Sophomore Cassie Kinnear stands with other fall 2021 Lausanne program participants in the Swiss Alps. Kinnear said students in the program were limited to traveling within Switzerland for the first month of the semester before being cleared for international travel. Photo courtesy of Cassie Kinnear
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, going abroad was an opportunity 80% of Pepperdine students experienced. While many Waves go abroad for a full academic year or a summer, some choose a semester-long program.
Fall-only IP participants experienced how going abroad can impact their lives, and now must navigate the transition back to traditional on-campus life in Malibu.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the monotony of my classes and being back in a less foreign environment,” junior Avery Engleman said.
Engleman spent the fall semester in London, and said she enjoyed being in the city, especially because she didn’t grow up in an urban environment.
“We went to museums and my classes took me to all different parts of the city, and I really got a pretty cohesive understanding of the history and the different neighborhoods,” Engleman said.
Engleman learned how to navigate a city on her own while in London, and said she grew from that experience.
“I walked away from abroad a bit more independent and confident and just knowing that, OK, I’ll find my way back, whatever happens,” Engleman said.
Sophomore Sydney Jirsa also studied in London this past fall, and said she similarly became more independent through her travels around Europe.
“I definitely am very proud of my accomplishments in terms of traveling and just being on my own and being able to navigate being in foreign countries by myself,” Jirsa said.
While Jirsa and Engleman lived in London, sophomore Cassie Kinnear was in Lausanne. Kinnear said her favorite part of being abroad was the connections she made with the other students in her program.
“I could have traveled by myself or with my family, but being able to do it with everyone your age going through the same thing and being able to grow and learn how to make decisions and go through hardships together was probably my favorite part just because I learned a lot,” Kinnear said.
Living with a group of people during such a special and formative time creates strong bonds, Jirsa said, and saying goodbye to them can be difficult.
“Those people will always be in my life and I’m very thankful for the time we all had together,” Jirsa said. “It’s definitely very unique. I’ve never had an experience like that, but I’m very grateful for it.”
One of the biggest adjustments facing students returning to Malibu for the spring semester after being abroad is the change in COVID-19 protocols. In London, Engleman said, students didn’t have to wear masks in the house, in class or even on public transportation.
“Coming back here where we’re testing weekly, wearing our masks in class and all that stuff has been a little bit of an adjustment,” Engleman said.
Both Engleman and Kinnear said another big difference between being abroad and coming back to campus is their daily routines.
“In Lausanne, everything basically happens in the same house,” Kinnear said. “You wake up and you just go downstairs for breakfast and for class. You leave the house to go to dinner and other things, but everything is very central at the house.”
Leaving an environment where everything is in one place for one that requires more planning presents a challenge, Kinnear said.
“Literally things like walking to class and having to figure out the timing of when do I have to leave?” Kinnear said. “When am I going to get food? When do I have time to work on my homework? And then also still having social aspects, it’s kind of been difficult to just work out the timing and get the routine down, but I’m sure once I do that, it’ll be a lot easier.”
Jirsa said she lived on campus during the remote year, but feels this semester on campus will still be new and special after being in London, as she gets to go and experience everything Malibu has to offer.
“There are still things I need to see,” Jirsa said. “I also love LA. There’s so many things to do and see; they pretty much have everything, so I’m just excited to venture out and really become a local.”
In addition to her plans to explore Malibu, Jirsa said she’s excited for the academic experience being on campus provides.
“Having in-person classes, being able to meet the Malibu professors, that was something I was really looking forward to, and establishing relationships with my professors in that way,” Jirsa said.
Engleman was a first-year student when Pepperdine closed campus due to the pandemic in the spring of 2020, so this semester is her first on campus since then. She said she’s thrilled to finally be back.
“It’s been honestly really wonderful to run into people on campus again and see my professors,” Engleman said. “It’s just a breath of fresh air after being online for so long.”
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