Blog Archives: Academic Travel

Ashley Moon – My second London semester

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Ashley Moon is a junior communication major from Waxahachie, TX. For more information on this and other CGE/CAPA programs, please visit or

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In late November of 2013, I found out that in less than two months, I would be spending a semester in London for the second time.

After my first semester, I started to appreciate Howard Payne for what it was; the professors are intelligent and understanding, the community is small and open, and the atmosphere is relaxed. Out of all the things HPU has done for me, I am most grateful for their flexibility in allowing me and encouraging me to study abroad.

If I didn’t go to Howard Payne, I would have never gone to London. That thought is impossible for me to comprehend. I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I never lived in Europe or experienced the spectacular city that London is.

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To my surprise, my second semester in London was even better than the first (didn’t think that was possible)! I decided to study the second time through an organization called CAPA International. Through this program, I was a part of a large group of American students from all over the country who learned from British professors in a classroom setting. Luckily, I was able to fill my entire schedule with upper-level communication classes. In addition to taking classes, CAPA gave me the opportunity to work an internship.

Prior to moving across the pond, CAPA had me fill out an extensive internship application in which I explained my interests and career goals. An internships team looked through all the applications and literally found me a perfect match!

I am a communication major with an emphasis in public & media relations. My goal is to use my media skills (photography, video, writing and/or graphic design) through journalism or advertising. In London, I interned with a photographer. We worked on fashion shoots, advertising product shots, packages for families and conceptual artistic shoots. I also wrote for his website and learned a lot about Photoshop and graphic design. In addition to getting experience in so many areas of interest, I became great friends with my boss and his wife. Together, they taught me so much about photography and even more about life.

Through CAPA, I also had the chance to live with a family in England. The previous year, I had stayed in an apartment in a central area with other American students. Since I already had this experience, I decided to live with a host family. The Moylettes made my experience in England so incredible. They had two daughters ages 15 and 12 and a 10-year-old son. I never felt homesick while I was in England because I was constantly surrounded by amazing people who cared about me.

I will always encourage students to study abroad. It truly is such an incredible experience, and Howard Payne is too accommodating to refuse. When I studied abroad this last semester, I actually spent less money than I would have if I stayed in Brownwood.

CAPA provided me with some financial assistance as well. They offered a scholarship to one person in their program to be the “official vlogger”. I competed for this scholarship and received it. I was to make one video blog per week, explaining what I was doing in London and how my semester was going. CAPA shared these videos on their social outlets, giving me exposure while promoting their organization.

Independently living in England gave me a sense of confidence that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. So much of my time there was spent listening to or observing others. I can’t explain the exciting energy that is present in every area of London. There is always someone new to meet, something interesting to explore, and something challenging to be taught.

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Another awesome part of living in London is the opportunity to travel to other places. Because the countries in Europe are so geographically close, it is very easy to travel between them. I had the chance to travel to Scotland, Wales and France, all on a college student budget!

I have never regretted any aspect of my time abroad. There were challenges that I faced, such as homesickness or being short on money, but I learned how to deal with those things and they made me a stronger and well-rounded person.

After going abroad the first time, a hunger for travel was instilled in me. I will have traveled to 6 countries all before my 20th birthday! My life has become incredibly exciting through traveling and meeting people from around the world, and I pray that my fire for adventure never burns out.

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Jennifer Goff – My Summer Journey

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Jennifer Goff is a senior family studies major from Austin, TX.

This summer I went to Colorado Springs, Colo., for a program called Focus Leadership Institute. Focus Leadership Institute exists as a ministry of Focus on the Family that strives to train and equip future leaders with the skills and abilities needed to lead others.

As part of my time at the Institute, I worked at Boundless, an online community that discusses issues such as marriage, family, finances, conflict, and career choices among 20-30 year olds. I had the opportunity to write blog posts, participate in online podcasts, and meet rather interesting authors who shared their thoughts about the books that they wrote on those very topics. I was really encouraged to see that much of what I had studied as a part of my family studies major mattered to people with real needs.

The first three weeks I also sat through a Christian Worldview class led by Dr. Del Tackett, author and founder of the Truth Project. In this class, I learned how to systematically defend and explain my Christian worldview in regards to church, family, work, government, man, and God. One of my biggest takeaways was discovering that both “sacred” and “secular” vocations are important to the Lord. You do not technically have to be a minister or a missionary or a pastor in order to do God’s work. Everyone is called to be a minister in whichever profession they find themselves in. Being a stay-at-home mom can be an incredible ministry opportunity if that is what God is calling a woman to do.

