Five Degrees of Summer Vacation

We’ve been along for the ride since their first day of school, and following these five very different students as they navigate through their college years at USD has been an exhilarating voyage. This fall, they’re juniors; hitting their stride, getting serious about studies and choosing which path they’ll take through life. But when we sat down to catch up with them in mid-May, their attention was equally divided between the stress of impending final exams and the thrill of looming summer vacations. Go-getters all, they were feeling calm, prepared, resolute, and ready to ace (or at least pass) their tests. No worries there. The conversation really became animated when we asked what they would be up to during the upcoming hiatus. Whether they planned to spend time with family, travel with friends, do study-abroad coursework, stay on campus or work two jobs so they’d have money to spend on vacation, these five students — Brianne Butler, Carmen Gonzalez, Kendra Hoffman-Curry, Marco Martinez and Matt Rutz — were determined to have a summer they’d remember for the rest of their lives.

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[GUANAJUATO] When I arrived here, I was very excited, like when you’re walking along a sidewalk and something in your stomach lets you know there’s someone or something waiting for you when you get to the corner. I wanted to stop time and capture everything in just one moment. I walked along the streets and saw tons of people — vendors, tour guides, tourists. I then took a bus to Paracho, Michoacán, a place that is well-known for guitar crafting, and I spent three days there before traveling to Ahualulco de Mercado, in the state of Jalisco, the city where I was raised. My grandmother lives there so I got to see her every day. My sister and I visited some ruins that were found in a city that’s 15 minutes away from Ahualulco. Overall, the trip was fun, interesting and exciting. I learned so much about Mexico in just a couple of weeks, and I hope to go back one day in the future. — Carmen Gonzales ’08

[GUADALAJARA] I just finished taking two business classes in the Guadalajara Summer Program and have been to Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Guanajuato with a big group of USD students. It has been a lot of fun and also a lot of work. Among the most important things I experienced this summer were watching the World Cup games and experiencing the election process. Mexico did not do as well as everyone wished in the World Cup, but Felipe Calderon — the candidate I preferred to win the elections — emerged victorious, and the process through which it occurred marked a very interesting experience in my life. Similarly, my father won election as mayor for Nogales (through that same party, the PAN), and further attached me to the whole electoral process. Now that the election is over, the real work begins, in both this city and this country. — Marco Martinez ’08

[SEVILLA] I have just spent my first week in Spain, and I love it here. People eat dinner between 9 p.m. and midnight, then stay out ‘til the wee hours of the morning. I decided to join the festivities and was shocked to see that everyone — from families with babies to couples that looked like my grandparents — was out dancing to the music this late! To make up for the long night, I participated in a great Spanish tradition the next day … SIESTA! I love how there’s actually time built into the work schedule here for taking a nap. Also, the food is so good; a typical meal includes an appetizer of green olives followed by a salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and then what I like best, Sopa de Ojo, or garlic soup with potatoes. It’s really yummy! But never fear, if I miss America, there’s a McDonald’s right down the street from where I live. I guess some things never change! — Brianne Butler ’08

[KAUAI] I spent most of my five days here relaxing and laying out at the beach. One day we kayaked up a river until it hit the ocean; it was one of the most beautiful but strenuous experiences ever. The next day we went to one of the local resorts and rented surfboards. It was one of my first attempts at surfing and I never realized how exhausting it was. I paddled my heart out and never fully caught a wave, but it was a great experience. We also hiked up to a waterfall and jumped off rocks into a freshwater swimming hole. Hawaii was a nice break from my hectic life at home, where I was working two jobs. In August, I went with my family on a Mediterranean cruise. I loved every place I went. While summer’s been a lot of fun, I can’t wait for this fall, when I’ll be spending a semester at Oxford as an exchange student.
— Kendra Hoffman-Curry ’08

[SAN DIEGO] I’ve been swamped with research and the class I’m taking. Lately, I’m up at 6 a.m. so I can get to the gym. It’s been really nice in the morning, so I’ve been lifting outside (Gold’s has an indoor and outdoor gym). Then I come back to the apartment for a shower and breakfast. I head up to the Science and Tech building around 9:30. This last week I’ve been trying to get the HPLC (High Pressure Liquid Chromatography) machine to give me the results I want, so I can put unknown samples in and analyze them. Then I have class at 5:30. The class is Biomedical Ethics, and it is such a great class; Dr. Gary Jones is the professor. He’s a plaintiff’s attorney for malpractice cases, so he is very knowledgeable. Class is over at 8:45. I come back to my apartment, eat and fall asleep, then repeat the next morning. Maybe when this class is over I’ll have more free time to enjoy the summer! — Matt Rutz ’08