A Broadened WorldviewEvery year, Bethel’s Semester Abroad and Task Force programs offer students the opportunity to see the world in new ways through experiential learning around the globe. It’s part of Bethel’s mission to “prepare students for leadership in the church and the world.” This past May, three short-term trips, each to a different continent, allowed students to earn course credit while immersing themselves in a new culture. Students traveled to France, Israel and Costa Rica on learning and service-oriented trips that provided a rich cultural experience and a broadened worldview.

Students gather for their first brief and morning prayer on the porch at Casa Hortensia, a house where many of them stayed.


The Costa Rica trip, led by Assistant Professor of Biology Cassandra May, Ph.D., and Art Department Chair Michael May, allowed students of varying majors to earn elective credit in art or environmental science, while serving alongside missionaries in the town of Vera Blanca.

Art students created a body of artwork depicting their experiences, while environmental science students collected water quality data on local rivers, which they presented to the mayor of the canton of Poás. Both courses were designed to broaden students’ worldview through experiential learning as they explored God’s creation.

“It was awesome getting to see the application of science in a real-world setting,” says sophomore International Health Major and Spanish minor Ian Smith. “I didn’t anticipate I would enjoy the part of our trip where we trudged through rivers collecting water samples, but I actually did! The trip really demonstrated that science isn’t all books and lab work.”

Students collect water quality data in the local rivers.

Students also explored sites including La Paz Waterfall Gardens, San José, Laguana Hule, and the Lost City (the epicenter of an earthquake that struck in 2009). They went zip lining, explored a local farmer’s market and a working organic farm, and even got the chance to tour Jim Stewart’s coffee farm (founder of Seattle’s Best).

Through staying with Spanish-speaking Costa Rican host families, students experienced Costa Rican culture firsthand. For Smith, this immersive experience helped him hone his Spanish skills.

“A big highlight of the trip was when we stayed with our host families,” he says. “I’m trying to get a minor in Spanish, and [speaking and applying Spanish] in the real world … was a huge benefit.”

Read about the trip to France.

Read about the trip to Israel.