100 Days Ball!

Hi everybody!

Just writing with a small update! Shockingly, we’re already on another break from school because of the Easter holiday. We only spent two full weeks on campus this month! It was a pretty fun two weeks, though, and part of this is because us seniors had the 100 Days Ball on March 15th.

While the ball did not commemorate a hundred days left before graduation exactly (I believe the consensus is that it marked about eighty days left), it was still a great event for us to dress up and revel in the calm before the storm–in terms of the second half of our final semester and the ensuing graduation activities. In particular, since we were newly back on campus, it was great to get to catch up on how everyone’s spring breaks were.

With the roommates by the O’Kane clock tower!

Once we got our formal wear on, we were able to snap a few photos around campus before it was time to go. We again boarded the yellow school buses as we did in November, but this time our destination was Mechanics Hall in downtown Worcester. It was an absolutely gorgeous venue, with beautiful paintings hung around and a chandelier and a large organ in the front of the dance hall.

The staff at my job in the archives told me about the history of the building– which hosted guests such as Charles Dickens, Susan B. Anthony, and U.S President William Howard Taft. You could feel the history as you walked about! Later on, I found out that Mechanics Hall is ranked one of the top four concert halls in North America– and ranks in the top twelve between North America, South America, and Europe. And honestly, I can believe it!

Showing “purple pride” with some of my fellow Spire editors
Group photo of some of the Melbourne cohort!

It was a lot of fun getting to converse, dance, and take photos with so many of my friends. I even made Holy Cross’ Instagram post when they had several of us try on a pair of sunglasses. I was incredibly impressed by Mechanics Hall, and I thought that it was a wonderful night.

Happy Easter, everyone! Thanks again for reading!

My Experiences on Retreats (And Why You Should Do One)

Hey everyone,

I hope that you all enjoyed spring break! I was lucky to spend the first half of it at home with my family, and the second half visiting my roommate in New York City. The last time that I had actually visited the city was ten years ago, so I felt that it was long overdue for me to return. I took the Amtrak train down, and over the next few days we walked around Central Park, saw a show on Broadway, looked over the city in One Vanderbilt, and hung out with his family, before returning directly back to Worcester on a bus. I had a really fun time!

We were so high we were in the clouds!

It can be tricky to find something Holy Cross-related to write about immediately after a break (an issue that I also encounter as an editor of the Spire student newspaper.) Fortunately, the Holy Cross Chaplain’s Office just shared photos from the Big Chill Retreat I attended back in February. So, my blog post this week will be about my experiences at the retreat center, and why you ought to consider attending one.

I have attended three different “Big Chill” retreats over my time at Holy Cross. Typically, freshmen are able to visit the retreat center with their Montserrat groups; however, I did not get to participate in any due to Covid-19. So, the first time I went on a retreat was during the fall of my junior year, in November 2022. None of my friends expressed an interest in registering, so I decided just to go myself. Honestly, that ended up being a really cool experience. I read the old magazines available at the center, walked on the nature trails snaking around the property, and enjoyed the phenomenal cooking offered. It may sound like hyperbole, but I felt so relaxed when I returned to campus the next day.

Breakfast at the Joyce Contemplative Center with my friends Ralph and David

My experience was so great that I signed up to do another solitary retreat this past September. This one also proved to be really enjoyable as I met a few people that I hadn’t spoken to before. For the retreat last month, I was able to convince a couple of friends to join me on the retreat, as this seemed our last chance to participate before we graduated in May. While it was pretty different being with friends, it was a lot of fun. We trekked in the woods as the snow piled up, and we branched out and participated in a yoga class offered.

I highly recommend that every Holy Cross student go on a retreat. The food is great, you get your own room, the views from the center are spectacular, and you really do feel a long distance removed from the stresses of the Hill even though you’re only a half hour or so away. The retreats do cost money (attending an overnight Big Chill is $45, I believe) but there is financial aid available for those who need it. Additionally, there are multiple types of retreats offered: study retreats, spiritual retreats, women’s retreats… This link will give you more information than I probably could. Hopefully, there is a type of retreat offered that will appeal to you!

