Eric Sundrup started thinking about his career when he was just a freshman. It was an eye-opening experience. “I’ve been through three years of discernment,” he says. Where it led him is to a place where fewer and fewer have been treading—the Society of Jesus. Following graduation in May, the 22-year-old Sundrup applied to the Jesuit order and was accepted. Ahead of him lie 12 years of preparation, beginning with two years at the novitiate in Detroit, where he will take his first priestly vows, followed by 10 years living and working as a Jesuit while studying theology and philosophy at the master’s level. At that point, he’ll be ready for ordination. “What I’ve learned from the Jesuits—their charisma, the way they act, the way they see their lives and the world—they struck me as people I really want to be like,” he says. “The more I thought about it, the more it fit, and I decided to apply.” After a steady 40-year decline in the number of entrants to the order, Sundrup is actually part of a tiny trend reversal that began last fall with about 50 young men entering the society—compared to about 500 a year in the 1960s. Sundrup is the second Xavier student to enter the order in three years, joining 1978 gradate Cyril Whitaker who entered in 1999, and is unwavering in his decision. He says it took him several years to realize becoming a Jesuit was his calling, though. “Seeing God in all things just ties right into my life,” he says.
On my ninth Christmas, my parents gave me a globe. I don’t know why. To this day, I don’t know if it was due to an expressed interest on my part, or if they selected it blindly.
I do know that I have had the opportunity to grow and learn through my many interactions with people during my own explorations of the real thing. And those experiences helped lead me to my place in life.
My first experience overseas took me to a family in a small farming village in France. I remember the tears my French “father” had in his eyes as he bid goodbye to me on the train station platform. That we had made a strong connection was all the more amazing since my limited French was not enough for me to fully understand his speech, which often came out in incomprehensible, staccato-like bursts.
I also spent an academic year in Luxembourg. The opportunity to live in a “Lux” home, to interact with people and the amazing travels I had while there solidified my desire to be involved in international activities.
Of course, I imagined that being in international education would involve exciting trips to new and, at least to me, exotic places. Most people ask me about my travels when they hear what I do. The reality is, my job brings interesting people to me, not the other way around. I encourage others to travel and to experience the different, the unknown. And I love it. I’m provided with a window on the world each day.
I wanted to write without bringing up Sept. 11, but I can’t. International students and international education have been both vilified and questioned since then. But I truly believe that if ever there was a time that international education is necessary, it is now.
We need students from other countries coming to the United States, sitting in classrooms with American students, laughing and arguing and challenging and learning from each other. We need them to go home with their knowledge and understanding to build and strengthen their societies. And we need American students to leave their comfortable cocoons and go laugh and learn and challenge and argue with students in other countries. And then, we need them to return to build and strengthen our society.
We need understanding across cultures. Everyone needs a window on this world. And international education plays a key role in this.
I sit in my office with trinkets from all over the world—gifts from international students. Students come in and tell me their stories—some heartwarming, some tragic, all of great importance to them. And my window opens wider. I walk out to the lounge area and overhear an energetic debate on dating and marriage. Even wider.
Then, I return to my office, to the frustrating world of paperwork and immigration rules. Rules that don’t always recognize the reality of students’ lives. Rules that promise to be even more difficult and frustrating in the future. How do we create a more secure world without losing knowledge and understanding? Without withdrawing into a state of isolation? I wonder and I worry. And I feel that window close a bit.
A few days before Thanksgiving last year, the Xavier International Club hosted a holiday dinner. It should have been a disaster. The turkey took much longer than planned. More people than expected showed up. And yet, as we bustled around, I heard laughing and singing. I looked out to see students from all over the globe trying (with much hilarity) Arabic dancing. I thought, “This is why I do this.” And the breeze that floated in from that wide-open window was intoxicating.
(Kathy Hammett is director for international student services.)
Ten local organizations are all the richer because of University students. As part of a new University program, four courses in the spring semester added a philanthropic component to their curriculum and were given $4,000 each to invest in the community. Students in the courses were taught how to solicit and evaluate requests and make awards. The purpose of the philanthropy component was multifold: community engagement, analytical and practical interaction, teaching how to make decisions that have an impact on the community, how to evaluate community assets and needs, and how to judge the impact local organizations have on the quality of life of the community.
The grant recipients were: A Center for Grieving Children at Fernside ($1,000); St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys ($1,000); Toys as Tools for Intervention with Infants at Central Clinic ($1,000); Evanston Recreation Center ($1,000); Norwood High School Celtic band ($2,500); Bond Hill Academy ($1,500); Holistic Inc. ($4,000); Urban Survivalist Tribe ($4,000); Cincinnati World Cinema ($1,000 ); Over-the-Rhine Summer Home ($3,000).