Lausanne students pose at the lakefront in Lugano, Switzerland, on Nov. 4. Due to COVID-19, Educational Field Trips in Lausanne are now within the country, sophomore Elle Bui said. Photo courtesy of Elle Bui
For two months, Pepperdine students have lived abroad at four International Programs, spending time with friends and making memories. Students in Europe and Washington, D.C., engage in a time-honored Pepperdine tradition with new rules and regulations for personal travel.
On Oct. 15, IP published its travel policies to safeguard students’ health as well as preserve their academic performance, Laux said. Students both abroad and within the United States feel the effects of restricted states and countries.
“Like always, the students’ health and safety is our priority,” Dean of International Programs Beth Laux said. “All of these assessments were done with that in mind. Just like always, the academic experience is the priority as well. And so, those things were at the forefront of the decision-making process.”
IP’s policy went through stages for personal weekend travel, Laux said. Upon students’ arrival, IP prohibited them from all personal travel — which is a standard process across programs to allow students to acclimate. The second stage of personal travel allowed students to visit areas throughout their host country on weekends, and IP lifted these restrictions Oct. 15.
When IP canceled Education Field Trips outside of Switzerland, sophomore Elle Bui said students traveled within the home country and learned about the nation’s history.
While Bui originally signed the contract to study abroad for only the fall semester, Bui said her experiences at orientation and throughout Lausanne convinced her to remain in Switzerland for the full 2021-22 academic year.
Bui said the locals have been kind and patient with the students.
“I remember the first day trying to find a way to a restaurant,” Bui said. “And we were completely lost because we had only been here for a few days. And I remember going up to someone, and we just stopped and asked a lady, and she helped us. She pointed us to the bus stop that we should go to and told us where we should go.”
The third and current stage of travel, Laux said, allows students to travel to approved countries. IP made these approvals after viewing the host countries’ travel restrictions and policies and looking into requirements upon return. IP removed countries that would require a quarantine period from the list.
One week after IP opened travel to other countries, Oct. 22-24, Bui traveled with friends to Milan.
Other abroad program participants face similar challenges. Sophomore Benjamin Ruiz is studying in the London program and said he has primarily been staying within the city. In September, however, he went with the rest of his London group on an EFT up through Scotland, he said.
Closer to Thanksgiving, Ruiz said he will visit Paris with his family, which is a longtime goal of his.
“Of course, there are going to be some restrictions, especially with COVID-19 still dying out, but it still goes up and down throughout the season, especially toward the latter half of the year,” Ruiz said. “So it’s definitely restricted but, all things considered, quite lenient.”
For Washington, D.C., program participants, IP gave students a list of approved states that have been reliably free of travel restrictions, Laux said. If students want to travel to other areas, they must ask Brian Swarts, the D.C. program director, because restrictions fluctuate.
Laux said the D.C. program’s travel policy offers seven states that are in the clear; however, IP has been able to accommodate requests from students.
IP’s international campuses each have 10 to 12 countries students are allowed to travel to without further approval, Laux said. Each of these lists are different depending on the country; for example, Heidelberg and Lausanne students may travel to Belgium while London participants cannot.
When the spring semester begins, Laux said she hopes IP is able to expand the list, particularly for academic year students. The spring semester list will be updated in December.
When traveling within an IP program, Ruiz said, students are responsible for planning the trip and obtaining the required documentation, as well as avoiding prohibited areas.
“If you were to go to any restricted areas on the Pepperdine list, you would actually have to leave for the semester,” Ruiz said.
Although traveling abroad is an important aspect, Ruiz said going on excursions was not one of the major reasons he applied to go abroad; rather, he is more excited to explore London.
According to the program lists, students in Lausanne and London will be unable to partake in any personal travel over the last week of the term due to finals. Students in Heidelberg will be able to travel through Germany but not internationally.
The U.S. Department of States’ travel advisory level is the main indicator of where students can visit, Laux said. Now, IP looks at both the travel advisory level and what determines this rating — whether it be vaccine rates or other safety concerns.
IP also pays attention to countries where students commonly travel abroad, Laux said.
“We feel pretty good about the list we have right now, but as we go into the spring, we’re aware that students may want a couple more options, and we’re going to do our best to try and accommodate that,” Laux said.
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