WPU allows students opportunities to see the world

Jun 14, 2024

There are amazing chances for William Peace University students to broaden their horizons right here in Raleigh. However, there are even better opportunities for students who choose to study abroad.

Recently a group of 17 Pacers spent 11 days overseas touring the British Isles, as part of the WPU Study Abroad program.

Professor Kathy Corley, the program coordinator, took her first group of students out of the country in 2007 (Galapagos Islands) and has taken 10 trips with WPU students in the last 17 years.

WPU students, who must have a 2.6 GPA to attend, get two credit hours for the trip and have to write a paper about their experience once they return home. There’s a pre-trip prep class created by the lead faculty before students leave.

“It delves into the specific country, cities, specific site visits, but it usually starts out something much broader, which is global cultural competencies, because some of these students have never been out of the state of North Carolina,” Corley said. “We want to prepare them to be good global citizens. To be respective, to be humble, to be gracious, to be the guest in somebody else’s county.”

John Pfeiffer, a WPU student from Raleigh, always wanted to travel to another country. The criminal justice major jumped at the opportunity last fall. He was one of the participants who traveled to the British Isles, calling the excursion a “breath of fresh air.”

“I’ve always been interested in culture, history, and stuff like that,” Pfeiffer added. “I learned a lot. On all levels it was mesmerizing.”

Important for a Generation

History and culture are always at the forefront of every trip.

The trip itineraries are stacked for each day, planned out a full year in advance. The students take plenty of tours, from the Roman Colosseum in Italy a few years ago to an international MBA school on the recent trip, one of the academic site visits.

The group is paired with a travel partner through a group called Education First Tours (EFT) as well as a local tour guide in each city, who stays with the group 24/7.

The ultimate goal is for the students to ingrain themselves in the local culture for the duration of the visit.

“Their generation is going to be impacted by global influences and to be comfortable and to have mixed it up a little bit with people who have different languages, different work ethics, different clothing, different food, it’s so important,” Corley said. “They aren’t going to be able to escape it and they will be more effective in the workplace if they have these experiences and these encounters.”

Corley wants to open their eyes to different cultures and help students realize that, yes, things are different in other countries, but different doesn’t mean right or wrong, good or bad.

“If they don’t have these experiences and realize there are 8 billion people out there, equally smart, equally creative, equally talented, they are going to keep in their ways,” Corley said. “We are trying to open their minds a little bit.”

Impact on WPU Students

Corley’s satisfaction comes from the looks on the students’ faces when they take in these new life experiences for the first time. The trips have proven to have a long-lasting impact on all students who participate.

Former WPU student Shelby Cooper was asked what her favorite memory was during her time in college. Her answer had nothing to do with anything on the Raleigh campus.

“While it was not physically at WPU, I had the opportunity to travel with WPU to Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy,” Cooper said. “These two weeks overseas were the best memories during my four years at WPU. It was an amazing experience that I could have only received at WPU.”

WPU offers scholarships to help with the costs, taking care of about 20 percent of the expenses. Money well spent for the students who get a life-altering experience.

“I think it was awesome of the school to be able to do that for us,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for anyone who wants to experience something outside of their own culture, outside of their own world, their own realm of thinking and look at the world a little differently.”

While they learned about the cultures of others aboard, the trip also served as a bridge to connect the WPU students who spent two weeks together in a foreign land.

“One of the things I took from it was I had a bit more of a sense of camaraderie with the people I went on the trip with,” Pfeiffer said. “There were some people I’d met before or talked to briefly in class, but that was it. Once I went there and had these same experiences, it kind of had a sense of camaraderie. It’s a good feeling from that.”