For many students, a semester abroad can only fit in a few places in their college schedule. When the pandemic canceled a year's worth of studying abroad opportunities, many students were left wondering if they would still be able to study abroad. While some students could defer their study abroad experience to a later date, many would no longer need the classes being taught during a full-semester abroad program once studying abroad resumed. As a way to provide these students with a study abroad opportunity, three short programs were developed and took place this month, before school started in Searcy. Students had the option of studying at HULA, HUF or HUG for a few weeks and took a Bible class, which counted as their fall semester of Bible. In other words, this was a class that all students would need, regardless if they were sophomores or seniors.
We want to thank the staff at HULA, HUF and HUG for working hard to make these additional programs possible for students who may not have been able to study abroad otherwise. For this month's newsletter, we asked a student from each of the three short August programs to write about their experience. Danielle DeBoef reflects on HULA, Abby Foust on HUF and Davis Burton on HUG. We hope you enjoy their thoughts below!
One last thing before we hand it over to the students for their reflections: We would also like to announce that Danielle joined the International Programs office this month as our new student worker. So please join us in welcoming her!
by Danielle DeBoef
In the spring of 2020, I made the decision to study abroad in Latin America for a semester the following year. Just as my friends and I began getting excited for the trip of our lifetime, the entire world got sent into lockdown. I held out hope that the spring of 2021 would still be a spring spent in Peru, but I was not surprised when that semester abroad trip got canceled. With the complexity of a college schedule and the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to all aspects of life, it seemed as though studying abroad was not in the cards for me.
While I was mourning the loss of the opportunity to study abroad in the spring of 2021, International Programs and the directors at the programs were working together to create an opportunity for students like me to study abroad for a shorter time in August. When the news of the August study abroad programs surfaced, I thought that it was too good to be true! With a lot of grace from my summer employers and some rearranging of my schedule, I was able to sign up for the shortened version of HULA or “SHULA” as my group lovingly called it. The trip that I so desperately was trying to go on, but thought would never happen, finally became a reality!
The SHULA group – a group of students I feel so honored to be a part of – spent three and a half weeks in Peru exploring one of the most beautiful and biodiverse countries in the world. Jeremy and Katie Daggett, the HULA directors, took us from the Amazon to the Andes all while garnering us with tools to be better travelers and better people who ask questions like, “Why travel?” and “What does it mean to be human?” We studied the ancient history of the Inca people at Machu Picchu, we embraced the culture of the people on the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca, we found a place that felt like home within the walls of Castillo in Arequipa, and in everything, we explored the mystery and the majesty of God.
The story of me getting to go on the SHULA trip is one of uncertainty – a story that is all too familiar to people around the world. It is also a story of hope and cooperative effort that resulted in a trip that allowed me to see the goodness of God both in the beauty of the nature He created and in the people I encountered. SHULA is the trip that shouldn’t have been, and the trip that I can’t imagine going without.
by Abby Foust
When I reflect on my time in Florence, Italy, memories begin flooding my mind. I’m reminded of the authentic Italian food we ate, and the immaculate architecture of the basilicas we saw. I can’t help but think of the views of olive groves and rolling hills at the villa, and our teatime at night where we discussed (between sips of our honey-loaded tea) our favorite parts of the day and learned more about each other. In our short two weeks, we grew in our knowledge of Italy, appreciation for another culture, and relationships with each other.
The iconic places we visited taught me about the history and artistry of Italy. For instance, I loved seeing the Duomo every day in Florence; it is an icon of Florence, and it served as a point of reference while finding our way around. The Duomo took hundreds of years to build, and parts of it still are not even completed. I gained an appreciation for ancient craftsmanship and the artists’ attention to detail. The Colosseum in Rome is also a blatantly obvious landmark, showing the culture of ancient Rome. Our tour guide Marisa told stories of the entertainment that took place there and where the different social classes would sit. I was amazed by the thousands of years of history represented by the landmarks, specifically the Duomo and the Colosseum.
