London Program Director Heather Pardee smiles with her husband Cambry Pardee — who is also a Religion professor and spiritual life director for the program — and their daughter for a photo in London’s famous Hyde Park earlier this year. The Pardees had their first child, Hollis, while the city was in a COVID-19 lockdown. Photo courtesy of Kami Weddick
While all the International Program directors faced challenges due to COVID-19, London Program Director Heather Pardee also welcomed a baby girl in early May of this year.
Over the last several months, Pardee has prepared the London program house for students again, followed the news closely for COVID-19 updates and found ways to stay connected with friends and family since the program’s suspension in the spring — as well as expected for the arrival of Hollis Persephone Pardee.
“[Persephone is] associated with new life and the return of spring, and we felt like it was appropriate for this time and this season in life to take in this idea of bringing new life into our lives,” Pardee said.
COVID-19 Lockdown in England
A Seaver College and International Programs alumna herself, Pardee (2008) said she and her husband Cambry Pardee (2007), Religion professor and London program spiritual life director, have lived in London for over two years.
Students left London in the spring about one week before the U.K. went into lockdown March 23, Pardee said. Restaurants and businesses closed, and officials told residents to stay in their homes except when they go out to exercise, receive medical care or buy groceries.
“You couldn’t play any sports, but you could walk or cycle or jog, and it’s an urban environment, so that meant for most of us just going to the park for a short walk each day,” Pardee said.
Lockdown measures began to ease in England on June 1, allowing people to dine outside at restaurants and meet others while social distancing.
After warnings of a second wave of COVID-19 in the U.K. and an increased number of cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions in England, including a curfew on pubs and restaurants, Sept. 22.
Pardee said as of Sept. 21, the U.K. upgraded its alert level to level four out of five, with five meaning a complete lockdown; however, people may dine outdoors at restaurants as long as they provide the restaurant their information as part of the test and trace service.
“You can only meet in groups of up to six unless you’re from the same household,” Pardee said. “But there are still some things that are going on here that maybe are different in California — for example, children are still in their primary schools, so those schools are open, although they’ve got some special measures.”
Pardee said public transportation is also running; however, the upgrade encourages people to work from home if they can, which many citizens have elected to do.
“It’s changing day by day,” Pardee said. “What might have been similar a month ago isn’t always the same here.”
Pardee said London remains as beautiful as ever. She especially likes to enjoy the city by going to Hyde Park.
“Even if there are some things we can’t do, if we can’t go to the theater, there’s still a lot that we are enjoying with the parks and the scenery,” Pardee said. “We have a favorite theater that we go to called The Old Vic, and they’ve been doing online performances.”
Having a Baby and Building Relationships During Lockdown
Pardee said she and her husband were nervous about having a baby during lockdown, but everything went well and according to plan.
“We used the extra time at home to figure out how to be parents and get to know our baby and spend extra time together,” Pardee said. “So it’s been good to have that time as a family at home.”
Since the program’s suspension, Pardee said she came back to work from maternity leave and has been making an effort to stay connected with friends and family in London as well as back home in the United States.
“Whether that’s small groups online or attending meetings for area-wide study abroad programs or staying connected to other parents with new babies, I’m trying to find ways to still build relationships,” Pardee said.
Staff and Faculty
Some of the faculty in London teach remotely this semester, including Pardee’s husband Cambry. Pardee said there are normally many study abroad programs in London, and some of the Pepperdine London program professors would also teach at other American universities in the city; however, none are operating at the moment.
London program staff, including Associate Director Jenny Ryan, either work remotely or come into the office a limited amount, Pardee said.
“To keep ourselves safe, we’re mostly cycling into the office,” Pardee said.
The program’s faculty-in-residence for the 2021 academic year also remain in London.
“They were in London when lockdown started because they already have connections to the city,” Pardee said. “And so they’re living in the house anxiously awaiting, hoping they’ll get their students in the spring.”
A few program staff members are on furlough, including house staff, since there are no students in the house, Pardee said.
“The house feels empty without students in it,” Pardee said. “I was just at the Pepperdine house today just looking at the ping pong table in the back […] thinking, ‘I wish there were students who could be playing ping pong on that table right now.'”
Pardee said she misses the energy of the students going out and experiencing the city and then coming back to the house to swap stories.
Preparing for the Future
Pardee said the program staff have been busy preparing for students to come back, which includes adapting the London house — a Victorian building built in 1875 — and fitting classrooms according to regulations in both Malibu and London. The staff have also been looking at ways to adapt the program scheduling and education field trips to follow local guidelines.
“We’re absolutely preparing for next semester,” Pardee said. “That’s something we think about every day, and especially with things changing, we’re going to be following the situation closely.”
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