DU alum makes studying abroad her career

Courtesy of Madison Pastrick | Madison Pastrick worked as an Resident Assistant at the Duquesne in Rome campus after studying there as an undergraduate. Here, she explored the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome for her job.

Emma Polen | News Editor

Feb. 23, 2023

Few students in the Duquesne student population study abroad each semester. Even fewer go and do it again…and get paid for it.

Madison Pastrick, who graduated from Duquesne in 2019, has continued to travel since her first study-abroad experience as an undergraduate at Duquesne.

This year, she started as the program coordinator for the Texas Christian University global office. While Pastrick is currently based in Texas, her job involves traveling the world to oversee and assist trips at the school’s various international locations.

She credits Duquesne with giving her some of the skills she needed to succeed abroad, as well as the “travel bug” that started her whole-world traveling career.

As a Duquesne student, Pastrick studied in Rome for a semester. She not only learned how to travel on her own, but said she thinks “the Rome professors definitely shaped [her] experiences.”

“They challenged me in ways that professors hadn’t yet,” Pastrick said.

Pastrick had Elizabeth Lev for an art history course in Rome. Lev is an art historian who currently provides tours of Rome, and she recently visited Duquesne’s Pittsburgh campus for a lunch lecture about sacred and profane love in Italian renaissance artwork.

Lev said that art “allows us to get a sense of cultures” and their differing views, as well as humans’ greatest achievements.

“Art explores ideas visually in a way more conducive to a conversation that’s not confrontational,” Lev said. “It enriches our ability to communicate.”

Along with providing a unique avenue for communication, the passion for art Lev shares through her work inspired students like Pastrick for future travels.

“That love of art history that I have today is because of her,” Pastrick said. “And even now, when I visit new cities, going to the local art museum is always on my to-do list.”

Outside of the classroom, Pastrick remembered how her experiences in Rome diminished the fear of trying new things.

“Once you get abroad and actually get the experience of what it’s like to live in a foreign country, you begin to realize your potential, trying new things and living outside of your comfort zone,” Pastrick said. “That aspect of experiential learning that I gained from living and studying in Rome was so important to me.”

Studying abroad remains a unique experience for Duquesne students.

“I think studying abroad has definitely taught me how to be more self-assured and confident in uncomfortable situations that I may not be used to,” said Jasmine Urzua-Alba, a sophomore physicians’ assistant major and a current Duquesne in Rome student. “I have also started learning how to better connect with others from different backgrounds, even with the language barrier being a problem.”

After her study-abroad experience, Pastrick could not stay away from traveling. She took up a summer internship in Memphis, Tenn., and an additional spring breakaway trip through Austria and Poland, which allowed her to continue to cross different places off her travel bucket list.

“That was another experience that really changed my life, being able to talk in-depth about the Holocaust and then see firsthand the impact that it had at the concentration camps, but also in the Jewish Quarter in Poland,” Pastrick said.

Pastrick also discovered ways in which her experiences abroad could benefit others. She participated in a 10-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic one summer as an undergraduate through Duquesne’s Spiritan Campus Ministries.

Unlike her other trips, this one was service-based.

“You go to these places expecting to provide service to these communities, and you end up leaving feeling like the service was provided to you,” Pastrick said. “I love feeling like I’ve gained so much more than I had given.”

It’s one thing to study abroad as an undergraduate with friends and organized class trips, but it’s another to be traveling back as a graduate.

Pastrick shared that, leading up to graduation, she felt some panic about her post-graduate plans. She was graduating in December, and “leaving before a lot of [her] friends.”

So, when Pastrick saw that Duquesne was hiring an assistant resident director, “it was like the stars had aligned.”

Combining her interests in world travel and serving others, Pastrick moved back to Rome after graduation, this time as a paid ARD.

In Spring 2020, Pastrick arrived in Rome for her first semester working abroad. A month in, she was sent home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the experience was difficult, Pastrick said that “it really just proved to me how much I wasn’t done with Rome.

Once Duquesne in Rome reopened for students again, Pastrick was looking forward to moving back into the city, helping students succeed abroad and finding her community in a foreign city, despite once again separating from her friends in the United States.

“I had a passion for working with college students,” Pastrick said as she reflected on her work as an ARD in Rome, “and that started me on this career path.”

Her career path led Pastrick to TCU, a large school with eight campuses in Europe and many more affiliated semester programs, one of which might bring her back to Rome.

“It really doesn’t matter where in the world you move, but if you move to a new city where you don’t really know anyone or you don’t have any friends that are there waiting for you, then it really forces you to break out of your comfort zone even more, to find those communities that you belong to,” Pastrick said.

This gain in independence helped Pastrick with a similar move to a new city recently, when she moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to begin her career at TCU.

“Living in Rome kind of gave me the perspective of, ‘If I can live in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language for two years, and I can make friends and I can have a good time and I can really value my experiences, then I can live anywhere,'” Pastrick said.