Twenty One Interim Trips Currently Abroad


Nicole VanderYacht

The Alhambra, a palace in Granada, Spain, where some Calvin students on the Spain trip visited.

Calvin gives many students the opportunity to study abroad and see new places during January Interims. These trips take students all around the world, from Switzerland to the Dominican Republic. Currently, there are around 450 students on twenty one different interims abroad, according to Dr. Donald De Graaf, director of Off Campus Programs (OCP).

Tragically, this past Tuesday, a terrorist attack occurred in Nairobi, Kenya, where a group of Calvin students and two faculty members were studying. The Calvin students and faculty members are all safe following the incident. The Chimes article about the event, and the Kenya interim, can be found here.  

Thankfully, the students on all of the other trips have stayed safe as well. Here’s a close look at what two interims have been up to.

Spain trip

Five of the trips are new programs, said De Graaf. One such trip is an interim in Spain, “Spain: Land of Three Cultures.” The students on the trip are studying how three religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, have lived together in the Iberian Peninsula, according to OCP’s webpage on the trip. Twenty four students are on the trip, according to junior Nicole VanderYacht, one such student on the trip.

VanderYacht said that what drew her to the trip was the change of to learn more about cultures she didn’t know a lot about.

The group has spent quite a bit of time travelling Spain, visiting nine cities in ten days, VanderYacht said. The students have toured many of Spain’s cathedrals, museums, and other old architecture, she said.

“There has also been a wide range of food options and interactions with local people giving us a really organic experience of this beautiful country,” VanderYacht said.

For VanderYacht, the highlight of her trip so far has been the group’s trip to the city of Toledo.

“I loved all the bright colors of the buildings and how it sat right on a mountain side next to a river,” she said. During some free time the students where given, her and a few other students explored the city, taking random turns down the city’s road, eventually having to navigate getting back to the group’s bus.
VanderYacht is really enjoying her time in Spain. Noting that a friend went with her, she said “the opportunity to travel a brand new country with a friend would be priceless.”


Nepal Trip

Another trip currently abroad as the “introduction to medical Missions in Nepal.” Ten pre-med and nursing students are learning about medical missions and medicine, said senior Madison Tissue, a student on the trip.

Tissue said she chose the trip because it would give her the chance to experience a new culture and get away from the busy, every-day life, while learning about how medicine and faith directly intertwine. The group has been able to visit many hospitals and missions, including visiting business missions for exploited women and shadowing for a week at a rural mission hospital. They will also be visiting a hospital in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu.

“We are visiting many hospital contexts to understand what medicine is like in Nepal and taking as many chances as possible to get to know and appreciate Nepali culture.” Tissue said.

On Thursday, the group started a hike in the Himalayan mountains, and will be ending at the Australian camp.
For Tissue, the highlight of the trip has been sharing her experience with the other students.

“We are all questioning and seeking out what God’s plan for our lives looks like,” Tissue said. “This trip has been a safe place to ask these questions and be surrounded by others who are willing to pray with us and encourage us in our questioning.”

She said meeting the Nepali people and missionaries, and hearing their stories, “have been heartbreaking and inspiring.” She said the trip has shown the group how important other people are for missions.

“No matter what brought us to apply for this trip, Tissue said, “we have all found a community of fellow believers and future medical professionals and that has been incredible.”


Ireland Trip

Twenty six students are also currently in Northern Ireland, as a part of the Artist Collaborative, including junior Olivia Richards. The group is studying the conflict and reconciliation between the protestant and catholic communities in Northern Ireland, Richards said. The group has spent time listening to artists and “ex combatants” share their stories about the conflict.

For Richards, the highlight of the trip so far has been taking a tour of the walls of the city of Londonderry. While on the tour, the group learned more about the conflict of Northern Ireland and the history of the city; their tour guide was involved with the deadly events of Bloody Sunday.

It was “interesting to hear someone’s perspective and compare it to others that we have heard,” Richards said.

As part of the Artistit Collaborative, students take a trip during their second year of college, Richards said. This year, the students are creating projects that artfully show they things they’ve learned about Northern Ireland.

I think it’s an interesting challenge,” Richards said, “and has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone which is great.

Other Trips

Unfortunately, four trips had to be canceled this year.

“Every year we will have a couple of interims that are canceled for a variety of reasons,” De Graaf said. Reasons for cancelling include low enrollment and safety, he said. However, the cancelled trips may be a possibility for students next year.

There were still many other opportunities for Calvin students wanting to study abroad for interim. Besides the trip to Spain, there are four other new trips this year, De Graaf said. One trip has taken students to Puerto Rico to study viral diseases, vaccines and other aspects of public health. Other new programs include a trip to Ireland and a trip to the Dominican Republic.

Besides their many interim trips, OCP also offers variety of May term and semester programs, providing Calvin students with many opportunities to study abroad.

Photo courtesy Nicole VanderYacht
Nicole VanderYacht, right, with another student overlooking the city of Granada, Spain