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Ireland makes its mark on Mt. Pleasant Area graduate

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Zider (left) is joined by fellow students Courtney LaGamba, Alysha Walker, and Ali O'Connor outside the Temple Bar located in the Dublin City Centre. Photo taken in July 2014
Zider (first row, third from the left) learned how to play the sport of hurling from Damien O'Farrell, director of admissions at American College Dublin, during a recent trip she took to Ireland via St. Vincent College's Study Abroad program. Photo taken in July 2014
Zider (third from right) recently visited the Cliffs of Moher during a recent trip she took to Ireland. Photo taken in July 2014
Mt. Pleasant Township’s Morgan Zider, 21, stands outside of the Blarney Castle Estate in County Cork, Ireland, during a recent trip through St. Vincent College’s Study Abroad program. Photo taken in July 2014

At one time, it was a true happening when Morgan Zider took a trip of any distance from her home in Mt. Pleasant Township, according to her father, Jerome Zider.

“In high school, she didn't want to go anywhere,” he said, laughing.

“But once she got to college, that all changed. She was always intelligent, but not as outgoing ... until college,” he added.

When considering where she would continue her education, Zider — a 2011 Mt. Pleasant Area graduate — chose St. Vincent College in Unity.

She recently took advantage of the college's Study Abroad program to travel to American College Dublin in Ireland, where she lived for two months while learning of the rich history and heritage of the Emerald Isle and aiding the school's administrative staff, she said.

“It has made me realize that there is much more to the world, than the small town I live in, in America,” said Zider, 21, a psychology major prepared to start her senior year.

“After having to navigate my way through foreign countries, I have lost the fear that I had to go new places. I now long for the opportunity to travel and see even more places,” she said.

Fair encounter ignites interest

While attending the St. Vincent Study Abroad Fair last fall on campus, Zider first learned of the opportunity to study in Ireland from Chris Sarafian, executive vice president of American College Dublin since 2001.

As she strolled through the Robert S. Carey Center on campus, Zider and Stephanie Rukavina, her friend and fellow St. Vincent student, encountered Sarafian.

“I focus on certain institutions and develop relationships with them,” said Sarafian, who helped develop the programs allowing students at St. Vincent and Seton Hill College in Greensburg to study at the college in Ireland's capital.

“Morgan's an awesome girl. She's very organized, very mature for her age, and the thinks out of the box. Anybody willing to study abroad has to be an out-of-the-box thinker.”

Zider and Rukavina also spoke with her friend and fellow St. Vincent student Rachel McCartney, who had previously traveled to Ireland with the program, she said.

“Just learning about all that Ireland had to offer kind of drew us in,” Zider said.

Zider and Rukavina soon decided to take part in eight-week journeys to Ireland from mid-May to mid-July, while Nubia Williams and Maria Jarvis, the pair's other friends and fellow St. Vincent students, decided to travel with them while completing four-week excursions.

“That was a unique part of it, that these four young ladies wanted to experience this together,” said Sara M. Hart, director of St. Vincent College's Study Abroad program, who aided the students in arriving at their decision.

“We anticipate that study abroad will be a transformative process. So many young people who come to St. Vincent haven't had the chance to travel, let alone take courses and pursue internships,” she said.

Classes and internship prove to be enlightening

Zider, who aims to pursue a career in counseling in nutrition and exercise, particularly for those with eating disorders, focused more on Ireland's culture, history and literature, she said.

During the first four weeks of her stay, Zider took class five days per week at the campus of American College Dublin.

“One of the buildings there served as the childhood home of (famed Irish author/playwright) Oscar Wilde, and we had some classes there,” she said. “There is a statue of him right across the street.”

During the second half of her stay, Zider served as an intern for Colum Cronin, the college's dean of students, and Damien O'Farrell, its director of admissions.

“Between us both, she was heavily involved in the college's social media — its Facebook and Twitter accounts, highlighting college events and student activities, along with the benefits of studying in Ireland,” O'Farrell said. “I thought she did an excellent job. She was very proactive and she took directions very well. Everything she did was very timely, and she carried herself very professionally. We were very happy.”

Country's beauty, people beguile traveler

While taking in the Cliffs of Moher along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland, to visiting Blarney Castle Estate in County Cork, Zider said she was entranced by the country's scenery and its citizens.

“In Ireland, they're really laid back, and worry free,” she said. “Any time I had to stop for directions, they were willing to help and very nice.”

While living with 30 others, Zider met and bonded with students hailing from Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

“I made a few friends there, and the friends who I studied with became that much closer,” she said.

Student encourages others to study abroad

Zider said she would like to return to Ireland for graduate school.

“I never knew that you could fall in love with a place in such a short amount of time being there, but after staying in Dublin, I feel like it is home,” she said.

Zider added that she would advise other collegiate students to consider studying abroad.

“It really does help you gain a new perspective on life, and it is one of the best decisions that I have made,” she said.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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