The wall of the International Programs office is decorated with a map of the world that pinpoints the locations of the programs. Pepperdine offers a multitude of programs across the globe and encourages students to take advantage of these opportunities to travel and learn. Photo by Yamillah Hurtado
Summer is a time for leisure, relaxation and exploration. For Pepperdine students, the University also offers the opportunity to study abroad.
The University encourages its students to participate in at least one of its International Programs during their college career. `Pepperdine offers General Education, upper division and faculty-led programs in nine different countries. This summer, students chose to travel internationally to Argentina, England, Fiji, Italy, Germany, Jordan, Scotland, Switzerland or Uganda, or domestically in Washington D.C.
The International Programs office expects to host around 350 students on abroad trips this summer, Dean of International Programs Beth Laux wrote in an email to the Graphic.
“I would definitely recommend traveling abroad over the summer if you can,” said sophomore Sofia Thure, who will be studying abroad in Florence. “Definitely take that opportunity because Pepperdine has such an amazing abroad program and has a lot of different countries you can travel to.”
After almost three years of canceled programs, students said they are thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to study abroad this summer.
Still, COVID-19’s global persistence has led IP to suspend one program and alter another.
“COVID-19 challenges continue to impact international communities,” Laux wrote. “By embracing ambiguity and being flexible, students can take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
This summer, the University was set to host a program in Japan for the first time. The Japan program was to be the only one within Asia, replacing the Shanghai, China program — which the University canceled this past year. However, the International Programs office announced the suspension of the Japan summer program due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on Feb. 25, Laux wrote.
This decision devastated many students like sophomore Megan Elias in the program.
The Japan program’s suspension was upsetting to Elias because it was the only program being offered within Asia.
“When it comes to Asian studies, and when it comes to further exploration of that, it’s definitely discouraging that Shanghai got canceled and Japan was suspended,” Elias said. “But I really am very passionate about more Asian countries and abroad programs. I think it’s so important as there is a vast Asian population here on campus that we can provide those opportunities for Asian and Asian American students to go and study abroad in a country where they can feel connected to.”
The Florence GE summer program saw some changes as well due to COVID-19 restrictions. The program was split into two groups to accommodate the Italian government’s strict traveling restrictions, Laux wrote.
“Dividing the 8-week program into two, 4-week experiences allowed all students who signed a contract for the Florence program to have an opportunity to study abroad in Florence this summer,” Laux wrote.
For students like Thure, who were looking forward to spending two months in Italy, this change was disappointing.
Nonetheless, Thure said her excitement remains the same and is grateful to still be able to go on the trip despite travel restrictions. She said because the group she’s going with is a lot smaller, it gives her more of an opportunity to make deeper connections with people.
Being part Italian on her mother’s side, Thure said she looks forward to learning about her own culture, getting to eat delicious food, seeing beautiful art and architecture, practicing her Italian and exploring all the country has to offer.
Thure also said she is eager to be a “stranger in a new land.”
“Going to Florence was the perfect opportunity for me to get out of this bubble and to explore the world in an educational way,” Thure said.
One challenge students said they are expecting is the language barrier. For sophomore Chloe Norton, being a part of the Buenos Aires upper division program, solely speaking Spanish is a requirement and is something that is nerve-wracking for her.
Despite this, Norton said she is up for the challenge and knows it will only benefit her in the end. Norton said she expects to also experience culture shock while in Argentina, but feels confident she will adapt.
“I just enjoy learning about different cultures and I have learned a lot already about how cultures are different from my own and how to navigate that,” Norton said.
Only being allowed to speak Spanish and living in a homestay are some of the reasons Norton said she applied to the BA program in the first place. Norton said she wanted to be in a program that provided a homestay so she could feel like a local in a foreign country.
“One thing [my old Spanish teacher] said is unless you’re doing a homestay, you’re not truly going to experience the country for what it is,” Norton said.
Norton has only ever been to Mexico and said she is excited to explore what Argentina has to offer.
“There’s a lot to discover and I’m excited to do that with my friends and with people my age,” Norton said. “Not in a vacation sense but like ‘Oh, I’m living here for a time.’ It’s a little bit more adventurous and a little bit more like you’re in it.”
As students prepare for their time abroad, the International Programs office encourages them to continue to do their research on their designated programs and plan ahead.
“IP programs strive to help students develop global competence and cultural humility,” Laux wrote. “Through open-mindedness, curiosity and a willingness to be a part of a community, IP students can develop both of these critical skills and learn valuable lessons about themselves in the world.”
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