi Coast looked pretty incredible.

With my plan in place, I began taking the necessary steps to make it happen. I kept taking Italian courses, and when the time came, I applied to spend my junior year abroad at the University of Bologna. Then, during the fall of my sophomore year, an intriguing email appeared in my inbox. It was advertising an information session for the College’s New York City Semester Program. “I could see you there,” my friend Mattie mused as she read over my shoulder. “Really?” I asked. The thought had genuinely never crossed my mind, but suddenly the wheels began turning.

“I’ll just check out the info session,” I thought, “what’s the harm?” After learning more, I was hooked. The idea of living in New York City and getting a peek into the world of journalism got my heart racing (in the good way). I decided to apply, figuring that if I got into the program, then I would have a decision to make. Much to my excitement––with a tinge of dread––I got in.

Because the Study Abroad office typically doesn’t let students go to Bologna for only a semester, I had to make a difficult choice. Should I stick with my original plan and satisfy my wanderlust by spending my junior year in Italy? Or should I spend a semester in New York City and find an internship in women’s media? I agonized over the decision. I consulted anyone who would listen––my therapist, professors, even acquaintances who didn’t know the full story. And naturally, I got opinions that were pretty split down the middle.

Ultimately, I realized that it came down to either sticking with the plan that I had worked towards and accepted as fact for almost two years, or choosing something new and unexpected that lit me up. Spoiler alert: I went with the latter. I sent an email to Study Abroad explaining that after some careful thought, I would not be spending my junior year in Bologna, and excitedly accepted a spot in the New York Semester Program.

The experience (and agonizing decision process) taught me something important. You can only make a plan that’s best for you at that very moment based on the options in front of you. And that might change in a day, or a month, or in my case, almost two years. That’s okay. Plans are great, but they aren’t everything. And you certainly shouldn’t do something just because it’s “the plan” if it doesn’t feel right. Now, almost two years later, I’ve never once regretted my choice to let go of what I thought I wanted in favor of what I felt called to.

Kara Cuzzone ’19 is a senior Anthropology major. Read more of her work at

Ahearn ’20 Reflects on D.C. Experience

Caroline Ahearn ’20

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Caroline Ahearn ’20, who was an intern in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) office as part of the Fall 2018 Washington Semester Program. Applications for the 2019-2020 Washington Semester Program are due February 11. Learn more at the program webpage, and apply via the Student Programs Application Portal.

I have never been on a movie set, but I imagine it feels a little bit like my commute to work every day during my semester in Washington, D.C. There’s something just a little bit surreal about the historic buildings and monuments in D.C. and the way they juxtapose from the modern architecture of the rest of the city.

Every day I would walk down First Street from Union Station to the Hart Senate Office Building, with the hordes of other federal government employees off to their jobs in the House, Senate, the Supreme Court, or one of the many non-governmental organizations with a Capitol Hill office. Any person I walked beside could have decided or aided legislation that impacted the entire country, even the entire world. Or they could have helped make decisions that completely changed one person’s life for the better, from a Syrian refugee to a farmer in the Midwest. Difference makers throughout our country’s history have walked down the same corridors that I walked every day, whether that corridor led all the way to the Senate floor, or simply the coffeeshop.

This striking feeling of living history stuck with me as I toured the Lincoln Memorial on the opposite side of the mall. It weighed heavy as I had the opportunity to tour the White House gardens. I walked the same paths past the Rose Garden and the Oval Office that 44 of the country’s 45 Presidents, that First Ladies, Chiefs of Staff, and more aides than I could ever imagine have walked. And here I was, one of many in a long history of people who came to Washington to try to make a difference.

It could be easy to feel small amid all of the history and the impact of Washington, D.C., under the dome of the Capitol Building or on the underground train between the Senate buildings, just a car over from a Senator and his team of aides. Every person I came into contact with in my time in D.C., however, from my boss, Senator Elizabeth Warren, to my fellow interns, came to D.C. because they want to work towards a goal they believe in. Every day I was surrounded by elected officials and staffers with multiple degrees and a vast knowledge of public policy. I am a 21-year-old undergraduate college student who served in a 3-month long internship position. This was not a reason, however, to feel discouraged, or small, or unimportant. I, the eight other interns in Senator Warren’s office, and the 15 other Holy Cross students I traveled to DC with are part of the long tradition of the city. We are here to learn, to make any difference we can make in our 14 weeks of the Washington Semester Program, and to take what we learn with us as we continue in our studies and enter the working world.

D.C. is better than a movie set, because every day you work there, you’re contributing to what you believe in, and you’re making a real difference in the world.

