Holly Pavlick McIver participated in the Puebla, Mexico study abroad program in 2004 during the fall semester and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2006. She went on to attend The University of Texas School of Dentistry for dental school and an orthodonic residency program and graduated with a DDS and MSD in 2010 and 2012. McIver is currently an orthodontist at a private dental practice in Poulsbo, Washington. She reflects on her experience abroad and how it unexpectedly led to lifelong friendships.
Since studying in Puebla, I have used the education I received there to attend dental school, followed by a residency in orthodontics. I was able to use my Spanish to communicate with many Spanish-only speaking patients at my school clinic in Houston and was also able to put my experience of shadowing in the Mexican health care system to good use in caring for my patients during that time. Since studying abroad in the fall of 2004, I got married in 2008 to my high school sweetheart and fellow Notre Dame alum, Rich McIver '05, and now have an eight year old daughter, Evelyn, and a five year old son, Patrick. I lived in Houston after finishing school and opened my own private orthodontic office in 2013 in Kingwood, the suburb where I grew up. In 2017, I sold this practice to a good friend and moved with my family to Bainbridge Island, Washington where I live and work today in a private pediatric dentistry and orthodontic practice.
Since studying abroad at Notre Dame, I have returned to Mexico to stay with my host family or had a member of my host family visit me every single year from the fall of 2004-2012, and then many more times after. In that time, my host brother, Manolo, attended my wedding in Houston. I also attended the baptism of the son of my home stay sister Monica in Puebla and my host mother came to meet my daughter in Houston after she was born. I then attended and had the honor of being a bridesmaid in the wedding of my host sister, Aurora, in Puebla in 2017. I even had the amazing opportunity of being on the other side of the home stay relationship, when my home stay sister Monica's nephew, Arturo from Madrid, was able to stay for a month-long visit to the United States and become a part of our little family in Washington in 2018.
Sadly, I have even experienced the loss of my host father, Manuel, who passed away prior to the pandemic; and was able to share in a memorial mass virtually with my family this past year to honor and celebrate him on the one year anniversary of his passing.
I really can't say enough about my study abroad experience, the program itself, and the amazing place that is Mexico and Puebla. My time in Puebla gave me so many gifts, especially the love and friendship of the people I met there, and I will never forget it! I went honestly thinking it would be the trip of a lifetime, and a chance to become fluent in Spanish. It was so much more than that. It gave me the gift of a second language to communicate with so many people I have met since, both in my personal and professional life. It gave me the gift of another extended family who I have been able to share life's special and sacred moments with, who have changed and shaped my life forever with their generosity and hospitality during my time of study abroad and beyond. It gave me the gift of being able to experience a wonderfully beautiful culture and way of life and a lens to see that globally we are all really more alike than we are different.
I am thankful that among the innumerable blessings a Notre Dame education bestowed on me, that participating in the Puebla Study Abroad program was one of them. I hope many more Fighting Irish will have the same opportunity in years to come!
Learn more about study abroad opportunities in Puebla.