Pepperdine’s International Program students will be back in London, England, this fall to see sites like the London Eye, as photographed in September 2019. Pepperdine’s London program has not hosted students since spring 2020 and reopens fall 2021 for in-person classes. Photo courtesy of Pari Cribbins
Four Pepperdine International Programs — located in Lausanne, London, Heidelberg and Washington, D.C. — will run fall 2021 in a COVID-19 safe, modified manner based on local restrictions. Despite changes to the programs, students and staff express hope for the abroad experience and the return of IP.
Pepperdine’s IP office announced in a July 9 email these programs will all open for in-person classes on their original start dates in early September. Participating staff, faculty and students have prepared carefully for these programs to facilitate successful openings, and there is enthusiasm about the re-opening of IP this fall at several locations.
“Now is the time to start getting excited,” Executive Director of International Programs Beth Laux said. “This has been a time of high stress for students. We’ve experienced that ourselves and IP in the last 18 months, and we are really, really excited to be able to move forward.”
These re-openings come after Pepperdine’s decision in June to suspend two International Programs for the fall semester. Both the Buenos Aires program and Florence program will not run for fall 2021 but may reopen for spring 2022.
“Planning and preparation is really complex this year,” Laux said. “Each of our host countries and host cities has a different set of guidelines and regulations related to the pandemic, and we had to navigate all those nuances.”
Host governments made reinvigorating IP possible by loosening some of their previous pandemic restrictions, such as Switzerland permitting larger group gatherings if participants have COVID certificates.
“Everything in Switzerland is opening up on schedule, so it looks certain that students will depart on time and all classes will be in person from day one,” Lausanne Director Ezra Plank wrote in a June 22 email.
Nicholas Zola, faculty in residence for Lausanne fall 2021, said he is confident the Lausanne program will run this fall but added there may be travel restrictions placed on program participants leaving Switzerland to explore Europe. He already builds community with the fall program students through monthly Zoom meetings featuring social activities.
London Director Heather Pardee also wrote in an Aug. 5 email she believes students will have a valuable experience, and staff will adjust aspects of IP to accommodate pandemic constraints.
“We expect some things to be different, but we are also confident that studying abroad in London this fall will be the amazing, life-changing experience it has been for generations of Pepperdine students,” Pardee wrote. “London has so much to offer, and we think our students will have a wonderful experience exploring this city, even with some social distancing measures still in place.”
Heidelberg Director Daniel Daugherty wrote in an Aug. 6 email that the location would have some new COVID-19 policies in place such as travel restrictions. Due to pandemic considerations, students will be housed in a maximum of two students per room instead of the traditional three-to-four-student room configurations.
“Students who come to Heidelberg this fall will be pioneers of sorts, living a unique adventure, which will enhance everyone’s sense of purpose and solidarity with one another,” Daugherty wrote.
Unlike the Heidelberg Moore Haus location, which sat empty for more than a year, the Washington, D.C., program hosted students for an eight-week summer session, and it plans to continue in the same manner for the fall.
“Overall, the program experience remains much the same — students live and study together, and they are able to enjoy internships as well as city life, with museums, restaurants and other venues open,” D.C. Director Brian Swarts wrote in an Aug. 5 email.
Since some Washington, D.C., internships are only in person part-time or fully remote due to pandemic limitations, the program this fall opens a new co-working space on its campus, complete with snacks and coffee for students to work together in a professional setting, Swarts wrote.
Participating D.C. students will be expected to comply with the city’s new mask mandate. Some rules, such as masking, outside travel restrictions and quarantine rules, will be different than in previous pre-pandemic years at some locations, and IP will require students to comply with the new program guidelines of their host regions, Laux said.
Laux said the IP office will also expect students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and obey the rules of the host locations completely.
Despite changes to the IP experience, junior Autumn Johnson said she still plans to attend the Heidelberg program this fall.
“I knew that was something I wanted to make happen in any way I could,” Johnson said. “Committing to it was like, ‘There’s no other option for me, because it’s my last year to do it.'”
IP students need flexibility because changing pandemic conditions in host countries could still potentially impact aspects of IP programs, Laux said.
“If we’ve learned anything in the pandemic, it’s that nothing is ever final until it happens,” Laux said in a June 11 interview. “We have a lot more clarity today than we did six weeks ago, in terms of what our host governments are going to do and what they’re planning to do and what we can expect. If the virus takes a turn on us, however, we will have to adapt or adjust.”
The IP office expects classes to be in person this fall at the aforementioned abroad locations. Students still might have to take some classes online if local public health authorities demand classroom closures, but Laux does not anticipate that situation will happen this fall.
Johnson said she accepts the risk that she might have to do some online classes as part of the program this fall. For Johnson, the potential reward of studying overseas is worth the risk of having part of her semester conducted online.
Laux said, in her opinion, the remaining fall programs are unlikely to see a repeat of the 2020 pandemic closings.
“It would have to be a very extreme situation for us to evacuate programs again,” Laux said.
Zola said he believes the international programs this year are going to be a notable experience regardless of the additional COVID-19 constraints.
“We will be coming from this last year of isolation, and we will be coming together into this new community that will heighten our bond more than perhaps any other year,” Zola said. “And so in that sense, it’ll be even more special than in years past.”
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