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First-Year Reading

Each year, the first-year class dean asks students to read a common text. The first-year reading connects you to the Holy Cross community through a shared reading experience, welcoming you to a culture that values the thoughtful discussion of ideas.

In preparation for beginning your education at Holy Cross, Sarah Petty, Class Dean for the Class of 2025, has selected “Walking to Listen: 4000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time” by Andrew Forsthoefel, as the first-year class reading. An audio version of the book, read by the author, is also available if you prefer.

This book chronicles recent college graduate Andrew Forsthoefel’s walk across America and the many interviews he conducted during that walk. In writing his senior thesis, he found that he could not fully articulate what it meant for him to "Come of Age." He hoped that by listening to people from all walks of life he would be able to make more sense of his own place in the world and become more prepared for adulthood. 

As you read, or listen to, the book, please reflect on the questions below. Your first assignment as a Holy Cross student is to write a brief essay (about 300-350 words) in which you respond to one (or more) of the questions. Before first-year advising on Aug. 30, you should email your essay to your academic advisor and your Montserrat professor.

  1. Over the last 18 months, our world has faced a global pandemic that has caused immense suffering to many people. We have listened to doctors, politicians and social media outlets provide data, information, policies, and opinions that we are asked to process. What does the book teach us about the importance of listening that might help us discern how and when to listen, how and when to question what we hear, and how and when to stop listening?
  2. At the beginning of the book, the author acknowledges that his privilege allowed him to undertake his cross country journey. In what ways has your own degree of privilege positively or negatively influenced your life’s journey so far? How do you hope to use the privilege your college education will afford you in the future? 
  3. The author writes about encountering people who are very different from him. Have you ever gotten to know someone who differs from you in their life circumstances (e.g., different age, race, gender, sexual orientation, place of origin, etc.)? How did that relationship compare to relationships you have established with people who are more similar to you? What did you learn from that relationship? In what ways do you believe these relationships are particularly important to us? 
  4. While Forsthoefel's knew his ultimate destination and the goals of his journey, he remained flexible about many other aspects of his trek. For example, he made very few advanced arrangements for overnight accommodations, instead trusting in the kindness of others to provide safe-haven. How does this idea of being flexible in your planning speak to you at this time in your life? What aspects of your time at Holy Cross warrant careful planning? What might cause you to reconsider plans you have already made and adapt, or completely alter, them? Is it ever wise to stop planning altogether and put your faith and trust in someone or something else?