Centered around the Four Cornerstones of Azusa Pacific University’s foundation lies the heart of the Los Angeles Term program, an experiential learning semester that allows students to study, work, serve, and involve themselves in local issues in the urban center of downtown Los Angeles.
The program offers a unique course schedule – students take one class at a time while focusing on a nonprofit internship arranged by the program, and hands-on learning experiences throughout the community. Participants immerse themselves in local culture, getting to know the diverse community through experiences such as trips to a halfway house and Buddhist temple, and challenging their feelings toward those who may be different than them.
“L.A. Term allows students to approach learning in an unusual way. Rather than sitting in a classroom, students experience hands-on learning by going into the city and studying the problems that are affecting our world,” said Alicia Davalos ’16, global studies major and current L.A. Term student.
Traditionally geared towards students majoring in global studies, the program intentionally creates a challenging environment for those who hope to dramatically change their worldview and see urban culture through a different lens. “We show them the L.A. many people don’t see by interacting with shopkeepers, trying different food, and attending local events that wouldn’t necessarily be on Hollywood and Highland. We want to show them the everyday life and the everyday struggle. We want them to interact with other people and shatter their ideas of what L.A. is,” said Frank Romero-Crockett, associate director of L.A. Term.
Amy Davidson ’15, global studies major and fall 2013 L.A. Term student, worked with the nonprofit organization Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) during her semester in Los Angeles. “I worked directly with those suffering from slum housing conditions in South Los Angeles, helping them learn their rights as tenants so they couldn’t be abused by their landlords,” said Davidson. “Through this, I was able to help revitalize a community and see them take ownership of that community. I am thankful for an experience that taught me what it means to encourage change and promote justice.”
L.A. Term is radically different from life on Azusa Pacific’s campus and students must be willing to stretch the limits of their comfort zone. Whether embracing a new culture through a homestay with Los Angeles residents or visiting a church much different than their own, students encounter learning opportunities every step of the way.
“L.A. is a space where a lot of people try to be successful, fall down and get back up; some move out and some stay. But their faith, their career, and their community ride on these four months and how much they’re willing to explore and discover themselves,” said Romero-Crockett.
L.A. Term encourages self-conflict. In a culture that evokes a hardened heart, the process of living out personal faith and values can be challenging. Searching for answers to appease this self-conflict is the hope of the program. Students question their everyday normalcy as they expand their comfort zone in hopes of understanding the culture of Los Angeles. The question, “Why?” is common among L.A. Term participants. Students are encouraged to create a deeper understanding of who they are, what they believe, and who they want to be. “My goal is to see them understand the limits of who they are and what they will do for the rest of their lives based off that understanding,” said Romero-Crockett.
“I feel like I left the program with a sense of what it means to participate in change, and a greater understanding of what I want to pursue as a career. Rather than personal success, I see the greatest achievements in service and working closely with and caring for those who Christ has called us to care for,” Davidson said.