BJU will offer a record number of study abroad courses this summer after the previous year’s trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Dr. Jeremy Patterson, the director of the Office of Study Abroad & Study USA and chair of the Division of World Languages and Cultures, a study abroad course looks good on a resume.
“[In a survey] 80-something percent of companies said that they were looking for that kind of experience,” he said. “Now, across the board, companies are looking for what we call global fluency.”
Even though not every trip is oriented around culture and language like the French and Spanish courses, Patterson said the others will still develop students’ global fluency.
“So we really focus on intercultural competence across our disciplines,” he said. “If you’re in a business course or a music course, obviously, you do a lot of discipline-specific projects and activities while you’re abroad, but all of it also includes components of intercultural reflection and developing those skills across some cultures.”
Many students who were unable to take the study abroad courses last year due to COVID-19 have reapplied for one of the eight trips that will be offered in the summer of 2022.
Patterson is excited about resuming the program now that countries are opening their borders again. Travel restrictions vary among countries with some requiring the COVID-19 vaccine and others requiring proof of a negative test result.
Changseok Yi, a junior French major, was planning to enroll in one of the courses last summer, but COVID-19 ruined that plan. He hopes he has the chance to travel with the French study abroad trip to Paris this summer but is concerned about the ongoing pandemic.
“I hope to get benefits from knowing the French culture better and be more fluent in the French language,” he said.
Study abroad trips benefit students academically. BJU offers between three and six credits for the special courses. Patterson also said many students boost their GPA through taking a study abroad course.
“And this is not much more expensive than taking one or two online classes, but you’re getting a full experience, not just online,” he said.
Kenzie McGregor, a senior English major who focuses on creative writing, is planning to attend the communication study abroad trip to the United Kingdom, which will focus on the lives of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and Shakespeare.
“I feel like this would be a good way to really understand some of the giants of literature and how they wrote and communicated, how they impacted their friends, but also society,” she said.
Patterson believes finances are the biggest obstacle for students who want to take a study abroad. He recommended eligible students look into summer Pell Grants to help cover the cost of the courses.
For others, applying loans to a study abroad trip can help pay for it as well. Patterson recommended that students considering options to cover the cost of a study abroad course should visit the Financial Aid Office for assistance.
However, Patterson thinks a study abroad trip is still worth the cost. “No one ever regrets it,” he said. Patterson also said BJU offers less expensive trips than similar experiences at most universities. “And our prices—even though it’s still expensive—beat pretty much anything else you’ll see for study abroad at other universities,” he said. “We try to keep it as economical as possible.”
BJU officially launched the Office of Study Abroad & Study USA in 2019 under the Office of the Provost in collaboration with the Center for Global Opportunities. BJU had previously offered study abroad trips spearheaded by individual professors going back to the early 2000s, starting with a Spanish study abroad course. In 2019, however, the new office was formed to standardize the process and create an official budget.
Patterson stressed that study abroad courses are not meant to serve as a replacement for mission trips. “A mission team … has academic components, but it emphasizes the ministry component,” he said. “[With] study abroad, we have the spiritual component—we go to church, we incorporate biblical worldview in everything—but we emphasize the credits and the academic component.”
In the future, Patterson hopes to see more divisions add courses. “There’s extra training that I would like to give the faculty and the students,” he said.
A number of new trips will be offered this summer, including an art + design trip to Italy, a business trip to Portugal and a global health trip to Ghana. Further details about each of the courses can be found at bjucgo.com/studyabroad.html.