Photos by Alex Neis
To help first-year students make their decisions about studying abroad during their second year, Pepperdine offered them the chance to meet with returning juniors and explore their abroad opportunities at The Return on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Alumni Park.
Associate Dean of International Programs Ron Cox said the event is intended to give first-year students a chance to meet IP alumni, ask questions and learn about each program from first-hand accounts.
“We want to get students excited and connected with resources to learn about all of the programs,” Cox said.
Each program set up a tent decorated with flags, colors and balloons from each of their countries. At each tent were dozens of enthusiastic abroad alumni, eager to praise their program as the best Pepperdine has to offer.
Junior Elisa Wright said she remembered seeing the excitement of The Return two years ago, and now understands why students have such a passion for their program. Wright spent the past academic year in Heidelberg.
“I remember thinking it was strange that everybody claimed to be the best program,” Wright said. “But I get it now.”
This event falls in the middle of an early decision-making process for first-year students. The deadline for International Programs applications is Sept. 23, just one month after freshmen arrive on campus.
For some students, the process is a bit overwhelming, and a high-energy event like The Return may not make their decision more clear. Freshman Katy Kulseth said she thought she knew where she wanted to study, but after attending the event, she has no idea.
One of the main events every year at the Return for both juniors and freshman is the tug-of-war. Each program sends their strongest members to compete for a trophy, pride and bragging rights. This year, Lausanne took home the victory.
Beyond tug-of-war, The Return also reunited juniors with their friends from abroad and let them give back to the future of their international program.
Many juniors said they were sad to leave their program, but intend to stay connected with one another, even visiting their campus abroad. The Return provides a space to remember the adventures of their past school year at Pepperdine.
For students returning to Malibu from their time abroad, The Return also represents a welcoming back into the community on campus. This is important as juniors readjust to life in the ‘Bu once again.
“I’m excited to be back, but it feels strange after not being on campus for such a long time,” junior Matt Adams, who spent the past year in Heidelberg, said.
Students could stop by a food truck to enjoy a free dinner as they talk to returning juniors, and as the night progressed, there was a raffle for a scholarship prize.
As the sun started to set, students gathered around a large screen at then end of the park to watch videos each program made for this event. They gave a snapshot of life abroad to freshmen who may not be able to imagine what exactly their own experience will look like.
Although each program is unique, and all of them seem to be the best option, Cox said there really is no wrong choice.
“We don’t want students to feel pressured to make the right choice, since there may be more than one,” Cox said. “We just want students to find a program that’s a good fit for them.”
Freshman Shelby Schering said she values academic opportunities, access to travel, and price. Sophomore Katie Smith said her reasoning for going to Buenos Aires this upcoming year had everything to do with people. The type of student in that program, Smith said, will shape her experience.
Cox advised freshmen who may be overwhelmed with deciding where to study abroad to seek out academic advising, open houses and any other informational events. Prior to the Sept. 23 application deadline, the IP office hosts a series of open houses in which students can bring specific questions about a program and meet other students who are interested.
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