At the end of February, Buenos Aires participants making empanadas at Casa Holden. Participants said they are settling into their new homes and are exploring countries beyond just their host countries. Photo courtesy of Savanna Scott
Pepperdine’s abroad programs are returning to a sense of normalcy, with all programs able to travel outside of their host countries after two years of closure. Students followed restrictions to stay in their host countries because of COVID-19 until around February.
Students said the updated protocols make studying abroad an even more memorable experience. However, even with the difficulties the pandemic brings, the students abroad in the spring 2022 semester said they are enjoying their experience to the fullest.
“[It] has truly been a dream,” sophomore Florence participant Melanie Tadros said. “This truly has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so grateful that I took it.”
Housing and Travel Protocols
COVID protocols, as well as housing protocols, depend on the rules of the host country students are in, students said.
In the Buenos Aires, Argentina program, students said they do not have housing protocols. Instead, students live with host families rather than on a Pepperdine campus. However, travel is limited to Uruguay, Iguazu and Brazil, sophomore BA participant Savanna Scott said.
“I am having the literal time of my life,” Scott said. “Argentina and the BA program are so underrated. Like from the city atmosphere, to the campus, Casa Holden, to the nature, to the people — everything is magnificent.”
In the London program, housing protocols continue to fluctuate depending on the COVID cases in the U.K. and the COVID cases in the London house, sophomore London participant Jackson Buck said.
Students did not have to wear masks in the London house until the end of fall 2021, however masks are now a requirement in spring 2022 because there were a higher number of cases in the house, Buck said.
London students received a list of around 10 countries they are able to visit, Buck said.
“Traveling has been great,” Buck said. “I think it required a bit more effort than usual because of the carrying COVID rules for each country, so we have to pay extra attention to testing requirements, connecting in countries not on our pre-approved travel list and things of that nature.”
In the Florence program, Italy imposed a strict mask mandate at the beginning of spring 2022 which required people to wear masks indoors and outdoors, Tadros said.
In the Pepperdine Villa, students said they cannot use the kitchen and there are glass dividers in the dining area. Students had to acquire a “green pass,” which is a QR code which validates their vaccination status and allows them entry into every building in Europe. This helped them a lot with travel, Tadros said.
“We basically travel every single weekend because transportation is so easy here and have gone all around Italy to cities such as Rome, Cinque Terre, Venice, Pompeii, Sienna, Sorrento, and more, and out of the country such as to Ireland, Spain, France, and Monaco,” Tadros said.
In the Lausanne, Switzerland program, students have to wear masks inside, sophomore Lausanne participant Naomi Yoder said. This might change soon depending on Switzerland’s announcements, Yoder said.
In the first week of February, students said they received an approved list of where they can travel, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Greece and Austria, Yoder said.
Balancing of Education and Travel
COVID is not the only difficulty students said they are experiencing abroad. Some students said being in school and living abroad can be difficult to balance.
“It also has been important for me to remind myself of the fact that, ‘Yes, I am here for school and to continue my education,’ but so much of my education and learning comes from experiences,” Yoder said.
Students said they use their abroad experience to their advantage when it comes to learning and their education.
“In between class we get to go explore the city,” Scott said. “We are also really intertwined with the location, like I hangout with the locals probably just as much as I do with the kids from the school.”
Finding Enjoyment in the Little Things
Many students use words like “dream,” “time of my life” and “lifetime opportunity” to describe their abroad experience. However, many find enjoyment in the little things, which they said they were not expecting.
“Some things that have surprised me the most since being here is the fact that ranch doesn’t exist in Italy — so sad,” Tadros said. “Pizza doesn’t come in slices anywhere, they only sell whole pizzas, and when they say Italy is all about the pizza and pasta, it truly is the only diet that exists here.”
Yoder said she had a similar experience in Lausanne.
“Some of my favorite memories so far have just been spending Sundays going to church, singing worship songs in French, sitting outside a café with a warm blanket for hours talking to my friends, walking down by the lake to enjoy every bit of sun that we can have, riding trains for hours just to see the countryside, taking lunch breaks on train trips just to walk around cities, and so much more,” Yoder said.
Yoder said the little moments are what surprised her the most.
“I always thought of abroad as crazy experiences, but some of my favorite moments have surprised me by how much there is to enjoy in the simple. So, for any future abroad student, enjoy the simple,” Yoder said.
As this semester is approaching the end, many students said they dread coming back home from their abroad program.
“I’m having so much fun,” Scott said. “I keep pushing back my flight and I never want to come back.”
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