Home is a flexible term. Where we live our life, where stories are made, a little piece of the heart takes root in foreign soil. Suddenly, the unknown is the familiar and yearned for, just as the body must return while the soul longs to stay.
Travelers have a story to tell, a longing to express how they’ve changed yet knowing the impossibility of that demand. Stories are the spout to relieve pressure; stories are the kindle that sustains the passion.
On Feb. 22, more than 180 students, the largest number in the conference’s history, registered to attend Lessons from Abroad, some coming from universities as far north as Orange County. PLNU sent 19 students to this year’s conference, with students bringing stories from South America, Europe, Africa and voyages crossing the globe.
Lessons from Abroad was established by PLNU, University of California-San Diego (UCSD), University of San Diego (USD) and San Diego State University (SDSU) six years ago, with PLNU hosting the conference in its first two years. This year, University of San Diego’s International Center volunteered to host for the first time.
During the seven-hour event, various programs hosted booths informing students on opportunities to intern, teach and study abroad.
One of the PLNU attendees was junior Savannah Lee, who studied in London in fall 2012. Lee is a student assistant for the study abroad office, and plans to study in Belgium next fall. She then plans to teach English in Asia.
“Just being here makes me really excited for the options that are out there and making it feel like it’s more of a reality, not just a dream,” said Lee.
Frank Serna, PLNU’s director of Study Abroad, acted at the discussion moderator and initiated the welcome portion of the event, explaining how valuable the study abroad experience is for future jobs and one’s global perspective. He introduced the keynote speaker, Aaron Bruce, the chief diversity officer at San Diego State University.
He relayed stories from his travels abroad, including a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico when he was a student. He won a million pesos, dancing on a hip-hop dance show.
“This was when the running man was popular,” said Bruce. “Sometimes we do things abroad that we would never do in the States, right?”
To study abroad and collect stories unique to oversea studies is an urge that resonates with PLNU students.
“It’s still a relatively small percentage of the total U.S. student population studying abroad,” said Serna. “It hovers around 2 percent each year, and about 10 percent, by the time they’ve graduated, have studied abroad. At Point Loma, it’s actually around 30 to 33 percent of students, by the time they graduate, have done some sort of study abroad.”
Students were given the time to network with each other and listen to speakers discuss options for graduate schools, English teaching certificates and opportunities to volunteer and intern abroad. Students could choose to attend one of three seminars held concurrently during Breakout Sessions held three times throughout the course of the conference.
One of the seminars in Breakout Session I taught students how to incorporate their study abroad experience into their resumes and cover letters.
“It’s very helpful to build a resume reflecting your study abroad experience,” said SDSU senior Joey Capparilli, who studied in the Netherlands.
The four universities started Lessons from Abroad to build a larger network of resources for students to utilize after they return from their study abroad experience.
“We’re not just there to send you abroad, we’re there for you when you return,” said Karen Eisenhut, PLNU’s Study Abroad advisor.
Another seminar in Breakout Session II showed students how to live an internationally focused life.
“It taught you how to incorporate your study abroad experience into your life,” said SDSU senior Jarae Page, who studied in the Netherlands. “It didn’t necessarily focus on what you should do as a career or where you should go next, but just how to appreciate your experience.”
The conference encouraged students to continue to share and incorporate their experiences, never forgetting the past while looking into the future.
“Studying abroad shouldn’t be an isolated experience; it should be something that you maximize for the rest of your life,” said Andra Jacques, PLNU’s Study Abroad coordinator.