Why Do We Study Abroad?

by Brendon Cadmen '14

Over the past 20 years, the number of American students who study abroad has steadily risen, according to a report by the Institute of International Education.

Even though students often select a particular school based on the on-campus offerings, they also consider the learning opportunities available to explore the world off campus. At Azusa Pacific University, students can study abroad in China, South Africa, Sacramento, and a number of other destinations.

So what is it that motivates someone to pack up their bags all over again for a change of scenery? English major Bethany Wagner ’14, who studied at Azusa Pacific’s High Sierra campus, says she was intrigued by the opportunities provided by the program.

“It’s such a unique experience that you really can’t get on a normal college campus,” said Wagner. “Looking back at it now, it’s even more clear that I never could have formed the same type of relationships or had the same learning experience that I got while studying abroad.”

“When you think about it, that’s kind of what college is for; getting away from your comfort zone and learning in new ways,” said philosophy major Isaac Webb ’13, who participated in three separate study abroad semesters through APU. “You get to learn new cultures, which is pretty exciting.”

In many ways, college itself is a new culture that lies outside the comfort zone of most incoming students. However, new environments are quickly adapted to, life becomes routine, and study abroad semesters can serve as the perfect antidote to the ordinary.

“Even though we have a great learning environment here in Azusa, you can get lost in the crowd after a while,” said [accounting major] (/business/programs/accounting-major/) Katelyn Drury ’15. “I love that with [study abroad programs] and mission trips I’m able to be a part of a smaller, more close-knit group.”

Tom Dunn, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design, has taught ceramics courses at APU for over a decade, splitting his time between APU’s main campus in Azusa, and the High Sierra campus near Yosemite National Park. As someone who has helped facilitate the alternate learning environments presented by both campuses, he offers a unique perspective on the matter.

“I’ve discovered that nothing changes in our world unless a dreamer first imagines it differently,” said Dunn. “The High Sierra Semester, and other study abroad programs, form a setting where students in a small community can help protect APU from the ordinary... and imagine how they can change the world.”