Lozy ’20 Recounts Viacom Experience in New York Semester

By Olivia Lozy ’20

As a psychology, sociology, and anthropology geek, I’ve always been fascinated by culture. The behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that define us are topics that I truly never want to stop learning about. I always felt that media was the most representative artifact of the culture from which it arises. I was able to manifest this obsession with culture and media through an internship experience this past semester at Viacom in NYC, thanks to Holy Cross’ New York Semester Program. 

Although it’s in the midst of transitioning into its very own brand, Viacom is most commonly known as the holding company for television networks like Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and VH1, to name just a few. In my very first interview, I described my passion for the ways in which culture and media feed each other; media creates culture, and culture creates media. In this way, I was able to integrate my studies and academic passions into a full-time internship. It would be an understatement to say it was ‘cool’ to work there. Underneath all of the celebrity sightings, career workshops and book signings, there was no shortage of work to be done. At Viacom, I served on the Digital team at one of their internal creative agencies, Viacom Catalyst. There, I helped curate social content, develop several websites (check out – I helped tune up the backend!) and conduct tech and innovation research. I was able to dive head first into the media industry, and meet and interact with so many leaders who had so much knowledge and experience in their fields. Interning at Viacom both nurtured and fine-tuned my understanding of culture and media, professional experience, and career aspirations. 

My internship at Viacom was incredible, and gave me the necessary tools to continue on the path of infinite learning. I hope to be involved with Viacom in the future, and I will forever cherish the experience it gave me. If you’re at all considering participating in the New York Semester, I can promise that you won’t be disappointed with what this program has to offer. You’ll gain invaluable internship experience, an irreplaceable bond with classmates, independence, and (truly) survival skills that you need to have in order to be a full time employee in New York City. It’s truly the most amazing place.

If you’re interested in my internship at Viacom or the New York Semester Program, don’t hesitate to contact me. From immersive experience in my industry of choice to networking with alumni to experiencing NYC with great people, it’s a program that will allow you to continue to grow and flourish.

Alvarez ’20 Reaches the Big Leagues in NY Semester

This post was written by Manny Alvarez ’20, who was part of the Fall 2018 New York Semester cohort.

Since a very young age, my dream was to make it to the show: Major League Baseball. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, baseball was in my blood. It was my culture. Sadly, I was not able to achieve this dream, but little did I know that MLB was in my future. After being in New York City a few weeks into the program, I was invited to have an interview at Major League Baseball Headquarters in Manhattan. Still to this day, I can feel the huge smile on my face from cheek to cheek. It was amazing to walk into a building with so much memorabilia and history, and this was a dream I did not want to wake up from. At the door, I was greeted by a familiar face and a fellow Dominican, Nelson Tejada, who little did I know became my role model. In just a few days, I got a call back that changed my life. I was interning for MLB’s Department of Investigations.

MLB Investigations is made up of essentially private detectives for the specific purpose of policing the league. We conduct internal investigations of baseball personal such as players, staffs, teams, umpires and anyone involved with MLB to make sure that all rules are being followed and that the game is played fairly. As an intern, I was able to help out with many investigations by supporting confidential background investigations, writing interview reports, and monitoring player activities.

My experience at MLB was amazing, and I am so grateful to have worked with the Investigation crew. I was surrounded by baseball 24/7, great people, and the greatest plus of them all, it was the year that the Red Sox won the World Series! Everyone was friendly and received me with open arms. I was comfortable and felt like I belonged from the start. I will greatly miss working at MLB and living in NYC, but it is only an “until later” and not a goodbye! MLB was not the only highlight of the NYC Semester! What I loved the most of the Semester away from the Hill was the family that was created between the 2018 NYC semester gang created. From our funny moments to our astonishing adventures, the semester would not have been the same.

Favreau ’03 Highlights Washington Semester Program

High school seniors across the country are receiving early decision letters from colleges, some of which contain good news and some of which do not. Jon Favreau ’03, former Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama and a Washington Semester Program alumnus, shared in a tweet how rejection from Ivy League schools ultimately worked out in his favor.

The Washington Semester Program is a highly competitive, semester-long program offered in Washington, D.C., through Holy Cross. The program welcomes students from all disciplines to connect their academic learning with direct, professional experience in their major fields, providing them with dynamic opportunities for intellectual, personal and professional growth and development. Through the Washington Semester Program students have the opportunity to work with national leaders, engage in independent research, and live in the stimulating environment of Washington, D.C.

Wells ’20 Discusses Volunteering in D.C.

The below post is by Delaney Wells ’20, a member of the Fall 2018 Washington Semester Program cohort. Please note that some names in the below post have been changed to protect privacy.

I have been able to complement my internship at the Department of Justice in the Disability Rights Section with time at the 6th Street L’Arche home in Arlington, VA where I shared life with the four incredible core members and assistants one to two days per week. From Friday night talent shows to tending the flourishing rosemary in the garden and everything in between, I have seen, felt, and heard love in a way I never thought was possible; there is a magic in L’Arche excuded through hard work and extreme dedication by core members and assistants alike.

