What I Did Last Summer

by Elizabeth Prebilic


Whether they were attending a prestigious honors conference, helping disabled children in Peru, teaching English in Spain, or interning in Washington D.C, Ave students made sure their summers were memorable.

We interviewed the world travelers on their experiences and asked them how others can do the same.

Peter Atkinson

 I attended the ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute) Honors Conference in Seattle, Washington, an academic and mentoring conference of the top conservative undergraduates in the United States. It was an incredible week of meeting some of the best professors in our universities and beginning friendships with some incredible undergraduates.”

Peter shared with the Gazette the process that led to his participation in the Honors Conference this summer. “I entered an ISI essay contest on Social Justice n December 2013 and won. They flew me out to speak at a conference in Arizona. After that experience with ISI…I applied for their Honors Program.”

When asked if his Ave Maria connections helped him land this opportunity, Peter replied, “Absolutely. The alumni who had been a part of ISI before had created a reputation for Ave students which helped me in my application. Also, the recommendation letters from AMU faculty were key to my acceptance. We have internationally renowned faculty on our campus teaching our classes. That’s not something we should take for granted.”

If you are interested in being involved in ISI in the future, here is Peter’s advice. “An ISI Society is being founded this semester on campus. Joseph Doherty and I are paving the way for future AMU students to make these same connections and build relationships with academic and professional mentors. The ISI Society is meant to be the launching point into ISI for students at Ave Maria University. Not only that, but our hope is that genuine friendship will spring up in the Society around our intellectual endeavors. We hope to see any interested students at our bi-weekly reading group!”

Ryann Rooney

I had the most blessed experience in Calcutta, India with 12 other students from Ave Maria University for about a week, stopping at Dubai and Paris on the way back. We got to dip our feet into what it’s like to serve the poorest of the poor alongside the Missionaries of Charity. Two weeks later, I left for Spain to teach English at summer camps around the country. At the end, we made a pilgrimage to the apparition sight of Our Lady of Lourdes in the south of France and hiked through the Pyrenees Mountains.”

When asked how she had the opportunity to travel so extensively over the summer and if Ave connections in helped her to have these experiences, Ryann told us: “Last semester, I studied abroad and at the end of the semester, the director of the study abroad program in Rome picked two students to spend the summer in Spain. He had connections with a priest there who was looking for native English speaking students. I would never have been able to spend my summer traveling Spain and getting teaching experience if I hadn’t met the people I did studying abroad. My life changing experience in Calcutta was all thanks to President Towey and all those who helped plan the trip.”

Ryann advises students  interested in studying abroad to “just get involved, meet people, be open, and apply for as many things as you can (even if you think you’re not ready or don’t know what to expect). Pray about it and let God take care of the rest! Getting involved in Service Learning volunteer projects is a great way to start. You never know what kind of connections you might make or what opportunities could arise down the line.​”

Joseph Livaudais

This Summer I had the great privilege of interning at Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which is an organization committed to ensuring that an increasing number of young Americans, primarily high school and college students, understand and are inspired by our country’s founding principles. As an intern, I helped promote their summer conference programs to students across the nation and also had the opportunity to attend special events in Washington, D.C. I have to say that I got very lucky because landing an internship with Young America’s Foundation is very competitive.  I knew that in order to get the position, I needed to make myself known to the staff members at the Headquarters and did so by volunteering for them at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held every year in the Washington, D.C. area. Having a YAF chapter at Ave Maria and working with the organization to host speakers on campus definitely helped me get the internship.”

Joseph gave us some great tips on getting ready to apply for internships. “I would say the most important way to sell yourself is to develop a relationship with the people you desire to work for. I firmly believe that I was employed because the staff members knew who I was as opposed to just learning about me by reading my application and resume.”

Katie Blong

This summer I had the opportunity to work with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in Washington, D.C., and travel to Lima, Peru to work in an orphanage for a month with physically disabled children. Through the support of my professors and the staff members at the university, such as Dr. Colman and Mrs. Cheffers, I was able to receive recommendations for my internship in Washington, D.C.  Also, my classmates really supported me as I raised money for my mission trip. I traveled with an Ave alumnus Benji Ruefer. We didn’t go through an organization, but we had friend connections in Peru and we were able to figure out travel plans by ourselves.”

When asked if she had any advice for aspiring world travelers, Katie said, “If you want to do something, pursue it. You are the one who is ultimately going to make things happen. It is your responsibility to take hold of your future and achieve your goals. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We have a lot of wisdom floating around on this campus, so talk to your professors and staff members and allow people to help you. The University wants you to be successful, but it will be your initiative and your elbow grease that will make it happen. Build relationships, try different things and you will be amazed at the places you will go!”

Kathryn Trudeau

This summer, I worked for two different internships in Washington, D.C. I worked on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) and at Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. On the Hill as a Congressional intern I worked the front desk for the Congresswoman’s office, gave Capitol tours to constituents, filled out co-sponsor bill requests and various other duties. At CWAI controlled all the social media under the Communications Director and hosted/visited various events within DC. I participated in press conferences for various Supreme Court cases (i.e. Hobby Lobby). I drafted editorials for our CEO and President that were published in the NY Times and TIME magazine. I traveled as an assistant to the CEO and President to television studios like CNN Crossfire and Greta on Fox News. I even went to the NYC studio for Fox News to assist my immediate boss, the Communications Director, for an interview in debate over the recent Hobby Lobby case against Alexis McGill Johnson, who is the chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.”

The Gazette asked her Katie for more details on how she found and applied to these internships.

“I went online and applied for 12 internships within the DC political arena. I received 4 offers and my top two were both the internships for CWA and Congresswoman Bachmann. The application process was lengthy, but it was well worth it!

I did not receive any direct connections through Ave. I had an academic recommendation, but that was it. I also went to Dr. Sugrue when I found out about my options and she helped me discuss pros and cons, but the connection was all on my own.”

Here are Katie’s words to all aspiring political activists: “An internship is something you have to want for yourself. You have to go the extra mile and have your application shine brighter than the one or one hundred other students applying against you. Ave has wonderful faculty who are willing to help you find an internship if you’re interested, but you need to go to the professor and inquire. Ave has very well-rounded students that can offer amazing assets to any company or office. Everyone thought I was so lucky to land those jobs, but really I’m proud to have given up free time to put countless hours into the application process and show that I didn’t just want something from the office, but I wanted to do everything I could to help the office grow!”


If you would just love to swim with the dolphins in the Caribbean, walk the Camino in Spain,  or do missionary work in Rwanda next summer, Take these students’ advice seriously. Your education at Ave opens up many great opportunities for us that we need to just take advantage of. Get involved on campus and off, and next summer you could be having the summer everyone is talking about.


Cover photo by Flazingo Photos.

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