REAL International Engagement: Candler Students Put Theory into Practice in Travels Abroad
From pastoral care seminars in South America to internships in the Bahamas, dozens of Candler students each year have life-changing experiences through the school’s varied international programs—academic exchanges and internships from Brazil to Kenya to South Korea and beyond, and travel seminars spanning five continents.
Students who have taken advantage of these many opportunities to study abroad cite these among the top benefits: meeting other theology students from around the globe, and increasing in their understanding of diverse languages, cultures, and religious traditions.
Third-year MDiv student Blair Trygstad’s time at Candler was greatly influenced by the school’s international connections. She traveled to five different countries as a Candler student, including Kenya, Nigeria, Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and Greece. She especially remembers the academic exchange she did during the fall semester of her second year at St. Paul's University in Limuru, Kenya, where she studied in the Islam/Christian-Muslim Relations program alongside classmates from across Africa.
“I came to Candler interested in how religion and the church influence and interact with global governance. And because Islam is increasingly influencing international affairs, I wanted to learn more about it, ideally in a non-Western setting,” says Trygstad.
During her time in Kenya, Al Shabaab militants attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, providing Trygstad with a glimpse of a tragic yet pressing example of how other parts of the world besides the U.S. react to terrorism.
“I was engaged in dialogue and teaching events about Islam alongside people from many faiths. I also had the opportunity to sit in a meeting with the cultural attaché from Iran to discuss Shi’a views on governance and extremism—something that never would have happened in an American program.”
Through Candler’s academic exchange programs, students can spend a semester or a year living and learning in one of 22 different settings in 11 different countries. Travel seminars also provide students with the opportunity to travel over the winter, spring, and summer breaks. With a guided tour through the religious, cultural, and political landscapes of the destination, students are able to earn academic credit for their work abroad.
Third-year MDiv student Alisha Gordon (top photo, right) visited São Paulo, Brazil, this past March as a part of Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling Gregory Ellison’s Historical and Global Perspectives of Pastoral Care class. The class focused on the historical and social trends of pastoral care in a Brazilian context, and was organized in partnership with the Universidade Metodista de São Paulo (UMESP).
“My experience in São Paulo allowed me to put theory into practice, living, studying, and being in fellowship with the people of Brazil,” Gordon says.
A new travel seminar through Candler’s program in moral leadership will take students to South Korea this month, led by James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership Robert M. Franklin, Jr. First-year MDiv student Karen Sawyer says she expects the trip to expand her definition of moral leadership.
“I felt called to go to South Korea because of what I have gained from Dr. Franklin’s class on the principles and practices of moral leadership,” she says. “I also hope to gain a greater understanding of the everyday lives of South Koreans and the culture of South Korea.”
In reflecting on what she has learned from her Candler travels, Trygstad says, “I learned to listen, and listen passionately. I learned that the creativity of God to manifest on earth is way bigger than I will ever comprehend. Most importantly, I learned that sometimes the best way to fight injustice is to silence my own voice so that the voices of the oppressed and marginalized, held close to the heart of God, can be magnified.”
CREDITS: Photo at top and on homepage: Carlton Mackey 05T.