Vassar College Posse Veteran Scholar Mark Savarese.
Vassar College Posse Veteran Scholar Mark Savarese.

Veteran Scholar Travels Across Country, Connecting Community

Fall 2019 | Veterans

Mark Savarese, a sophomore in the Posse Veterans Program at Vassar College, decided to take a solo trip across the country to expand his horizons after his first year on campus. He had initially considered a range of summer internships and job opportunities, but decided that a year of classroom discussions would be best balanced by a hands-on experience, for which he applied to receive an independent study credit.

“I wanted this trip to help me with my cultural adjustment on campus,” Mark says. “I knew I needed something taxing, scary, challenging and unfamiliar.”

“Don’t just do things. Make sure you understand why you’re doing them.”

After extensive research, Mark mapped out a route that started in Poughkeepsie and took him through the continental United States in two and half months, a journey that totaled 18,019 miles. He visited American history landmarks including the Little Bighorn battlefield and the Black Hills, made pop culture stops like Eminem’s childhood home, and also made it a priority to connect with friends from his time in the Marine Corps, who hosted him along the way. Mark took time to learn about each friend’s local neighborhood as he passed through and introduced all his hosts to each another using a group chat app, fostering new connections.

Mark acknowledged that his road trip wasn’t meant to be a vacation—it was hard work. He diligently documented the experience in a journal, fulfilling the requirements to receive his independent study credit.

“Sitting behind that wheel there was a lot of disorientation, but I invited that,” Mark says of his time driving alone. “I learned and adapted. I’ve become more functional and can break away from my routine.”

Now in his sophomore year, Mark says that his summer road trip has already made him a better student. When asked to share a lesson he took away, Mark offers: “Take pause. Stop doing whatever you’re doing if you experience a lapse in purpose. Don’t just do things. Make sure you understand why you’re doing them.”