Calvin College Chimes

Interim class studies independently in Switzerland, wrestling with difficult questions

One+of+the+spectacular+views+that+the+interim+class+enjoyed+while+they+stayed+in+L%27Abrie.+
Back to Article
Back to Article

Interim class studies independently in Switzerland, wrestling with difficult questions

One of the spectacular views that the interim class enjoyed while they stayed in L'Abrie.

One of the spectacular views that the interim class enjoyed while they stayed in L'Abrie.

Jolene Vos-Camy

One of the spectacular views that the interim class enjoyed while they stayed in L'Abrie.

Jolene Vos-Camy

Jolene Vos-Camy

One of the spectacular views that the interim class enjoyed while they stayed in L'Abrie.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Sophia Medawar, a senior at Calvin College, noted that, “You don’t go [to L’Abri] if you think you know everything…You go there to seek, you go there to struggle…and you go there to find and be found.”

Before coming home from L’Abri, the students all got back together, though one decided to continue her studies at L’Abri for another few months. Calvin Otto, a junior at Calvin College, expressed that he “made some incredible friendships much faster than [he] was expecting to and saying goodbye was absolutely heart-wrenching.”

At the beginning of the month,  these six students traveled to Ollon, Switzerland, the site of L’Abri Fellowship. L’Abri was founded in the 1950s by Francis and Edith Shaeffer, a Presbyterian missionary couple in Switzerland. Calvin’s website states L’Abri “has become known as a place where people with questions about the Christian faith can go for instruction and counsel.”

Professor Lee Hardy, of the Philosophy department, organized the trip, but didn’t accompany the students. In his mind, sending the students alone allowed them to experience travel outside of the “Calvin bubble” and let them figure things out for themselves.

While at L’Abri, students followed a routine of three hours of chores and three hours of study. The chores were community oriented to help keep L’Abri running smoothly: laundry, cleaning and preparing meals, among others. Study, however, was individually focused.

While L’Abri doesn’t provide internet for study, students could learn by reading from the library, listening to lectures or contemplating without materials. Each week students met with a tutor, a full-time worker at L’Abri, though, as Otto noted, “they didn’t want to feel like they were setting boundaries or imposing certain ideas because they had some sort of authority.” He described their sessions together as conversational and even therapeutic at times.

After the quiet days, everyone enjoyed a community dinner prepared by several of the staff and students. Otto expressed that he was impressed by the size and quality of the meals considering the small budget that L’Abri has. He remembered that they “…had bread for almost every meal.”

After dinner, students had free time, which was often spent together in the lounge, a large room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the French Alps. Students would carry on conversations, create music and play games together during these evenings.

Students also had every Thursday free from the daily routine. On these days, they would ride a bus to a nearby city and explore, whether it was ancient castles or vineyards in the valley at the base of the mountain. Professor Jolene Vos-Camy, of the French department, joined them during her few days visiting when they went to the local ski resort. Professor Vos-Camy strongly supports this program and will be leading it in future years in place of Professor Hardy.

At the end of the month, Calvin students were given three days off to travel as they wanted.

Each student had made their own plans, but as Medawar found, “when it was time to leave, I didn’t want to, so I didn’t travel.” She wasn’t the only one. Only two of the six students did travel to other places in Europe, the rest opting to continue their time at L’Abri.

If you would like to learn more about the course “Independent Study in Switzerland” contact Professor Jolene Vos-Camy of the French department.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.