Michal Labanič (pictured right, with his American friends) was born in Scheibbs, Austria while his father was studying in Gaming at the International Theological Institute. Michal now lives in the small village of Veľký Ruskov in Slovakia with his family. He is 19 years old and likes drawing, reading, and watching good movies. He is currently the only LCI-sponsored student who is studying in Gaming, Austria this Fall semester.

How did you find out about LCI? And why did you want to study in Gaming?
It’s kind of a family tradition. My father, my uncle, and my brother all came to study in Gaming. I was even born here, so I guess in a way it was my turn.
My brother also inspired me to come since he told me so many great stories that happened here while he was in LCI. I was also very interested to come because I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university or what direction I wanted to go in life. I thought studying at LCI would be a good experience to help me grow and decide what to do next.

What were your expectations?
In some ways I had big expectations. I told myself that it would be a life changing experience even though I didn’t know how. I also expected that I might be the black sheep and not easily accepted since I was going to be the only LCI. But thankfully, I was totally accepted. Also I, of course, expected to improve my English.

Had you met any Americans before this? Did anything about them surprise you?
This was the first time I met a big group of Americans. One thing that surprised me was their openness. I have talked to almost everyone here. Many of them are active friends now. They have a different nature than Slovaks. This experience has changed my mind about Americans. The media shows Americans often in kind of crazy and extreme ways, but I have experienced something completely different.

What have been some of the things you love doing at the Kartause or in Gaming?
I like being in the library a lot; I like the peaceful and friendly atmosphere. I also really like the Kabob [sandwich] shop, the Keller [restaurant], and the bonfires with Franciscan students.

What is one of your favorite experiences this semester so far?
Our time in Assisi. It was so peaceful. One special moment was sitting with my friends on the rooftop of the hotel. We shared wine, saw the beautiful view of the city, and listened to a jazz band playing in the streets below us.

How have you seen God at work?
I have seen God at work this whole semester. The whole time has been one big blessing for me. Because of the coronavirus, I expected this semester would be canceled. But it wasn’t canceled, and I was the only one who was given this opportunity to study in Gaming as an LCI student. This is the first big thing. But also, that we have traveled all around Europe and that there are zero covid cases in the Kartause is a miracle. God also took care of me in personal ways. God has consistently been answering all of my prayers.

Could you comment on how you have grown in your faith and spiritually?
I was surprised that the Franciscan students were not scared to show their faith in public. This inspired and encouraged me. The small things, not even big things. Like even Christian stickers on their computers and water bottles. Just little outward signs. These people are not scared to present themselves as Christian.
I love the church here too. I was baptized here, and I feel a spiritual connection. I started praying the rosary almost every day. There is a strong spiritual atmosphere in Gaming and the Kartause.

What do you hope to take with you after your semester is over?
It has challenged me a lot, and I hope especially to keep my prayer habits. I also want to be not overly concerned about things, like what people might think of me – in a good way. The Franciscan students have helped me see this as a possibility.

What do you want people to know about LCI?
It is a really great program. I still can’t believe that I’m here and that a program like this exists. That people have the opportunity to grow in their faith, to learn English, and to travel around Europe. I am really impressed with the program and the whole experience.

Thank YOU, all LCI benefactors, who have helped make this experience possible for Michal!