Traveling to another country will always get me out of my comfort zone, and boy was I out of my comfort zone in Italy! I went knowing a total of one Italian word: ciao (and I actually didn’t even know how to spell it then). The language barrier posed an interesting juxtaposition for me: do I attempt speaking the few words I know in their beautiful language, inevitably butchering it? Or do I ethnocentrically expect them to communicate in English? Navigating in this tension made for some interesting interactions with baristas, waiters, and locals. The language of food was not nearly as high of a barrier, though. I lost track of how many cups and cones of gelato I consumed (coconut and lemon were my favorite flavors), and pesto pasta and margherita pizza are now my new favorite dishes. These cultural experiences, along with the musicians on every street and captivating art, reminded me of how small I actually am in a world so vastly different than the one I call home.
Our abroad group was a mixed bag, made up of twenty people in eight different social clubs and three different classifications. One of my favorite parts of this trip was getting to know each of them on a deeper level. HUF Directors Robbie and Mona gave us a taste of what it’s like to live like a local because they are locals. Ethan, the assistant director, went the second and third mile to make our experience fun, and our professor Mr. Darden (who we deemed “J Dog”) and his wife Mary took a genuine interest in us. Study abroad trips do a really good job of bringing people together, across cultures and through barriers.
The memories I have from my experience will stick with me for a very long time, and I could not be more grateful for the time we shared learning about Italy and other parts of the world, being submerged in another culture, and laughing through the streets of Italy with some of my newest—yet now closest—friends. I’m grateful to International Programs for making my abroad experience happen after other trips were canceled, and grateful that I’m now at Harding with a newly colored lens because of my experience at HUF.
by Davis Burton
This summer, I had the unexpected opportunity of a lifetime to travel across the world for Harding's HUG experience. Though visiting Greece in two weeks is a daunting task, the faculty there guided me and 16 other students through a one-of-a-kind Biblical journey: retracing the steps of the Apostle Paul's evangelism across the Greco-Roman world. It was nothing short of surreal to fit my feet into the shoes of ancient culture and explore the intersections of history, literature, Scripture, and mythology in each city along the way.
Naturally, the sites themselves are breathtaking. Standing before the colossal Parthenon in Athens, looking out over the sprawling metropolis of Thessaloniki, and climbing the lofty Acrocorinth each instilled a sense of awe at their sheer scale and craftsmanship. But the true impact of being present at these places is exactly what doesn't strike you on a postcard. Reading the theology within the icons of the cathedrals and monasteries, understanding the geological factors behind phenomena like the Oracle of Delphi, and being exposed to new foods and languages adds a very personal sense of wonder at the richness of culture and the way it shapes life from the smallest poem to the largest building.
Many people have the great fortune of similar experiences on vacations or honeymoons, but what sets HUG apart is the educational experience that takes place on-site, one that is rooted in the gospel of faith. Harding's Dean of Bible and Ministry, Dr. Monte Cox, accompanied the group to guide us through a deeper look at the influence of the gospel within a predominantly pagan culture. Likewise, our tour guide opened our eyes to the unique methods God used to plant seeds of the gospel within ancient history and mythology, giving insight behind many of the encounters found in Scripture. Allowing the classroom experience to be informed by our visits to the sites bridged the gap that too often exists between study and personal encounters.
Participating in this study abroad experience places the world of the New Testament in a new and fresh perspective, informing not only the context of Scripture but the unique function of the gospel in global cultures. I was fortunate to share this experience with fellow students, many of whom I knew only as strangers or acquaintances, but can now call my friends. Together we gained a more personal sense of the universal gospel as we followed the footsteps of Paul, worshipped in foreign languages with fellow believers, and witnessed the impact of Christianity shaping the world we live in today.
Banner photo of Machu Picchu by Jackson Samuel
All HULA section photos were provided by Danielle DeBoef
All HUF section photos were provided by Abby Foust
All HUG section photos were provided by Davis Burton
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