Perhaps the most salient lesson I have gleaned through L’Arche is the profound notion of a mutually transformative relationship. This bond that L’Arche boasts is formed through sharing time and life with core members, and can only be experienced by means of a first-hand encounter. I have learned patience, unrelenting kindness, and unmerited grace in each conversation, hug, and quiet moment with core members. Holding John’s hand as he silently cries and prays for his impending surgery in January has granted me the chance to be a witness to genuine empathy. Listening to Laura sing herself to sleep as she got ready for bed provided a feeling of pure joy I cannot express in words. Listening to Patrick’s cope with the recent death of his father has shown the individual nature of grief and the need for dependence on others when healing and processing devastating loss. Hearing him reassure himself under his breath that, “even though I am sad, I will be okay” is an example of bravery through vulnerability I will carry with me forever.

L’Arche’s mission is both necessary and essential in a broken world. L’Arche provides holistic care and compassion through transformative relationships with a foundation in love, the most genuine love, to foster communities that can create greater societal change by being with people on the margins. These are places where vulnerability is recognized and we witness lessons from the broken and marginalized about love, humanity, and the way we should stand withone another. God comes to be with the poor through Disability Theology and ultimately transforms brokenness into gentle humanness. Within L’Arche, liberation comes when people begin to let go of their individuality and independence and recognize the strength that comes from “gentleness, mutuality, weakness, vulnerability, and brokenness”. In this way, those who accompany and share life in L’Arche find themselves as they learn who they are withothers.

These lessons have defined the walls of L’Arche and have shaped who I am and how I value and understand how to be human. I have learned to pour love and empathy into all relationships and now understand partnership among people as the importance of treating one another; all of these lessons only can be gleaned through L’Arche. Without sharing life, my Washington Semester would have felt incomplete. Experiencing L’Arche and the Department of Justice together allowed for discernment of my vocation and recognition of my personal and professional aspirations; creating a place where they can come together to exemplify the Jesuit motto of being “for and with others”.

Holy Cross Students Secure Nine Awards at Mediation Tourney

The Holy Cross Mediation Team took full advantage of hosting its first invitational academic mediation competition, winning an impressive nine awards during the October 5-6 competition. The College of the Holy Cross, in partnership with the International Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR), hosted a tournament that was viewed as a success by all.

“As student tournament director, I am delighted to report that Holy Cross’s inaugural invitational operated smoothly and without issue,” said Brian Senier ’19, a member of the Mediation Team. “By all accounts, we acted as gracious hosts, and we were particularly proud to host students from across the country on Mount Saint James. Many students and coaches alike commented positively on things ranging from our beautiful, New England campus to our elegant receptions and hardworking Hogan Dining and J.D. Power Center staff.”

The award winners ranged from seasoned mediation veterans to newcomers, including Bridget Whelpley ’21. Whelpley, who won several individual and team awards, said of the tourney, “The team captains and coaches were so supportive and encouraging that I felt no pressure going into the tournament. It was great that the Holy Cross teams did well and represented the school at our tournament.”

The Mediation Team was founded in 2014 by Ed McDermott ’79, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer as well as Mock Trial coach. McDermott, who serves as Mediation Team coach, said that the team provides an opportunity for students to develop important skills that will serve them well even after graduation.

“The mediation tournaments seek to introduce students to a methodology for finding peaceful resolution,” said McDermott, “to train students in important communication and critical analytical skills; and to give the students the benefits of intercollegiate competition and camaraderie.  Mediation stands apart from other student advocacy competitions because of its focus on mutual respect and on upholding the dignity of one’s opponents, even in disagreement. Mediation offers students who are less combative by nature an option to compete outside of mock trial.”

The Holy Cross team will now move on to compete in the INADR National Undergraduate Championship, hosted at Drake Law School in Des, Moines, Iowa from November 16-17.

Holy Cross award winners from the Oct. 5-6 tourney are listed below:

  • 1st Place Mediation Team (Bridget Whelpley ‘21)
  • 3rd Place Mediation Team (Jessica Russo ’19)
  • 1st Place Individual Advocate/Client Pair (Jessica Russo ’19 and Brian Senier ’19)
  • 10th Place Individual Advocate/Client Pair (Brian Senier ’19 and Bridget Whelpley ’21)
  • 1st Place Individual Mediator (Bridget Whelpley ’21)
  • 5th Place Individual Mediator (Brian Senier ’19)
  • 6th Place Individual Mediator (Deep Bhattacharyya ’21)
  • 7th Place Individual Mediator (Jessica Russo ’19)