Last year Pepperdine tried out a student exchange sort of weekend in which a group of Pepperdine students were paired up with a group of foreign students. They said it was such a huge success that this year they decided to launch the program titled the “Listening Summit” in every IP program.
To be honest, the Pepperdine Listening Summit applications weren’t too enticing. And we weren’t given very much solid information on the itinerary.
From the description, they basically wanted us to a sign away a potential travel weekend to this: “There will be a mixture of small group discussions with the British students on topics such as democracy, politics and religion, along with some fun activities, as well as Irish dancing on the Friday night.”
Before we filled out applications we were told it was a group of students from the Canterbury Church of Christ University, and that was it.
The uncertainty of how the weekend would go combined with the amount of homework people had made the majority of our house hesitant to apply. It resulted in a cozy group of 12 of us (eight girls and four guys) being accepted.
Right before we left we found out that each of us would be rooming with a British student that we had never met before. I’ll admit rooming with a stranger for two nights and Irish dancing had me jittery. There were so many “what ifs.”
Our group arrived at the weekend facility first and we sat squirming for 10 minutes while we waited for the British kids to arrive.
But once they got to the site and we started talking, all those fears and concerns were chucked out the window. The students we met loved us and we loved them too. They had genuine interest in our American culture, yet they were also fun to hang around as we went out together during our free time at night.
We did become more educated about the British culture, and had serious discussions about politics, religion and the underprivileged, yet the conversations didn’t feel forced, it was more fun than anything else.
In addition, we participated in team building activities that included a high rope course and zip lining. And the Irish dancing really was fun—you think I’m joking but I’m not. It was the perfect icebreaker for the first night.
Within the time we were together, we bonded as if we’d known each other for weeks. My roommate was actually Irish, and we’re now connected on Facebook and Twitter, as I’m connected with all the other students too. We even made a Facebook group.
The weekend was too short. In other words, the dreaded Listening Summit turned out to be a raging success.
The best part is that they’ll all be coming to London to spend Thanksgiving with us. Instead of feeling sad that I’m missing Thanksgiving Day with my family in the states, I’m now looking forward to being reunited with my new friends.
I applaud Pepperdine for a job well done. It’s easy to study abroad and only hang out with Pepperdine students. This new program gives us the opportunity to spend quality time with local students, allowing us to delve deeper into the British culture, resulting in—in my opinion—a fuller abroad experience.