Study Abroad Experiences Stretch Students as They Discern Career Paths

Martin Deacon, a finance and accounting major, poses for a photo in front of a royal temple in Seoul, South Korea, while studying abroad at Korea University.While studying abroad in South Korea, Martin Deacon immersed himself in other cultures, took rigorous courses at an Ivy League-equivalent university and positioned himself to land an internship with an international firm.

Deacon, who grew up in South Africa, lived in a global house among students from 40 different nationalities. He cooked alongside classmates from Egypt and Thailand and ate with only chopsticks for four months. In addition to his business courses at Korea University, he had five hours of Korean language lessons per week at night.

The David and Leighan Rinker Center for Experiential Learning empowers students such as Deacon to study abroad in Central America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East through its partners, including Best Semester, ISA Veritas and La Alianza. The School of Ministry has strong ties to Colombia through Josh Proctor ’13, director of strategic projects and foundations, for La Alianza. That’s where intercultural studies majors Hannah Dunn and Liana Cote channeled their passion for helping people into ministering to Venezuelan refugees and teaching English to locals.

Both Deacon and Cote doubted they would be able to fulfill their dreams of studying abroad, for different reasons. For someone with Deacon’s majors — finance and accounting — studying abroad can be difficult, he said. Cote has changed her major five times since her freshman year and spent the bulk of her college career as a nursing major.

Liana Cote, an intercultural studies major, prays during her semester studying in Colombia and working with La Alianza.The Rinker Center for Experiential Learning, and the School of Ministry for Cote, made both students’ dreams come true. Cote completed the required 90 hours of fieldwork for her major and earned credit for an internship, in addition to her online courses.

She’s on track to graduate on time, and Deacon will graduate in three and a half years.

“If a student has even the tiniest interest in studying abroad, I’d say go talk to someone,” Cote said. “You never know what is going to happen. Studying in Colombia was the most eye-opening experience for me.”

Cote ministered to Venezuelan refugees who are crossing into Colombia on their way to Ecuador. She worked on grant proposals and pitched in with a feeding program, homeless ministry and a health brigade.

“They were all so different, but at the same time, I was helping people,” Cote said. “That’s always been my heart. I love missions. I love doing things for others.”

Cote is now considering a Master of Social Work degree.

Deacon’s global experience put him one step closer to achieving his goal of working for a multinational corporation on a full-time basis. His international exposure impressed the EY partners who interviewed him for a position at the Miami office where he will intern this summer, he said.

Martin Deacon stops for a photo while hiking in the Himalayas. He hiked in India and Nepal during his semester studying in South Korea.Deacon also developed a greater affinity for East Asia and a deeper appreciation for entering other cultures – eating what they eat and getting a glimpse of how they see the world. PBA’s flexible travel arrangements allowed Deacon to stay with friends in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, visit Egypt and hike in the Himalayas in India and Nepal on his way to Korea, he said. A few days after midterms, he went to Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. In many of those regions, he stayed with fellow Christians.

“That was a great way to see the body of Christ throughout the world,” Deacon said. “It lowers barriers immediately.”

In Colombia, Dunn gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Her faith is developing into one that can reach people beyond language and cultural boundaries, she said.

In partnership with a local church, she taught English to adults ages 20 to 70. Dunn chose teaching because she knew the least about it. Her prior ministry experience was with children.

“I wanted a challenge, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Dunn said. “You’re pushed to your limits and stretched in different ways.”

Any students interested in studying abroad can contact CEL@pba.edu to set up a meeting.


Photo 1: Martin Deacon, a finance and accounting major, poses for a photo in front of a royal temple in Seoul, South Korea, while studying abroad at Korea University.

Photo 2: Liana Cote, an intercultural studies major, prays during her semester studying in Colombia and working with La Alianza.

Photo 3: Martin Deacon stops for a photo while hiking in the Himalayas. He hiked in India and Nepal during his semester studying in South Korea.