By Hannah Schultz
Beginning in the fall of 2014, students will be given the opportunity to experience firsthand the “City of Lights” on Asbury’s new semester abroad program to Paris, France.
Heading up the program is Asbury professor Dr. Linda Stratford, who will be partnering with Paris faculty to teach a variety of courses, from art history to photography.
In addition to allowing students to fulfill many foundational courses and participate in internships specific to their desired field, the program will also immerse them in the French culture through visits to some of the most renowned art museums in the world as well as some of the most prominent monuments in history.
In order to maintain Asbury’s commitment to spiritual vitality and academic excellence, Stratford has added a Christian theology course, which will equip students to connect spiritually with the French people.
“It’s going to allow the students to work with an individual that actually knows the French situation, cares about it very much, and is there especially because of that,” Stratford said. “It will allow us to understand the special French situation and some of the why’s behind its secularization.”
However, Stratford also warns students that this program is not for the faint of heart. “It’s a very, very difficult experience,” she said. “One of the misunderstandings people often have if they haven’t gone overseas—they often imagine this as a tourist experience, even a vacation. It is actually not at all that.”
This study abroad program will stretch students beyond their comfort zones, placing them in a cosmopolitan setting, making them take public transportation for perhaps the first time in their lives and forcing them to learn how to overcome a language barrier.
For some students, these demands may seem daunting, especially the language barrier.
Others, like junior Emily Hudson, view it as a challenge they are looking forward to overcoming. “I feel that speaking French would be beneficial on the trip, however, it doesn’t scare me that I can’t,” Hudson said. “Honestly, I feel like it will make more of an adventure.”
That it just the kind of attitude Dr. Stratford looks for in applicants. “I’m looking for serious students, and students with a sense of adventure,” she said. The program will not only require attentive study, but also the maturity to handle being extremely independent.
Students will have the safety and security of their Asbury group, Stratford’s guidance and American resident assistants at the dorm, but Stratford stresses that it will take a new level of independence to function with the drastic culture shock of a foreign city such as Paris.
For junior Merry Moore, however, learning how to operate in this new culture and finding her place in the French life is precisely what she is looking forward to most. “I’m excited about living in that culture,” Moore said. “I am fascinated by the Parisian lifestyle and cannot wait to experience it firsthand.”
While Stratford’s warnings might cause hesitation in some, she assures students that the experience, challenges and all, will be worthwhile. “I think [the program] is very broadening and stretching, and certainly to me is a way of maturing. I think that will be one of the biggest benefits,” she said, when asked what students should expect to receive from the semester.
For many, this program will be a chance to fulfill life-long dreams. “I have wanted to go to Paris for as long as I can remember,” Hudson said.
For others, it will be a chance to experience an intensive semester of study in a city which will bring art and history to life beyond the pages of a textbook. And, for some, it will be the chance to understand and appreciate a different culture, or to just minister to a people desperately in need of God’s love. Whatever the reason, Stratford tells students that this program is something every dedicated, courageous student should carefully consider participating in.
Stratford herself travelled to Paris as a junior in college and said, “It’s a great experience. It was life-changing for me, so I want other people to experience it.”