Although we get to rest again with Easter break at the end of the month, there’s still a few weeks left before then. This Friday, I will be attending the “100 Days Ball” along with the rest of the senior class…as if I needed any more reminders that college is almost over. But I’m definitely excited for it! Fingers crossed it’s a blast.

My Semester Abroad in Australia

To quote the Australians (just kidding, they don’t really say it that much): G’day, everyone!

I hope the semester is going well for everyone, now that we’re more than halfway (!!) through February. I was really happy to have a snow day on Tuesday the 13th. We ended up not getting as much as predicted, so it proved an opportunity to catch up on some work and also have fun in the snow. I went sledding with some friends, and afterwards we played snow football.

This time last year, actually, I was not anywhere near the snow: I had just departed for my semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia. I flew out of Boston on February 11th, had a six-hour layover in Dallas, Texas, and then flew directly to Melbourne via Qantas and landed on the 13th. All in all, I traveled for a total of almost twenty-hours: the flight from Dallas to Melbourne is the fourth-longest commercial flight in the world. Although I was incredibly excited to be heading to Australia, I did have some anxiety leading up to my departure. Because of the opposite seasons, universities in Australia do not start until the end of February, so while everyone else was either back at Holy Cross or already abroad, I was at home for weeks. Plus, I was not only going thousands of miles away, but to a part of the world where I was fourteen to sixteen hours ahead of everyone else I knew.

Fortunately… going abroad ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done! It will be very hard to distill five months abroad into a blog post, in part because I hate thinking of these memories as taking part a year ago rather than being recent events…but I’ll do my best.

We were all enrolled at the University of Melbourne, one of the best universities in Australia. For student accommodation, the university has a number of residential colleges, which are communities that provide housing and dining for domestic, national, and international students. I was situated at one of the smaller colleges, St. Mary’s College, along with nine other Holy Cross students. Before the semester started, we participated in a weeklong orientation week consisting of day-long activities: including making a lip dub, participating in a city-wide scavenger hunt, and visiting the zoo, among others. It was an unforgettable week, and it felt like a redemption from my freshman year, which was almost entirely held virtually on Zoom.

Throughout the rest of the semester, we had several more events and excursions, from pub nights to a formal ball. They were all unique, and so much fun. The college had such a strong culture beyond the events, having its own traditions and slang. I relished the opportunity to be integrated into such a strong community, and made a lot of friends as a result.

The student body of St. Mary’s College

Melbourne ended up being one of the most interesting places I’ve been to, let alone lived in. I will confess that before I traveled there, I knew little about it– all of the globally famous Australian landmarks seem to be located in Sydney and other parts of Australia. As I spent more time in the city, however, I grew to become vastly more acquainted with Melbourne’s special sites: the Victorian State Library, Flinders Street Station, the Shrine of Remembrance, you name it. They are all incredibly easy to access because Melbourne has incredible public transport: it boasts the world’s largest tram network. From college, I was only a two minute walk from a tram stop. Frequently (especially in the beginning), I’d jump on the tram to wander for hours and explore the city.

While no one would say they study abroad to take classes, I still had an interesting schedule. I took two creative writing classes to fulfill my concentration (I got to read some Australian poetry), a class on the process of adapting books to screen (which was really cool), and a science class, Australian Wildlife Biology. All Holy Cross students must take an Australian Content course, so I chose the Bio class. I’m pretty bad at science, actually, but I can’t deny this was a cool subject. We got to go on class field trips, have cool guest lecturers, and I operated a blog (much like this one!) where I reported two distinct Australian animals I saw across each week. It was an interesting challenge, and I got to learn about so much more than just the kangaroo and koala.

I fed a ‘roo at a wildlife sanctuary in Tasmania, and snapped a photo with him!

I was also fortunate enough to get to travel, making trips to New South Wales (Sydney), Western Australia (Broome), Tasmania (Hobart), and Queensland twice (Brisbane, Cairns). There are several low-cost airlines in Australia that also offer decent deals, if you scour the websites, and with the generosity of my parents and my willingness to stay in hostels, I got to travel all around the country. I did some conventional Australian experiences (seeing the Opera House, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef) but I also got to take part in some unconventional experiences (riding a camel on the beach, trying crocodile meat, feeding kangaroos). While my favorite place in Australia by far is Melbourne– I really found a home and community there– I still appreciated the many, many memories from my travels that I’ll hold onto for a lifetime.

Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

It’s now been seven months since I returned home, and a year since my initial arrival in Melbourne. I can’t deny that I miss the city a lot, but even more so, I really miss all of the friends that I made. Luckily I still remain in contact with them (thank you social media!), and ever since I returned to campus, I joined the Study Abroad Office as a Student Ambassador for the Australia program. I’m lucky to be able to share my experience in information sessions and directly communicate with students who are down under right now, to offer advice and, hopefully, assist them in experience the same wonderful memories that I did.


Getting Published with Holy Cross’ Help

Hello again!

I hope that everyone had a nice, restful break back home, and are adjusting well with their new schedules. My classes all seem like they will be interesting, so I’m excited about taking those. While it’s a lot of fun being a senior, however, there’s definitely a bittersweet aspect to it.

Fortunately, the semester began with some great news. On the last day of January, an essay I wrote junior year was published in the newest volume of a peer-reviewed literary journal for undergraduate scholarship. You can read it online here! It’s been a long process: I sent the essay in for consideration mid-January 2023, before I went abroad, and I spent the better part of the year working with the journal team editing the essay. For this blog post, I’d like to focus on the various ways in which members of the Holy Cross community helped me along the way.

The original assignment’s parameters were any topic we wanted to write about, as long as we received approval from the professor before writing it. As an English major who is also interested in creative writing, I appreciated the opportunity to be creative while still being analytical and citing academic sources. It was one of my best experiences writing a paper, but I never considered having it be published somewhere. I figured, if it’s for class, then it’s for class. However, my teacher gave me great feedback, and recommended I find a student journal to send it to, which was immediately an exciting prospect for me.

After finals, I remained at home until mid-February before I left for my semester abroad. Even though I wasn’t on campus, I was still able to be in contact with several members of the English Department and ask them advice on which publications I should take my essay to. I brought my search up at the end of a meeting on something entirely unrelated with one of the professors, and she was kind enough not only to voluntarily read my essay, but to send me potential journals over the following few days. I ended up submitting it to one of the journals she recommended! That professor is no longer at Holy Cross, but I still remember the generosity and help she gave me, even though I was never in one of her classes.

Even when I went abroad, I was still able to receive assistance from Holy Cross. I booked a virtual appointment with one of the Writing Workshop assistants, which you can learn more about here! I had done such appointments a couple times previously, but obviously never from a sixteen-hour time difference. Although I had to wake up for an 8:30am video call, it was quite worth it. The consultant was a student who had been in my class, so he had an intimate awareness of the prompt and the material, and he made several valuable suggestions. I also used a similar writer’s consultant service at my university abroad, and that ended up being extremely helpful, too.

Getting published with an undergraduate journal was an amazing opportunity and I learned a lot from the experience. It really polished my writing and editing skills, as well as my collaborative skills receiving feedback and communicating with a team of people I never actually met. In terms of Holy Cross, it allowed me to realize how dedicated the Holy Cross faculty and students are in helping us find and pursue new opportunities. The help of several people and services on the Hill were invaluable to getting this piece published.

My experience working with the undergrad journal staff inspired me to become involved with the literary publications on campus in my final year at Holy Cross. This semester, I will be serving as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Criterion literary journal; Chief Features Editor of the Spire student newspaper; and Associate Editor for the Purple poetry magazine. It’s definitely a lot on my plate, but I can’t wait to get to work on all of them.

Until next time!

Working with History in the College Archives

It feels like this semester just began, but we’re already at the last week of classes. I cannot believe that the first semester of my final year at Holy Cross is near its end, especially because it’s been the absolute busiest I’ve been during my entire time on the Hill. While I deliberately chose to make myself extremely busy, taking on new leadership roles and signing up for new opportunities, I did so for a multitude of reasons. There’s the fact that this is my senior year, and I want to use the time I have left as a Crusader to the fullest. I also have a sense of “catching-up” because my first two years at Holy Cross were so heavily defined and dictated by the pandemic. Additionally, coming off of spending the spring semester abroad, I knew I could either wallow in nostalgia or throw myself into my current environment. I chose to do the latter.

