NSA graduate ‘Crosses’ the globe

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Sitting on a ferry bench in the summer of 2001, Alice Cross glanced about the dark waves rolling around her. The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student and her friends looked over the murky waters, searching for something that has evaded onlookers from around the world for centuries.

It wasn’t the waves. It wasn’t the fish. It was the mythical creature known as Nessie.

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Cross was traipsing the waves of Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness, on a summer program abroad. Three years later, she’d step a bit closer to the creature’s lair – both literally and figuratively.

After finishing her career as a Lady Saint as the school’s 2001-02 valedictorian, Cross headed south to Davidson College in North Carolina, where she majored in history. Just as she did at NSA, she played volleyball and basketball – this time in club sports – and even helped her team to a school title in flickerball, a combination, as she puts it, &uot;of football and Ultimate Frisbee.&uot;

Last spring, Cross found out about another study abroad program through the University of Arcadia in Glenside, Pa. With the chance to gain Davidson credit and learn about her own Scottish heritage, Cross headed back to Nessieville.

After a nine-hour layover in Paris, her plane landed in the Scot Land, and the group made it to the University of Edinburgh.

&uot;We had a three-day orientation,&uot; she says. &uot;They told us about the University, and took us on a tour of the city.&uot;

Aside from the volleyball club (Cross helped the Lady Saints to the TCIS title in her sophomore year, two years after watching her team top the league in basketball), she signed up to study Islamic history, Celtic civilization and modern Middle Eastern history.

&uot;I needed some credits in that area, and Edinburgh had a good Middle Eastern program,&uot; she said. &uot;Volleyball was very laid-back; we practiced once a week, and had a game on Sundays. It was a fun way to meet people; not nearly as hardcore as the NSA program.&uot;

A little over a month after arriving in her new country, Cross took a backpacking trip toward the Isle of Skye. On the way, they stopped at the Loch of Ness.

&uot;It was a tradition for the backpack tour to go into the water,&uot; she said. &uot;Our guide told us to watch for the monster.&uot;

Her friends convinced her to step into the lake, and the tour guide slowly counted to three. On the third number, everyone bolted into the water.

&uot;We probably stayed in for about five minutes,&uot; she said. &uot;The guide gave us a little pep talk; he told us that we could tell our grandchildren that we’d swam with Nessie. We went under and swam around. There was no sand on the bottom, just rock. It hurt to walk around it. I wasn’t nervous, because I didn’t think we’d actually see anything.&uot;

They didn’t; the critter stayed hidden. The group got out and headed back to the bus, where they drove past Urquhart Castle on the Loch, then hiked up the legendary Old Man of Storr rock formation, and to the Isle, where they learned even more about Scottish history.

A few weeks later, Cross dressed as Rainbow Brite for Halloween, which is a huge deal in Scotland.

&uot;There were lots of clubs and pubs that let you in free if you were dressed up,&uot; she said. &uot;I went to about three parties.&uot;

On the flip side of celebration, however, is the lack of a Thanksgiving in Scotland. When late November rolled around, Cross and her American flatmate introduced their Scottish pals to the most indulgent of American holidays.

&uot;They were quite baffled with the mass of sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top,&uot; she said. &uot;We couldn’t find a turkey and our oven wouldn’t be big enough anyway, so we just made a ham.

&uot;It was fantastic,&uot; Cross said of her trip, which ended four days before Christmas. &uot;I loved it. I can’t wait to go back.&uot;

That will happen in just over two weeks; before continuing her study in Prague in the Czech Republic, Cross plans to spend a few days back in Scotland.

&uot;I always heard good things about it,&uot; she said of Prague. &uot;I wanted to go to a place that’s a little challenging. Prague isn’t English-speaking, and I’ve never been to eastern Europe. It will hopefully help me find what I want to do, and it’s nice to be in a place where I can meet new people and learn different things.&uot;