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Study abroad groups anticipate new semester

Friday, September 7, 2007  
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By Tracy Corcoran

While most Oklahoma Christian University students are adjusting to new class schedules, 61 Oklahoma Christian students, participating in semester long study abroad programs to Vienna or the Pacific Rim, are adjusting to new cultures.

Associate Professor of Music, Heath Jones, is traveling with the group of 29 students to the Pacific Rim. Jones is hoping this trip will strengthen his spiritual life and bring him closer to the students he never gets to see at Oklahoma Christian.

“I think I’ll get a great amount of education through seeing the world. I hope that I also grow closer to God through this trip. It gives me a chance to be around a lot of other students. I’m usually around music students and these are students of all different majors,” Jones said.

David Waldo, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is traveling with the 32 students that are living in Vienna this semester. Waldo is looking forward to learning about people from other cultures as well as the students he is traveling with.

“I am hoping to learn a lot while on this trip. I hope to learn about the languages, the religions, and the people in the countries I will be visiting. I am sure I will learn a lot about students. Hopefully I will be able to relate to and understand students better,” Waldo said.

The students prepared all summer for their trips across the globe. Whether raising money, completing homework, or mentally preparing to leave friends and family, the students lead busy lives over the past few months. Junior, Justin Neill, has been preparing for the Pacific Rim trip since last spring.

“I am doing the mission work that is offered while on the trip, so I sent out letters at the beginning of the summer to raise money for that part of the trip,” Neill said.

“Last spring we had a retreat where we got the information we needed about going, and then we also had classes. During the summer I did a majority of my homework so that I wouldn’t have too much to do on the trip.”

The Vienna and Pacific Rim study programs offer an appreciation of history and knowledge in adjusting to unfamiliar situations. For sophomore, Erin Solvie, that means depending on God in a completely different way while experiencing European culture on the Vienna trip.

“This trip is going to give me a completely different outlook on life and other people,” Solvie said. “I’m actually planning to try a bunch of different types of churches over there because church is such a huge part of European culture. I know that this will help me to depend on God in a more extreme way than I have ever had to.”

The program not only offers knowledge about other cultures, but also incorporates mission work into the semester. The Vienna students will be doing mission work in Chemnitz, Germany, and Croatia. Pacific Rim students will be doing mission work in China and Japan and encouraging the Christians in New Zealand as well as Australia.

“We’re going to be mainly planting seeds or encouraging,” Jones said. “We’ll be spending time with the missionaries and doing whatever we can do to help them and encourage the Christians over there by letting them know they aren’t alone. We are also going to be doing a lot of personal study and devotionals.”

The opportunity to actually see places of historical significance is one of the more attractive to Solvie.

“The type of learning style that we are being given is completely different than [that] of the classroom,” Solvie said. “Instead of having all these assignments that I have to do, I have willingly studied for hours a day to get a better idea of where I want to go.”

While both programs have many excited participants, many students are still nervous.

Junior Beth Hewitt is most worried about not being able to communicate with others while in Japan and China.

“I’m nervous about language barriers because I know a lot of times people get frustrated if you can’t communicate,” Hewitt said. “I’m also nervous I’ll get too tired to see what I want to see and think I can do it later even when I can’t.”

The number one thing students expressed they would like to get out of their trips is an understanding and acceptance of cultures unlike their own.

Neill is ready to “escape the bubble” of Oklahoma Christian and America.

“We are trapped by two bubbles here at OC. First, the OC bubble. We get wrapped up in school and homework and clubs and everything else, and we seem to forget that we have a whole other world outside of OC,” Neill said.

“The second is Americanism. Our society tends to think we have all the answers and everyone else is doing it, (whatever it may be), wrong. I am excited to see ‘how the other half lives.’”

Both groups of travelers will be returning to campus in December. 

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