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I never thought I’d study abroad five times and graduate on time

September 1, 2009

I never thought I’d study abroad five times and graduate on time

When Andy Guinn ’09 came to PLU, the extent of his international travels was a single trip to Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

That trip was just one week. Considering where he’s been since then – and the amount of time he’s been away – that hardly seems like a big deal. Since Andy arrived at PLU, he’s studied in Italy (twice), Tanzania, South Africa – plus a combined trip to Argentina and Antarctica.

For those scoring at home, that’s five trips to four continents in four years. All this, and he still graduated on time. Suma cum lade.

His secret? January Term, the one-month mini-semester between Fall and Spring semesters. Andy spent all four J-Terms studying off-campus, plus one semester-long exchange at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The structure of J-Term meant Andy could study away and still get involved in all the other cool things PLU is known for – like working on a summer research project with his physics prof, getting a good work-study job, even co-captaining the nationally ranked ultimate Frisbee team.

“When else would I have an opportunity like this?” he asks.

Studying away wasn’t necessarily Andy’s intent when he arrived from Arvada, Colo., to study math and engineering. But he quickly learned PLU makes it easy for students to immerse themselves in another culture. There is a campus office dedicated solely for that purpose. There are scholarships. And there are advisers who make sure students get the appropriate academic credit for their studies.

In Andy’s case, those resources allowed him to study whatever intrigued him – medieval Christianity in Italy, Swahili in Tanzania, or South Africa’s transition to democracy from apartheid. All while staying on track to get his math degree.

– Story by Steve Hansen