It wasn’t Alex Wolf’s first time to travel, but it was definitely her first time to call herself a resident of somewhere else on the globe, even if just for a little while.
While she was a student at Samford University, she completed a Jan term (held during the month of January) in London, and she says she got hooked on the world — its people, food, music, nature and art.
“Studying abroad in college allowed me to experience just how attainable and accessible international living — not just vacationing — could be,” said Wolf, whose father, Jay, is pastor of First Baptist Church, Montgomery.
It was a realization that led to even more purposeful things — after graduation, she moved back to England to work for two years with a nonprofit organization based there.
‘Opportunity to learn’
“Living within lots of different contexts and among many different kinds of people helped me understand that there are many beautiful, useful and valid ways to live,” Wolf said. “New people have so much to teach me, and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to learn.”
During this year’s Jan term, more Samford students obtained the opportunity to learn from the world too, studying in locations from Europe and the Middle East to Australia and the Caribbean island of Saba.
They’re part of the roughly 280 students who participate in the university’s 50-plus international study programs running all throughout the year.
Samford’s flagship program is its London program, where students like Wolf live and study at the Daniel House, a Samford-owned five-story home in the central part of the city.
For many students, it is life changing — like it was for Jonathan Robinson, who changed career paths and started his own company as a result of the experience.
“Not only do you experience a melting pot of cultures and meet new people, but studying abroad breaks down your pride and self-importance,” he said. “You begin to figure out what makes you unique and what you were created for.”
Doug Wilson, who serves as director of University of Mobile’s (UM) Global Engagement Office, said study abroad programs offer an opportunity to prepare for a future calling.
“Students who graduate with immersive cross-cultural training and experiences are well-equipped for the task of building bridges across cultural barriers for the sake of the gospel,” he said. “This prepares them for the growing diversity in the local and global marketplace, and it provides them the tools to engage effectively in marketplace ministry.”
At UM, students can participate in short-term trips or semester-long programs in locations around the world. They are offered the possibility of exchanges, study abroad, international recruiting, faculty-led study trips and international service opportunities.
Wilson said UM is committed to the Great Commandments, the Great Commission and a love for God and humanity. That love, he said, is “borne out by equipping Christian students to become Kingdom professionals serving within local churches and wherever God calls them to serve.”
Studying abroad prepares them for that, he said. And not only that — through intercultural coursework and experiential learning, students receive an immersive experience and “represent Christ and the university through music ensemble ministry, language-immersion travel, evangelistic missions, academic training and semester-abroad studies.”
Jessica Spafford, director of study abroad programs at Judson College, said she also sees study abroad opportunities as an occasion to grapple with real-world questions and discover new things in order to become more well-rounded people.
“Judson College is a small but vibrant community that embraces these ideals and works hard to offer opportunities to students through faculty-led programs and collaborations with outside partners, such as CAPA [The Global Education Network] or CCCU [Council for Christian Colleges and Universities],” she said.
This year, 24 Judson students will participate in the interdisciplinary study of art, music and religion while in Italy for two weeks. In the past, Judson students have studied in Thailand, Australia, England and several countries where Spanish is the national language.
Larissa Clachar, assistant professor of Spanish and head of Judson’s Spanish department, said language students especially benefit from study abroad programs.
“Finding themselves in a foreign country and being able to find their way around and live every day using another language is incredibly empowering,” Clachar said. “Study abroad allows them to be immersed not only in the language but also in the culture. That is such an enriching experience, and it helps them create connections and community.”
But all college students benefit from a study abroad experience, she said.
“Study abroad is a fabulous opportunity for all students because it is fun and exciting and stimulating,” Clachar said. “Study abroad changes their worldview and helps them get perspective.”