The Importance of Study Abroad

Visiting the world beyond the U.S. can be an exciting experience; however, preparing to travel the vast expanses of the globe can seem overwhelming. John Brown University understands that college is the perfect place to try new things, meet new people and visit new places. Because of this, JBU offers students the opportunity to study abroad in many countries across the globe.

William “Billy” Stevenson is the head of the International Relations Office and heads the Ireland study abroad program. “Why not study abroad? There is a world at our doorstep that God has created for us to enjoy, explore, appreciate,” said Stevenson. “There are people that will make up the kingdom of Heaven, and I think we should not wait to get to know them. There are many other reasons why; there [are] simply too many great things waiting for us once we leave the beautiful shores of the United States.”

Dave Vila, a professor in JBU’s Department of Biblical Studies, heads the Jordan Summer Studies Program, as well as the Bible Lands Study Trip. Vila suggests that, since Jesus told the disciples to “go into all the world,” that is precisely what we should do. “The more we experience God’s world, the more we have to love Him with – experiences, sights, sounds, smells; all for which we can give God praise and thanks. And, of course, to better prepare ourselves to be agents of redemption in a world that is ever-shrinking.”

Vila shares some important wisdom regarding studying abroad. “Although I know that many students think that they are super busy and couldn’t fit one more thing into their schedule, the fact is that students will never have more time to do this sort of thing than they do now. When they graduate and get jobs and get married and start families, the opportunities to travel and see God’s world are much diminished.”

It is important to realize the dangers of studying abroad. Thankfully, JBU embraces these qualms in stride. Stevenson notes, “JBU works hard to reduce as many of the risk factors as possible. There will always be risk, just stepping outside you front door carries risk, but we work hard to minimize risk and provide safe and secure opportunities for our faculty and students.” Vila also offers some packing advice for students: “The most important necessities are not things but attitudes—patience, openness, flexibility, humility and perseverance.”

For Stevenson, one of the most fulfilling aspects of studying abroad is that it allows for an expansion of students’ interactions on the global scale, affecting students’ perspectives more directly than simply learning about the world from afar. “Any extended international travel is so enriching (spiritually, socially, emotionally, mentally, professionally and more) that one cannot help but be changed in the process. You look at the world differently, you experience God from a different perspective and you get to hold your own passport, a ticket to the whole world!”

Regarding the programs JBU has to offer, Stevenson states that study abroad programs affected by COVID-19  are slowly re-opening, but there are still several locations for students to choose from, including Jordan, Ireland, Oxford, Ecuador, Switzerland and Uganda.

For those considering studying abroad, JBU is prepared to offer a trip of a lifetime. The world is open to students of all majors. “In the long run, study abroad is an important investment in your future; your understanding of the world is strengthened and expanded,” Vila said.

Graphic by Jeffrey Hernández/The Threefold Advocate