Experience the L.A. Term

by Daniel French '04

Recently, I stepped away from the Azusa campus to spend a semester experiencing APU's Los Angeles Term. In the L.A. Term, students take four classes: Urban Explorations, Urban Religious Movements, Community Organization and Social Change, and Human Diversity. In conjunction with these classes, each student works as an intern for a nonprofit organization of his/her choice and lives with a nearby family in L.A. These two aspects of the program coincide with the program’s pragmatic pedagogy by living, studying, working, and playing in in the City of Angels. There are few better ways to spend a semester.

In the Urban Explorations class, Richard Slimbach, Ph.D., introduces students to very important issues in the city. One of the most memorable experiences involved a trip to the Garment District, in downtown L.A., where students learn about the apparel industry and its corresponding sweatshops.

In the Urban Religious Movements class, students study a different religion each night. The following day they visit a place of worship that corresponds with the particular faith studied the evening before. Students are able to speak with one of its representatives. Although they study a wide variety of religions, each student eventually selects a focus religion to study in greater depth.

I chose the Greek Orthodox Christian Church on the corner of Pico and Normandie streets, in L.A. As part of this research project, I attended church services, interviewed both clergy and lay people, and even had dinner with the pastor. The study gave me a new perspective on various world religions and the way I approach religion in American society.

Also as part of the L.A. Term, I spent two days each week working as an intern at a public junior high school called the Los Angeles Leadership Academy which teaches students to be powerful and responsible leaders for the future. During my internship, I ran a typing class and observed how middle-school teachers interact with their students. Since I am considering a career in the teaching field, this internship allowed me to experience teaching firsthand.

Everybody in L.A. Term stays with a family that is usually of a different ethnicity than the student. I had the pleasure of living with the Trotmans, a wonderful family from Barbados. They invited me in and made me part of their family. We spent lots of time together eating, watching movies, talking, and going to church. In staying with them, I became attached to L.A. I became a resident, not just a visitor.

The things I learned about and experienced during L.A. Term had a profound effect on me. It was a gallery of priceless experiences that will forever tug at my heart.