Summer study abroad trips see student lag

Feb. 22, 2012
Brittany Reading

Some study abroad summer programs have seen a significant decrease in participation, which has been attributed to a sluggish economy.

Though the numbers are low, Bill Stevenson, director of international admissions, is not concerned, but is instead optimistic about the future of the programs and their impact on students.

Five summer study programs, including Jordan, Germany and Ireland, continue to thrive, whereas German art studies and Italian studies programs were cancelled due to a lack of participation.

Stevenson believes the current state of the economy plays a major role in a family’s decision to invest in a study abroad program for their student.

“Families are being cautious with their money but I suspect our programs will rebound strongly once the economy stabilizes,” he explained.

Though financial aid does not cover summer study abroad programs, Stevenson argues the benefits from such an experience are an investment relationally, professionally and academically.

According to Stevenson, approximately 120 students study abroad during the summer and have a unique opportunity to not only learn more about themselves and the world but more importantly, their relationship with God.

“You become increasingly dependent on a holy God when you are outside of your cultural comfort zone,” he said.

It is the interactions with locals in the town market or on the train that helps students develop a competency of the culture they will bask in for a month.

Biblical studies professor Robbie Castleman leads the German Studies Program and emphasizes the importance of “place as text” as students will live in the heart of Reformation history and see the very places they read in textbooks.

During their studies, students will pray together at a Concentration camp as they read Eli Wiesels, “Night,” sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” in the church were it was first sung and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit at the Basilica on Pentecost Sunday.

Castleman and Tim Dinger, director of student counseling, will lead a team of 17 students during the trip as they participate in history itself and dive into German culture.

“Students usually only see me in the classroom but during the trip, I pop popcorn and sit on the girls’ beds and just talk about life,” she said. “It’s amazing to have a month of mentoring students intimately.”

As Stevenson debriefs students after study abroad trips, he recognizes just how different they become after the trip.

“The majority come back saying, ‘This experience has changed the way I live my life,’” he said.

“I’m so glad for the trip because it just forces you, in a good way, to connect with people and forge friendships,” said senior Jordan Rowe who studied abroad in Ireland last summer.

Stevenson believes many benefits of the program includes gaining a better understanding of yourself, the world and God as well as making you more marketable to future employers, developing global awareness and engaging in a fun academic experience.

“Studying abroad allows you to function within the United States more effectively as you encounter various cultures and have a developed competence of such cultures,” he explained.

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