One St. Mary’s student will be taking an unexpected vacation to Europe this summer after the long-standing restrictions on international travel have begun to lift.
Back in March 2021, Libby Toliver applied for a full scholarship to a 1-month Czech language and history course in the Czech Republic. Knowing no Czech herself and waiting in limbo with the rest of the world on the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, she took a leap of faith and followed her heart for adventure.
“I’ve always loved to travel. The first time I travelled was to China at 10 years old. I’ve been back to China since, as well as Cuba and Mexico, and have travelled Thailand and Vietnam alone.”
It wasn’t until late June that Libby got her acceptance letter to the program and was told to be booking flights for 3 weeks from her acceptance date. This came as a surprise to her family, who had little to no knowledge of her application. She quickly scheduled vaccinations, made calls about international travel, and got to packing. After communicating with the Alberta student who attended the last offering in 2019, Libby is feeling optimistic about the program.
Dr. Jocelyn Williams, professor and Chair of Humanities, is thrilled for Libby. She met Libby in her virtual classroom during the COVID-19 lockdown and was immediately struck by her intellectual curiosity and moving level of engagement. She urged Libby to become an English major after seeing her love of books and culture and is thrilled for her and the fortunate friends and colleagues she is about to form lifelong bonds with in the Czech Republic.
Pablo Ortiz, the director of student affairs who organized this opportunity, says “this shows the caliber of our students and how successful they are when applying for grants and scholarships. Internationalization comes in many ways, and this is one of them. Students get perspective as individuals at the same time as they get to see themselves as world citizens. These are things industries and employers look for when hiring, and such traits are now essential when students are looking for jobs.”
Libby will be taking 5 courses per day and will be attending various excursions lead by master’s students at the university in Prague who are learning English. She tacked an extra week onto the end of her time in Europe for exploring: “I am most looking forward to meeting new people and making friends who I could possibly travel with in the future.”
The beauty of the architecture and opportunity to explore will outweigh the weeks of planning and unknowns that are leading up to her journey. Libby’s family, friends, and regular customers at the bar she currently works at could not be more excited that this experience is now possible and safe:
“I’ll be staying in a dorm for the first time and I won’t know if I have roommates until I get there. I only know the address of my residence and what time my flight leaves. After that, I’m
not sure of any other details. I’m open to not knowing what exactly will go on once I get there, and I’m looking forward to the holiday.”
Watch for the story and photos to follow after Libby returns!