A Loras Reflects on Loras

Gaétane Loras is an international student from Lyon, France studying at Loras College. She is also a great niece six-times removed of Bishop Mathias Loras, the founder and namesake of the College.

Since I was a child, I have known that a college in Dubuque, USA, has the same name as my family. I’ve always been curious, it’s still intriguing and unusual! I had never been to America before, so the opportunity to come and study in America and at Loras College was perfect.

My family knows several people from Loras College. In 2004, my parents came to Loras College and met monsignors Vogl and Freidl, President Collins and Valorie Woerdehoff. Moreover, a friend, classmate and tutor of Mathias Loras, Jean-Marie Vianny (the Curé d’Ars), a French priest who became a saint is very well known in France and Dubuque, and is depicted in a stained glass window above the tomb of Mathias Loras in the Mortuary Chapel of the Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque which my parents also visited.

Mike Gibson, director of the Loras College Center for Dubuque History, shows Gaetance Loras the Loras Family Tree

I am fortunate to be able to study for a semester to improve my English and immerse myself in the daily life of an American student. The United States and France are different, both culturally and in terms of the school system. On the other hand, I did not have any difficulty adapting, especially since I have been well supported. Everything has gone very quickly. Without me realizing it, three months have flown by.

Being on campus has been a great experience! I met students, teachers, and others very quickly. Some teachers invited me to their homes, which seemed crazy at first because in France there is a distance between students and their teachers. From the first day, the Loras staff and other students helped me and the other French students. They were very warm and we were very lucky! The people here are very open and smiling, which helped me to integrate.

One of the strangest parts of being at the College was seeing the Loras name on signs, t-shirts, and all around. It was odd at first, but now it’s fun and I’m getting used to it. It indeed makes me laugh to talk to someone wearing a T-shirt with “Loras” written on it! It’s pretty crazy to see students so proud to wear their college’s clothing. They all wear Loras College clothing. I haven’t dared to wear one yet, but I plan to take some home with me.

Gaetane Loras poses with Bishop Mathias Loras’ throne chair, traveling desk and rosary in the Loras College Center for Dubuque History.

Living on a campus with other students is a novelty. It’s really like a small village. The system for choosing courses is different, too, than in France. I’ve always been used to having the same classes with the same students and only being with people who have the same major as me. It’s very interesting. I’ve been able to take courses that are not related to my studies and this has allowed me to discover new things.

With the coronavirus impacting the globe, the campus closed and gradually the students all moved away.I was apprehensive at first, but luckily Loras College allowed us to stay on campus. This situation changed our habits, for sure, like everyone else. I would indeed have liked to do a lot of things and visit the region more, but as they say, that’s life. Luckily I’m not alone, some friends stayed too. There are not many students on campus anymore but we continue to live and take care. 

Many thanks to Loras College for welcoming me and also to all the people, from near and far, who were able to help me and whom I met. Despite the current situation, I will have very good memories!

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).