Whether studying communication or art, French or history, business or health, the BJU study abroad program offers opportunities for students to experience new cultures, learn about their passion hands-on and expose themselves to the vastness of the world.
BJU alternates each summer among various study abroad programs. This upcoming summer, BJU is hosting nine trips, an increase because of COVID-19 cancellations last summer. The Office of BJU Study Abroad offers courses in communication, business, art, French, health, science, history, music and Spanish.
The Office of BJU Study Abroad and Study USA has been an official department for two years. Dr. Jeremy Patterson, the chair of the Division of World Languages and Cultures, is the director of BJU Study Abroad and Study USA. Under Patterson’s leadership and with the help of many faculty members, the program continues to grow. Faculty members Dr. Amos Kasperek and Dr. Paul Radford and retired faculty member Marcy Wolsieffer are considered some of the pioneers of the BJU Study Abroad program.
Students sometimes have doubts about studying abroad, wondering why it is important or if it is worth it. “The biggest benefit of [studying abroad] from my perspective is intercultural development,” Patterson said. While abroad, students are constantly exposed to different practices and traditions. “It’s human nature to react negatively to difference, and as Christians specifically, that is not the reaction we want to have,” Patterson said. “There is always commonality because we are humans. We are all made in God’s image.”
At BJU, Patterson said the professors and faculty want to intentionally train students to suspend judgment before trying to evaluate difference. “[Studying abroad] gives you a whole new perspective on whatever your academic studies involve,” Patterson said. “[It] allows you to see things that you only really talk about in a classroom.”
Julie Estelle, a senior international studies major with a French minor, said, “Being able to study your topic in the culture it originated from is so invaluable.” Estelle went to Paris with Dr. Patterson on the BJU French program in 2018. The group studied French history, architecture and culture.
One of Estelle’s favorite memories was a day trip to Normandy. Estelle said, “I was able to go outside of Paris with three of my classmates to Normandy on D-Day. That was something that I will never forget.” If students get the chance, Estelle recommends studying abroad because it helps you experience the adventure of knowing and interacting with what you’re learning.”
Estelle said Dr. Patterson emphasized spending time in the culture and in fellowship as vital to the study abroad trip. Homework and classroom time varied by week, but Estelle said Patterson evenly balanced academics with experience.
One of the challenges for Estelle was trying to connect with her group. Because the group had to speak in French, Estelle said trying to express herself was challenging. “That was probably one of the hardest things about the trip for me,” Estelle said. But at the end of the trip, Estelle could confidently say, “We really became a family.”
Studying abroad is not just about the academics. Patterson said it allows students to see the breadth of Christian experience because we are very different around the world. For example, while on Dr. Patterson’s trip to Paris, the students are serving one local church. They attend all of the services of a local French Protestant church, providing testimonies and serving in ministries.
The biggest current concern for the study abroad program is the continuing effects of COVID-19. Patterson said, “The sort of thing we’re anticipating is that they may require certain vaccines or testing before, during or after travels,” Patterson said. If students want to study abroad this next summer, they must be willing to submit to whatever the government requires of them. “It won’t be our decision; it will be the European Union’s,” Patterson said.
As the Study Abroad program continues to grow, the BJU community is excited to build new opportunities for students and watch them thrive in their field.