Imagine savoring a croissant under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower as part of your class time, attending a theatre festival in South Africa where you learn about apartheid through the plays of local writers, or watching TV with a host family in Uganda.
Moments like these are a regular part of study abroad trips that Seattle Pacific University students take each year. For the same cost as an academic quarter at SPU, students experience another culture, see the globe from a new perspective, and appreciate the world beyond their own borders.
It’s essential exposure for tomorrow’s leaders in these increasingly interdependent times.
Each year, 20–40 SPU students participate in BestSemester programs, which are off-campus programs offered by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). During Autumn Quarter 2009, students participated in programs in such areas as Australia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Uganda.
SPU senior Joy McCracken was one of the participants in the BestSemester’s Uganda Studies program. As she discovered, study abroad creates opportunities for students to learn about other cultures — through the lives of people in those cultures.
And it even helps students learn about themselves. For McCracken, Uganda was a trip that changed her educational journey. After returning to SPU Winter Quarter 2010, she decided to pursue a self-designed major in spiritual mentoring. Here she shares a few insights from her time overseas:
What was it like to be with 20 students from various CCCU institutions?
It was one of the best parts of the semester. I can’t say enough about how much my life was blessed through their friendship. The program in Uganda seems to attract students who are honestly searching for purpose and meaning in life and who are asking honest and tough questions about life and faith. Living and learning with these students for four months bonded us together in a way I am not sure you would find anywhere else. We became a family for each other, and in that atmosphere I was able to be exactly who I am; good and bad, ugly and beautiful.
What is something you learned that you didn’t expect?
In our semester together, I caught a glimpse of what the body of Christ was intended to be — in the unique ways we were each able to contribute to our community and the beautiful ways we could love and support each other. [This came] through ordering brownies for birthdays, sitting with someone in stillness when they were in pain, freely being goofy and silly, and always holding each other’s heart in the highest regard and care.
What was a highlight of your time studying abroad?
One significant experience happened when I was at home with my Ugandan family. My Ugandan dad and I were watching TV together when one of his friends, a fellow pastor in the area, stopped by. My dad introduced me as his daughter, Joy, and we shook hands and greeted each other. It was normal for him to introduce me as his daughter, but this time I actually realized that he wasn't just saying that, he meant it. It took me a while to realize that the families in the program who had students living with them care about the students coming to live in Uganda for a semester.