Gene-Philippe Mongan was happy to receive a college scholarship from the Knights of Columbus. He didn’t expect to be using it to study architecture for a semester in Rome, Italy.

In June, the Glenville K of C presented Gene-Philippe with this year’s $2,000 Clarence “Fritz” Naumann college tuition assistance award at their annual picnic.

The scholarship recipient must be enrolled in college, demonstrate strong community service, participate in parish service and maintain good grades in school.

Grand Knight Thomas Winterberger presented the award to Gene-Philippe, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Glenville and a first degree knight himself. Gene-Philippe volunteered with the K of C throughout his studies at Burnt Hills High School.

Gene-Philippe had applied for the scholarship in the spring, planning to attend Northeastern University in Boston to study architecture. He was surprised when he found out his application was chosen.

“I knew it was a really good opportunity,” he said. “I was so happy.”

Building faith

In his scholarship essay, Gene-Philippe had talked about how important his faith has been to him. He also spoke of his hopes to use his degree in architecture to design church buildings and parish centers.

“My faith has gotten me through tough times,” he said. “Just taking the time to say thanks to God and trying to help other people go to heaven” is a goal.

Gene-Philippe is a lector and eucharistic minister at his parish.

“He’s very faithful to the Church, and is just a wonderful young man,” said Rev. Jerome Gingras, pastor at Immaculate Conception. “He’s going to do great things in school.”

Gene-Philippe received another shock when he learned he’d been accepted into Northeastern University’s “N.U. in” program, which selects a group of applicants to begin their first semester of college by studying abroad at one of the university’s international partner locations, including Greece, Australia or China.

Gene-Philippe chose to spend a semester in Rome, Italy, home to some of the world’s greatest architectural examples, from the Colosseum to the Vatican.

Spirit of adventure

According Northeastern’s website, the program looks for students with “academic independence, a willingness to explore new ideas and places, a mature and open mindset, and an adventurous spirit.”

Gene-Philippe didn’t even know about the program when he was accepted. His mother, Susie, was just as surprised: “It was a little bit of a shock,” she said. “I was ready to pack him for three hours away in Boston.”

The family quickly got excited about the idea. “My husband and I are travelers. [We] met in London,” said Mrs. Mongan, who is French-Canadian; her husband is Irish and British. “It’s in our DNA.”

In fact, before his family moved to the United States around eight years ago, Gene-Philippe was born and raised in England, along with his two younger brothers, Patrick and Jack.

Emigrating came about because Mr. Mongan got a job opportunity in the U.S. “It was definitely a change,” Gene-Philippe remembered. “It was the same language, same TV shows, but it was a completely new experience being in a new country.”

In London, Gene-Philippe attended a Catholic school. He said his faith helped provide some stability during the adjustment to American life, saying that the same “faith flows through different countries.”

Can’t wait

Now, the freshman is “mentally preparing” himself to go back to his European roots. He calls himself “a big history nerd” and is excited to visit some historic sites: “Going to the Vatican is definitely going to be amazing.”

Gene-Philippe added that the N.U. in program will give him “a great opportunity to study architecture.” While many Italian buildings are classical in style, Gene-Philippe believes that “history repeats itself, [and] even with modern buildings, it ties back” to older designs.

Mrs. Mongan said the family hopes to visit Gene-Philippe during his time abroad.

This opportunity “really does excite me,” said the college-bound student. “Having a group of friends and getting to travel around — it’s more than I could ask for.”