Students from Bethel’s Europe Term — Fall 2011 | photo submitted by Josh Saterdalen

Growth in the uncomfortable

An inside look at one of Bethel’s most popular study abroad programs.

Walking out of Austrian castle he temporarily called home after class each day and looking down at the incredible views below ­­­is a memory that Tyler Esau will never forget. The trail leading down to the gazebo, the dock beside the beautiful Lake Millstatt and the mountains in the background of every scene — all of these things make up Esau’s favorite place he encountered during his time travelling Europe with Bethel’s communication department.

Esau, a 2013 graduate of Bethel’s communication: media production program, grew up surrounded by culture. Throughout his childhood, 14 students from around the world stayed with his family for up to nine months at a time as part of a foreign exchange program. His connection with one of those students, Solli, led to his opportunity to visit her family in Berlin, Germany, further igniting his love for travel.

“Being in a culture that I’m completely unfamiliar with ­­­– I love the uncomfortableness,” Esau said, “I just love soaking it all in.”

When Tyler got the opportunity to go abroad on Bethel’s 2011 fall Europe term, a trip very similar to the one both his brother and sister had taken with Bethel’s business department, he knew he had to take it.

From the beginning, one of the hardest aspects of the trip for most people was visiting 15 cities across Europe with 15 different cultures in such a short period of time.

“Quite a few people on the trip got homesick or frustrated by the different cultures,” Esau explained.

Because of Tyler’s opportunities to be exposed to so many diverse backgrounds and experiences through others, he did not experience that same level of culture shock.

“Having those foreign exchange students from all those different places opened my eyes early to those different cultures,” Esau said, “and welcoming them and not feeling overwhelmed by them.”

“It was a great way for the professors to allow us to feel independent, and maybe a little uncomfortable.” — Tyler Esau, 2013 Bethel graduate

For Esau and many other students, the freedom during the few days allowed for free travel were some of their favorites. Students were able to choose who they would travel with, and to what destinations. Esau adventured to London, England with four other students, while others travelled to Paris, Croatia and Ireland, among other countries.

“We set up everything ourselves, food, travel, attraction passes,” Esau said. “It was a great way for the professors to allow us to feel independent, and maybe a little uncomfortable.”

“We weren’t in a large group being tourists in a tourist town,” said Brooke Jameson, another member of the 2011 trip.

Looking back on the trip, Esau’s experiences reinforced his views on how he should approach the unfamiliar.

“He’s always reminding me that it’s not ‘weird’, it’s different.” — Kelly Esau, Tyler’s wife

“People tend to have the innate feeling that the way they do or think about things is the right way, and that people form other cultural backgrounds are “strange” or “weird,” Esau explained.

“He’s always reminding me that it’s not ‘weird’, it’s different,” Tyler’s wife Kelly shared.

“Most of the time, I like being uncomfortable,” Esau reinforced, “it usually changes me for the better, makes me more welcome to things.”

Tyler’s advice for students interested in studying abroad is simple: do it.

“Try and do everything, as much as possible, while you’re there,” Esau says. “Expect a lot of cultural differences, and be very welcoming to them.”

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