One of the ways I chose to become more involved this semester was signing up to be a student worker at the College Archives, located at the top floor of the Dinand Library. I explored the Archives a bit during sophomore year, when I worked with the archivists on a project for my American Architecture course (specifically researching the fire which burnt down Fenwick in 1852). I enjoyed my time in there, and it inspired me to read a few books available in the library, but that had been the extent of my engagement with the archives. As someone who’s interested in history, I thought that was a real shame, and when I saw the job opening on the website, I knew it would be a great opportunity to become more familiar with the archive’s offerings and its staff.

For three hours each Tuesday and Friday, I’ve worked with the archive’s collection of Alumni Magazines to aid the ongoing process of digitizing them on CrossWorks, the college’s online repository for student publications and historical materials. First I went through the entire collection and logged every issue onto a Google Sheet, which took me a good number of weeks. That may not sound like much, but the collection starts from 1927 and ends in the late 90s. While it certainly took me a while, it was fascinating to flip through the old books and see the history within their pages.

Shelf with some of the alumni magazines

I’ve discovered so much about Holy Cross that I never knew, from when certain buildings were constructed to some of the impressive alumni the college boasts, from politicians to astronauts. I laugh at the ads assuring me of the safety of cigars and nuclear reactors, and I marvel at how weird it is to see references to both my high school and institution I attended abroad in such a historical context: completely different from how I know them. Through the old magazines, I learned that several famous figures visited Holy Cross, from Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson to Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Junior. But there’s not just famous history bleeding onto campus: the magazines also show how the Holy Cross community reacted to famous events such as the Stock Market Crash and the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s sobering to read about people fighting on battlefields who occupied the same classrooms and dormitories that I have, but nonetheless had such entirely different experiences.

This is my final post before the break; I’m absolutely crammed with final papers and projects before the semester ends. Good luck to everyone with finals, have a great and relaxing break, and merry Christmas!

Senior Ball!

Grabbing a photo with my friends Damon and Kevin at the DCU Center

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first post of my student blog! My name is Matt Nickerson, and I’m a senior English major with a Creative Writing Concentration. There’s only a few weeks left in the first semester of my final year, so with only one semester to go, I’m excited to have this opportunity to document and reflect on my remaining time on the Hill, and that I’m able to share it as well.

I can’t think of a better post to start my blog than talking about our first major event, the Senior Ball, which was held last Friday, November 17th. I was really looking forward to this event, and I know a lot of other people were as well. Because we all graduated high school in 2020, we didn’t have a senior prom, so this Ball was a shot at experiencing something we were unable to attend due to the pandemic. I was also really pleased to have an event that was limited to just our class, given that we collectively started our time as Crusaders at home, and then masked up, socially distanced, and online.

We planned with some friends to take some pictures beforehand, so we started getting our suits on after 3 to go up to Fenwick and take some photos. It turns out that the vast majority of the seniors had the same idea! It was great to see everyone all dressed up and to really feel the energy and anticipation that was going around.

Looking sharp outside Fenwick with my roommate, David, and our friend Ralph

After taking photos and bouncing around people’s rooms, it was time to depart. We walked up to Hogan right before 6pm and boarded the buses that took us over to the ball venue, the DCU Center. I’d never been previously, so I was excited to see how it looked inside! The layout was great: the ballroom was nice and big, with a large dance floor but also plenty of room for tables and food buffet lines. The College also rented out the whole floor, where we could go for drinks and simply to get a break from the music and lights.

The night was so much fun: plenty of dancing and catching up with friends and classmates. There was a really cool camera inside of a mirror, and after having some delicious ice cream, my friend and I got in line for some photos!

Before I knew it, the night was over and we were already boarding the buses to head back.

This was a great kickoff to the activities celebrating the Class of 2024, and I’m really appreciative of all of the hard work done by the school, the SGA, and the Student Council members to make it such an awesome night.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!