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Everyone has a story about how they chose their college. Some chose a college because it was their parents’ alma mater; others chose one simply because they wanted a big-name school on their resumé. For current sophomores Emily Farabaugh and Alex Brefeld, their decision occurred after spending “the best week ever” at Christendom, during the Experience Christendom Summer Program. While they both initially had doubts about attending Christendom for college, one week at the school convinced them otherwise, thanks to the rigorous academic life, the vibrant community, and a sense of peace neither could find at any other college.

In the case of Farabaugh, her heart was already set on attending a much larger school after graduating high school, such as the College of William & Mary or the University of Notre Dame. After attending public school in Charlottesville, Va., for the entirety of her high school years, she wanted to experience a similar-sized academic institution in college. However, after her mother discovered Christendom’s summer program online, Farabaugh decided to give it a try.

Sophomores Alex Brefeld and Emily Farabaugh.

“I definitely didn’t think I would ever want to go to Christendom, because at that time, not knowing much about the school, I was convinced it was too small and too different from all my expectations of college for it to be the right fit for me. After an indescribable week that completely blew away my expectations and opened my eyes to what a unique and incredible place this is, I knew that I was coming here,” said Farabaugh.

Farabaugh continued visiting and applying to other colleges after attending the Experience Christendom Summer Program (ECSP), but eventually came to the realization that no other place gave her the feeling of contentment that she found at Christendom. After returning to the campus for an open house and to compete in the Padre Pio Full-Tuition Scholarship Competition, Farabaugh was convinced. By August of 2015, Farabaugh was a freshman at Christendom College — something that never would have occurred if she had not listened to her mother and agreed to try out the summer program.

Sophomore Alex Brefeld had a similar experience to Farabaugh in high school. Before hearing about Christendom from his parents, Brefeld, a native of Georgetown, Ky., was considering other, larger Catholic colleges. Nevertheless, when his parents encouraged him to attend the Experience Christendom Summer Program, he decided to give the “small liberal arts school” a try.

Brefeld (center) at the 2014 Experience Christendom Summer Program.

While Brefeld expected the ECSP to be a fun week away from home — based on the advertisements that he had seen for it — he was not anticipating the level of engagement he experienced in the classroom, or the lasting friendships that formed after just one week on Christendom’s Shenandoah Valley campus.

“It really made Christendom come alive to me in a way that simply viewing the college on the internet could never have done.  After the program, I felt like I was in some way a part of the Christendom community and, throughout senior year, I kept up to date on Christendom news through publications such as Instaurare and The Chronicler.  Although I continued to research other colleges as I made my decision, the Experience Christendom Summer Program made Christendom my obvious first choice,” says Brefeld.

Such a decision was nothing less than thrilling for Alex’s mother, Stephanie Brefeld. Like many Catholic parents today, Stephanie saw the disturbing trends running through today’s culture, and wanted Alex to have an education that would prepare him to impact and change the culture. While the Brefeld family had visited many other college campuses during their hunt for such an education, none compared to the uniqueness they discovered during Christendom’s summer program.

“The summer program environment, from setting, to counselors, to professors was completely different from other campuses we visited. There is a sense of community one feels when simply setting foot on Christendom’s campus. Experiencing that community life and interacting with the enthusiastic and engaging camp counselors drew Alex in,” says Stephanie.

Students study history, literature, philosophy, and theology during the ECSP — getting an authentic taste of the education offered.

“The freedom to interact socially and academically with teens who shared his worldview was refreshing, and a breather from the world’s harsh culture. Attending the summer program motivated Alex to look ahead to his future in a new way.  He became focused and determined — the college goal was now a reality.  He tackled his senior year with an even stronger work ethic.  We believe that the ECSP gave Alex that new perspective.”

Like Farabaugh, Brefeld returned to Christendom’s campus for the Padre Pio Full-Tuition Scholarship Competition in the spring of 2015, and he immediately felt at home again. Today, Brefeld walks the campus as a sophomore, after firmly deciding that Christendom was the best place for him to attend college.

“Attending Christendom has, without a doubt, been the best decision of my life.  In the past few months, I have made life-long friends who have the same values as I have and are serious about their studies and faith. The tight-knit Christendom community provides me with all the opportunities I need to keep my spiritual, academic, and social priorities in order,” concluded Brefeld. “The Experience Christendom Summer Program was fantastic, but even it cannot compare with the actual experience of being a student at Christendom College.”

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