Students filed into PLNU’s Liberty Station conference room to attend the Lessons From Abroad Returnee Conference Saturday, Feb. 21. With a majority of PLNU students, a total of over 170 students congregated from Southern California schools such as San Diego State University, Vanguard, Cal Lutheran, University of San Diego, Azusa Pacific, UC San Diego and UC Riverside.
After registration, a photo contest, a light breakfast and a brief opportunity to mingle with internationally-focused organizations and programs, students took their seats at tables identified by popular study abroad locations across the globe. The conference kicked off with an introduction by the conference chairs, Alison Droster, the studies abroad advisor at USD, and PLNU’s very own Study Abroad Adviser, Karen Eisenhut.
SDSU’s study abroad advisor and emcee of the event, Ine Williams, spoke of the value of study abroad and the significance of attending the conference in order to continue connecting students’ time abroad and working toward their futures with a global perspective.
Williams then welcomed keynote speaker Derek Chinn to the podium.
After moving to Tijuana, Mexico in 2007, Chinn founded Turista Libre, a company that offers day trips to “destigmatize the border city” by delivering passengers to local attractions via the company’s signature school bus — which also provides the company logo. Living in the city as a local, Chinn wanted to reverse the U.S. media’s negative portrayal of what the city really offers, claiming “it’s one of the most misunderstood cities in the world.”
Chinn shared highlights from his blog, entertaining students with videos, photos and stories such as the time he was arrested on Halloween for wearing a gold-sequin cocktail dress, fake mustache and luchador mask (He was ultimately released on bail for $28).
After being transformed by his time studying abroad in Japan, Chinn said he didn’t want to live a boring life and simply connect with his international experiences through memory; he wanted to continue living as fully as possible and add to his international story.
“I’ve always been fascinated with what’s beyond the backyard,” Chinn said.
That’s why Chinn was invited to speak at the Lessons From Abroad Returnee Conference: to provide students with an example of how they can continue utilizing their international experiences and goals.
Students then chose from a total of 12 sessions to attend that covered such topics as careers that allow travel, teaching abroad, international graduate school programs or workshops to showcase their experience abroad in resumes, cover letters and interviews.
Wes Turner, who studies business administration and entrepreneurship at PLNU, took part in Lessons From Abroad after studying abroad in San José, Costa Rica in the spring of 2014.
“The most valuable session for me covered the opportunities to teach abroad in the future and utilize the skills I acquired through study abroad,” Turner said.
With a chance to participate in breakout sessions of their own choosing, Turner and other students enjoyed learning of the many different routes to return abroad and expand their skills and experiences from their previous journeys.
“I was excited to connect with other students and professionals who share the same passions as I do,” Turner said. “It made me realize I was part of a community that really valued the impacts of studying abroad.”