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Learning Up Close from Far Away

By Logan Smith, October 31, 2019

Unique programs help students earn course credit abroad while being immersed in a different culture

Samuel Bohon had read about the Sistine Chapel and seen numerous textbook photographs, but nothing compared with observing the historic marvel in person.

Michelangelo’s signature paintings, brushed during the 16th century, adorned the walls and arched ceiling. As a history student at Liberty University, the cultural significance of the art took his breath away.

“No amount of studying or seeing it in pictures could have prepared me for the experience of seeing it in person because of its magnificence and importance to history,” Bohon said.

It all started one year ago during an LU Send fair in the Jerry Falwell Library. (The LU Send office handles all student, faculty, and staff travel opportunities.) Several recruiting booths dotted the bottom floor, but one in particular stood out to Bohon: “Rome with Purpose.”

Curious, Bohon approached the table.

“I really didn’t know anything about studying abroad,” Bohon said. “I hadn’t thought about it until I went to the fair.”

He quickly learned that students can complete full academic semesters through the university’s study abroad program at an approved foreign university or take courses from an approved LU faculty member who works abroad.

After pondering the prospect of studying in Rome and exploring Vatican City for three months, Bohon snatched the opportunity. During the next semester (last spring), Bohon pocketed 15 credits toward his history degree.

“Lots of history originates from Rome and the Roman Empire,” Bohon said. “The biggest benefit about (studying abroad) is talking about certain things, then actually going to see them. When studying here in the states, you can read about it and look at pictures, but it’s nothing like actually being there. It doesn’t matter where you are in Rome, it feels like you’re in a really important place.”

In Rome, Bohon toured cathedrals and basilicas, studied architecture and language, and even completed a course on historical artwork.
He gazed upon works by daVinci and Michelangelo at the Vatican Museums. 

“It’s crazy to think that they actually made those statues, basically molding them out of one big piece of marble,” Bohon said.

The program also allowed for two independent travel weeks for students to explore locations of their choice. Bohon toured Athens and London.

“Before I went to Italy, I was more interested in U.S. history, but it is 50-50 for me now,” he said. “My trip made me appreciate a wider area of history, rather than just U.S. history.”

Unlike many college study abroad programs, LU Send doesn’t limit students to a few typical disciplines like foreign languages or international studies; every student at Liberty has a unique opportunity to continue to study in their chosen degree program while overseas. There is at least one study abroad or international internship location for every field of study at Liberty, and most majors offer more than one option.

This school year, students will be earning course credit in more than 150 locations around the world. Some of the top destinations for Liberty’s study abroad program in the past two years have been Italy, Spain, Ecuador, South Korea, Australia, England, France, and Israel. The experiences range from two to six months, depending on the program and how many classes students want to take. The cost for many of the study abroad sites is surprisingly similar to the cost of taking on-campus courses.

“We are really motivated by the incredible experience it gives college students to spend an extended period of time overseas,” said Dr. Larry Peck, who directs Rome with Purpose, one of Liberty’s signature study abroad initiatives. “Students are not only accomplishing academics, but they’re learning so much about a new culture and being immersed in the language.”

“Studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my college career,” Bohon said. “It allowed me to learn from and appreciate other cultures. I would encourage anyone who is considering studying abroad to do it because it will greatly improve your education and will help you make friends and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Many students also take advantage of international internships facilitated by the LU Send office. Living and Learning International is one of Liberty’s signature programs in Quito, Ecuador, that offers an internship option.

“Living and Learning definitely enhanced my education and really put everything into perspective,” said Virginia Peay, a senior journalism student. “I was able to see for the first time what my major would look like post-grad as well as what being in a totally new culture entails with both its challenges and rewards.”

Peay worked as a photojournalist intern at Compassion International, a humanitarian aid organization focused on child sponsorship. She also worked with its public relations team.

“The internship was amazing and the staff at Compassion was incredibly hospitable and loving,” Peay said. “But I think my favorite part was just exploring Quito with the other students.”

Andrea Litherland, a junior elementary education student pursuing a minor in global studies, worked as an assistant teacher at an elementary school in Quito.

“The internship broadened my cross-cultural awareness and allowed me to see how education is done in another country,” Litherland said. “It gave me the opportunity to experience another culture entirely and meet and learn from other people with different experiences. It truly changed my life because it challenged me and helped me grow in so many ways.”

In addition to study abroad and international internships, Liberty students can earn course credit overseas on short-term trips during Winter Break, Spring Break, and over the summer. These programs are also diverse in locations and academic disciplines. This year, psychology students will go to Denmark to learn about the application of positivist psychology in Danish life; biology and chemistry students will travel to Germany and Switzerland for CHEM 301; divinity students will travel to Calcutta, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal, to study apologetics, religion, and theology; and nursing and pre-med students will learn about healthcare in a rural hospital in Togo, Africa. And that’s just a sampling of the offerings.

While LU Send’s objective in all these opportunities is to allow students to see the world and gain an international perspective, safety is also an important consideration. All programs are vetted through Liberty University, and faculty members accompany students on every short-term excursion.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Jerry Falwell and the tremendous cooperative spirit between the Office of the Provost and our team in the Office of Spiritual Development, student travel at Liberty has never been more robust than it is now,” said Josh Rutledge, vice president for Spiritual Development.

“Whether it is study abroad or short-term trips, Liberty is quickly establishing itself as a model for student travel in higher education.”  


LU Send has created an online interactive map that allows you to view all the locations for trips that have been planned around the globe. You can search opportunities by specific academic programs or schools. Visit Liberty.edu/LUSend.

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