Southern Nazarene University’s (SNU) study abroad program encourages students to push the boundaries of normal and dive into cultures that teach them about more than just academics. Students who study abroad are given the chance to explore the world to gain new and life-altering perspectives.
Eileen Ruger, professor of Missions and Director of the Center for Global Engagement at SNU, encourages students to step out of the places that they grew up in and explore new worldviews. The experience of studying abroad gives students the opportunity to “understand different cultural perspectives, have empathy for all people groups and learn about oneself in a way that one can’t experience from their own cultural viewpoint,” said Ruger.
Kaitlyn Williams, senior Politics and Law major at SNU, studied abroad in Florence, Italy for the Fall 2017 semester. Williams said, “I grew up in a traditional household in Kansas. I traveled some before I came to college, and every time I traveled, I was inspired to have new ideas, have new perspectives, have the desire to try new things.”
Although students may find it daunting to take on the process of applying and committing to studying abroad, the payoff is well worth it according to Williams. There are a lot of details involved, but she was confident that she was always meant to study abroad.
When students are given the chance to step out of their comfort zone, their perspectives are stretched drastically. In experiencing different cultures and people through studying abroad, students become more aware of what truly matters in the Kingdom. Williams said that it opened her eyes to the simple truth that, “We are all in this life thing together, even if we do it differently.”
According to Williams, the classes she took helped her to grow as a person just as much as they challenged her academically. In her Travel Writing course, she learned how to observe the world around her at a deeper level. And the Human Rights and International Criminal Justice course, taught by a professor who worked with the United Nations, inspired Williams to “pursue human rights in a legal way.”
With that being said, Williams does advise that students make sure they have both the means and support to take it on. “Make sure you do your research into it. You don’t want to get into something that you’re not prepared for,” said Williams.
She recommends that, if students are at all interested in studying abroad, that they communicate that desire to Williams, Ruger, or their advisor, who will all be more than willing to support students in their endeavors.
Both Ruger and Williams agree that students should sincerely consider a semester abroad, not only for the courses but also to learn from the people who grew up surrounded by cultures entirely different from our own.
SNU offers study abroad programs inside the country and internationally. Students can view the list and apply for study abroad at www.snu.edu/programs.
(Photos courtesy of Ben White on Unsplash and Kaitlyn Williams)