Navigating New Horizons
As we reflect on the value of a Sacred Heart education at Stone Ridge and celebrate our Centennial year, we sought to capture the depth and breadth of its impact through stories of alumnae living abroad. Founded on Goals that are timeless and timely, Stone Ridge students flourish as members in their communities around the world. Focusing our Centennial year on Goal V, which commits schools of the Sacred Heart to educate to personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, we asked alumnae how Goal V has enriched their lives beyond Stone Ridge. From reaching high summits to navigating new cultures and helping others become their personal best, Stone Ridge alumnae meet challenges with humility, discover new abilities, are open to change, and are fiercely resilient.
Thank you to those alumnae who responded to our call for submissions to make this story possible. If you would like to write for or be included in future stories, please contact Director of Alumnae Relations, Michael Anne Cullen firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Jordan ’66 United Kingdom
It is not so much the coherently expressed Goal V which has shaped me, but aspects of it that I can discern in my choices as I look back over the decades that have passed since my time at Stone Ridge and reflect on hard decisions as well as rewarding ones. My own shortcomings, such as getting carried away by task achievement and tipping into controlling behaviours, led me into blind alleys and deep frustration. I have had to face uncomfortable truths about myself in order to change. Making the deliberate decision to step away from a particular job and its security because I was becoming a gatekeeper rather than a gate opener was hard and frightening.
Learning from my many mistakes and having the cour- age/resilience to change behaviours became essential. As a manager, I had to grasp the absolute importance of those I managed to achieve progress along with the value of trusting them to think through issues and arrive at solutions rather than me telling them what to do and what to think. When I took over management of a team in crisis, we all needed to develop trust before being able to identify the best ways to tackle the swamp we needed to drain. And in order to do that, as a group we also needed to understand the problems and pressures facing our clients. Time spent together on these ‘soft skills’, although not visible, enabled that group of despairing individuals to become a powerful, positive and highly effective team.
And that brings me back to Stone Ridge, where I had such rich and varied learning experiences and benefitted from the support and encouragement of teachers and fellow students who opened doors through which I could then walk. The excitement of learning, its joy and the sense that almost anything might be possible were great gifts. It was these that enabled me to change direction and to find my own deep excitement in supporting the development and learning of others. It was not so much my own embodiment of the principles of Goal V that shaped me, but the work and skills of those who taught me all those decades ago.
Monica Rasim ’89 United Kingdom
Goal V has always remained a core part of my values on both a personal and professional level. As a US- trained lawyer working abroad, I amconstantly dealing with issues that are beyond my technical legal skills and the key to doing so is judgement,which really only grows with time and experience.But beyond that, some of my greatest moments of personal growth have come through service toothers—whether as a men- tor or through membership onthe boards of various charities—Iget as much out of these experiencesas I put in. I believe strongly that I am part of the generation of women who can really shift the paradigm for others who stand on our shoulders. And this belief is deeply rooted in both my Stone Ridge values and the examples set by my wonderful parents. None of us is the “finished article” and through all the ups and downs of life and my experiences living abroad, personal growth has been inevitable and, with hindsight, welcomed. All of the Stone Ridge values remain a core part of my own value set and I am always grateful for the foundation this gave me.
Caroline Green ’95 United Kingdom
I first moved to France in 1999, soon after graduating from college, with a temporary visa and the intention of spending a few months teaching English. Little did I know that it would lead to a six-year stay in Paris, and ultimately, a life in England.
While I knew France from holidays with my family and had a great language base thanks to my Mom, Madame Green (who taught French at Stone Ridge), I had no idea what living there would be like. The cultural differences were sometimes a challenge, and it felt like starting all over again—with new friends and colleagues and new routines. I can still remember the feeling of lying down to go to sleep, with French phrases swirling around in my brain keeping me awake, or struggling with work vocabulary, and, finally, the triumph of being able to make a spontaneous joke in French, coming up with the right words before the conversation moved on.
My time at Stone Ridge taught me about confidence and really instilled in me the idea that we are free to grow and learn throughout our lives. Without this basis, I don’t know if I would have made the leap of moving abroad. Goal V talks about personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom, and it’s this freedom—to make mistakes, to try something new—that allows you to embrace discomfort and tackle new challenges, like a new city or a new language.
I now live in England with my English husband (whom I met in Paris) and three dual-national children. The language barriers are now minimal (I know to respond to “Mum” and exactly what a lorry is) but I have just started a new full-time job at a tech company, after a number of years working part-time for charities. I find myself once again out of my comfort zone, and it’s helpful to think back on this concept of continuous personal growth, and to tap into the confidence, courage and resilience Stone Ridge taught me as I meet these new challenges.
Keleigh Ramos ’12 Swtizerland
Goal V has been particularly special to me since I received the Goal V award my freshman year at Stone Ridge. Reflecting on it now, I realize I have carried it with me ever since. In high school and college, it encouraged me to take advantage of the nur- turing environment to try new things. I went to Europe for the first time when I went to Spain with my Spanish class at Stone Ridge and in college, I studied abroad in Singapore during my freshman year. By challenging myself in these ways, while I had a safety net, I now find myself with the independence, confidence, and well-rounded education needed to do this on my own.
