Students develop global knowledge through nationally ranked programs.
Published March 26, 2015 in The Clarion.
Birds skittered across the cobblestone streets, picking seeds and remnants of last night’s tapas from the stony crevices. Brushing a few drops of dew from her sneakers, Allison Yaeger allowed a brief smile to flit across her face as she passed her favorite landmark on her morning run.
Towering far above her head was the 800-year-old castle where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain commissioned Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. Although three years have passed since Yaeger first beheld its rugged battlements and deep blue parapets, she still remembers the feelings of awe and giddiness they elicited.
Now a 2013 Bethel graduate, Yaeger is part of the 65 percent of Bethel students who have given their resumes an extra shine by living overseas during the course of their undergraduate careers.
“Living in another country forces you out of your comfort zone in beautiful ways,” Yaeger said. “I was able to form amazing relationships with my host family, listen to different perspectives on major issues, live life in another language and travel around Europe.”
But Yaeger and her peers have come back with more than a souvenir-filled suitcase and increased job marketability – they’ve come back with a desire to change the world.
According to the 2013-14 senior survey, students who studied abroad during their time at Bethel reportedly experienced more personal development of the seven core values than students who did not study abroad.
In either case, learner and truth-seeker led the pack, and reconciler and salt and light consistently fell near the bottom. Only one value showed a significant disparity in ranking: world changer.
Forty-one percent of study abroad students strongly agreed that Bethel had prepared them to be world changers, rating it the third most developed value over the course of their undergraduate careers. Only 16 percent of those who didn’t study abroad said the same, however, rating it dead last.
“The purpose of putting the core values in the survey is to get a gage on how we’re doing in those areas,” said psychology professor Joel Frederickson, who administered the survey. “If we say they’re values, we need to show accreditors that we meet these seven core values.”
The spike in the world changer value among students who studied abroad is of particular interest, as it has typically received low survey ratings since its installment. For Yaeger, however, the increased identification with the value was no surprise.
“Participating in Bethel study abroad definitely enhanced my development of the core values,” Yaeger said. “It stretches and challenges you in all ways and leads to significant personal growth. Once you get a taste of the world, you can’t help but start to desire more.”
Indeed, it was Yaeger’s initial study abroad experience that spurred her decision to work overseas after graduation. She served as an assistant on-site director for Bethel’s Spain Term from September through early December and then spent the holidays at home before hopping on a Honduras-bound plane in January.
There, she taught two sections of ninth-grade English at a small missions school in the rural village of Rio Viejo. While she returned to the U.S. in early April, Yaeger already misses the perks of being a global citizen.
“There is so much more to be gained by going abroad than whatever you might lose by deciding to leave home for a while,” Yaeger said. “The relationships, confidence and level of trust in God that I developed are priceless, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Indeed, Yaeger cultivated a lifetime’s worth of memories during the time she spent beyond U.S. borders, and it didn’t take long for her to grasp the vastness of the world around her. She celebrated New Year’s Eve in a Spanish plaza, got caught in a blizzard in Switzerland, ate her weight in gelato in Italy and tested her boundaries by trying iguana soup in Honduras.
“It seems like the world should shrink as you travel and become familiar with other countries and cultures,” Yaeger said. “However, I believe the more places you see and people you meet, the more the world expands and reveals the depth and diversity of life God has created.”
Even though Yaeger was one of approximately 1,800 Bethel students to study abroad in 2011, she still counts herself one of the lucky few to have global experience on her resume.
Less than 10 percent of U.S. undergraduate students studied abroad during the 2012-13 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education. Bethel’s study abroad rate is six times as high, and it often ranks in the top 15 nationally.
According to Melanie Eslinger, assistant director of international studies, finances often tip the scale when it comes to deciding whether to study abroad.