Looking back, I realize that, to achieve personal growth, I seek to expose myself to new ideas and cultures. By putting myself in situations outside my comfort zone, I can expand my world view, become more open-minded and empathetic, and continue learning outside the classroom. I still seek personal growth in this way and found an opportunity through work to move to Switzerland a couple of years ago. I knew for a while that I wanted to live abroad because I was excited by all I could experience by living long-term in a different culture. Of course, there were times I was nervous to move so far from home by myself, but I was strengthened in knowing that I had the tools to succeed and any failures or mishaps along the way were learning opportunities. I also know that I can’t do or know everything on my own. So, I create my own ‘atmosphere’ of family and friends to boost me up when I need it. In Switzerland, my friends and I can laugh at some of the struggles we’ve had in adapting (simply buying trash bags was a greater challenge than I expected). We also share our new learning opportunities as we take German lessons and (attempt) conversing with each other.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have the freedom to take this opportunity to live here, travel more frequently, experience new cultures and foods, have better work life balance, and so much more. The spirit of Goal V has helped me embrace the opportunities I have here to be uncomfortable, reminding me that all of the ups and downs are making me a better version of myself.
Katie Shea ’09 United Kingdom
I moved to London for a third time in the fall of 2020. I recall the first time I moved here in 2011 and how I wrote about how strange the traffic lights were and how interesting the pence and pound notes were. Even these seemingly mundane things were new and exciting.
My British friend here is thinking about moving to Germany and recently asked me what it’s like moving to a foreign country. She has romantic dreams about going and I didn’t want to be a wet blanket so I thought about it for a minute.
Have you heard of “type two” fun? It’s something I learned about while living on the west coast of the US where I discovered a passion for the outdoors. I started with small hikes and worked my way up to some incredibly challenging hikes where on some occasions it was genuinely a limp to the finish. You’d be right to sense a cliché metaphor about climbing mountains coming, buckle up.
In 2017 I found myself on top of Disappointment Cleaver (I kid you not) with Justine Desmond ’09 at 4:00 am surrounded by penitentes lit only by our headlamps, just 2,000 feet shy of the summit of Mt Rainier asking myself if it was wise for me to push through the pain to summit. After weighing the risks for me and my fellow climbers versus the rewards of summiting, I decided it was better for me to turn around. I thought about the months of preparation and training that I’d gone through for this. Though filled with disappointment, I knew this was the right choice. “This is how you’re choosing to vacation.” I thought to myself.
I think my love for the outdoors is partially a love for testing my limits. I have continued to push myself in ways I never thought possible from surpassing personal running goals to getting the dream job that I thought was unattainable. This is what “type two” fun is all about. It "feels rewarding afterward, often because it challenges the practitioner to test their limits and grow.” (source) Of course, with the high highs of achieving seemingly impossible outcomes can also come low lows.
Living abroad during the pandemic has presented me with some unwelcomed days. I suppose that's life sometimes though. In my lower lows I have experienced the pain of loss, pangs of homesickness, and yearning for the comfort of familiarity and family and these will continue to ebb and flow. I frequently ask myself whether it's time to push on or turn around.
I turned to my friend and told her that moving abroad is type two fun. I still struggle to navigate the culture, healthcare system, tax system, and honestly even the language on occasion. Most recently I had to figure out what they call heavy cream here—even simple things like grocery shopping can be frustrating at times. The "new and exciting" can lose favor some days and wear you out.
Life is full of challenges both big and small. Sometimes we participate willingly and sometimes they're thrust upon us. Sometimes it's worth persevering and sometimes we must pivot. To me Goal V is about embracing life's challenges, pushing yourself to new heights, and growing along the way whether you succeed or fail spectacularly.
Julie Bunt ’73 South Africa
I consider the time I spent, the education I received and the people I got to know at Stone Ridge to be one of the best investments that I (or my parents!) ever made. Nearly 50 years have gone by since I left high school and embarked on my personal journey through life, but my Stone Ridge foundation has been invaluable, particularly when I have had important decisions to make or have faced challenges.
Of the various attributes that are associated with Goal V, two stand out for me in particular: self-acceptance and personal responsibility. I’ve learned over the years, in the face of various health challenges, that acceptance is the first step towards healing. There is a reason for everything, and sometimes we just have to get on with it and not dwell too much on why things turn out the way they do. Of course, confronting challenges makes us stronger, more resilient and more accepting of others. The attribute of personal responsibility resonates with me because I see it as one of the cornerstones of a productive and transparent society. Personal responsibility does not mean you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders–you can simply make a difference where you can. My sister recently obtained a master’s degree and at her graduation ceremony, the university vice-chancellor told the new graduates: “Be a light where you are.” His message, I feel, goes to the heart of personal responsibility.
On a more general note, I have found Stone Ridge’s inclusiveness–its ability to join alumnae everywhere–to be truly inspiring. While years and miles may separate us (the alumnae), Stone Ridge’s regular (and flawless!) communication about past events, planned projects and new milestones to be reached serves as a constant reminder that we are—and always will be—part of the Sacred Heart family.
Cecilia Poppe van der Mensbrugghe ’66 Peru
When I first moved to South America, specifically Peru, it was incredibly hard to adjust—all I thought was coming back to Washington and what a big mistake it had been. Certainly the five Goals of a Sacred Heart education had given me the structure, intellectual strength and endurance to go through it and come out the other side successful! I can say today that I did it. I still miss what I consider home (Washington, D.C.) but at the same time, I enjoy the fact that I accomplished the unimaginable and did it. I understand the culture, but that does not mean I follow it. I found my own way through it and enjoy it.
A personal and active faith in God, a deep respect for intellectual values, social awareness which impels to action and the importance of personal growth sustained me through the difficult period of adjustment and helped me to create a rewarding life while here. I thank the Sacred Heart education that helped me build character, values, and an awareness that impels to action.