After this three week intensive, my FLI group had the opportunity to visit DC during the week of the 4th of July. There my group of friends and I got to see how a cohesive Christian worldview plays out in the political realm. My favorite memory though was walking through the monuments and the Arlington cemetery. I was delighted when, on the plane home at the end of the summer, I saw the new Captain America movie and recognized all the monuments!

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Halfway through the week, we met with wealthy Focus on the Family donors who supported the ministry and toured many places with them, including the National Archives, the Newseum, and the Capital Building. It was neat to make so many amazing connections.

While I was there, I also nearly ran into three of my friends from Howard Payne: Glorianna Stolle, who was working with her dad at International Justice Mission; Katie Bonner, who was interning at the capitol; and Jake Aschmutat, an HPU grad who is now studying at law school.

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I heard speakers from various political platforms tell of the great need to impact the next generation and raise up Christian leaders. The political atmosphere can be dry for Christ, but just looking at where God positioned my friends from both Focus Leadership Institute and from Howard Payne during the nation’s 4th really encouraged me. God is already raising up Christ-like leaders and I get to be one of them.

The second class I took when we got back from D.C. was a Christian Leadership and Identity course, taught by Dr. Robert and Elena Thomason. In this class I took a personality assessment and strengths finder test. On the personality assessment, I was classified as an INFP. This meant that I had at least a moderate bent towards being introverted, am highly intuitive, think through things mostly on a feelings basis, and can be rather disorganized. I learned that although I may not get things done in an orderly fashion, that’s okay. It was encouraging to discover too, that most people who have the same personality type as me may take roundabout and adventurous ways to get things done- including making a career choice. That was great news for me since I am graduating and still have very little idea about my future plans.

My strengths, I learned, were adaptability, ideation, input, communication, and positivity. When I read about my strengths I learned how I could leverage them into a career that I could be really successful at and co-labor with other Christians to further the Kingdom of God- whether that was through a secular or sacred vocation.

As a whole though, the most important thing I learned about was the concept of community. I thought I had a good concept of what it meant to be a part of a healthy and thriving community, but what I learned at FLI healed some very broken ideas I had. While it was hard to grow close to people in such short amount of time, FLI challenged me to be open and vulnerable. In that vulnerability, I learned that I am free to be exactly who I am in Christ.

I’m great at what I do because I’m me, even though I’m not always sure what it is I need to be doing or where exactly I am going. FLI was an opportunity to begin understanding that about myself. I know graduating in December from Howard Payne may not change the fact that I’m only just beginning to find my own path.

The world just keeps getting bigger and it is so fun knowing adventures are just up ahead. I know I’m on a journey and God is definitely not through with me yet.

Kerrie Ford – Traveling the World Through Model United Nations

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Kerrie Ford, from Houston, Texas, graduated in spring 2014. She was a political science major and a student in the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy. She is continuing her studies by working toward a master’s degree in international relations at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.

For more information on the Model United Nations program at HPU visit

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Joining Model United Nations is truly one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Through MUN I have been provided the opportunity to travel the world while developing skills in public speaking and diplomacy. During my time in MUN I have been to conferences in London, Chicago, Istanbul, Stockholm, and Rome in addition to the conferences that we host here at Howard Payne. Not only does MUN provide the opportunity to travel to all of these amazing places, but through my travels I have had the opportunity to network and create friendships with students around the world.

When we travel to conferences, while the ultimate purpose is to succeed in our committees, we are always given time to explore the city in which the conference is held. This past spring while in Rome our group was able to take a day with which we visited the Colosseum and other Roman ruins, visited the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, and were able to experience the beauty of Rome and its culture before the conference even started.

While we are given time to explore our surroundings, once the conference begins the team gets down to business. Especially this past year, the team has shown great success! While in Stockholm, my partner, Erik, and I won best delegation for our position as Argentina in the Security Council. While in Rome our delegation participated among 1,500 students from around the world, where we represented the Russian Federation in six different counsels. At Rome we performed even better than in Stockholm bringing home six total awards among twelve of us that participated in the conference. My partner and I participated in the Security Council where we were both able to come away with an award from one of Europe’s largest conferences.

Overall, Model UN has been one of the best experiences of my life. Through various conferences I have made friends from around the world, and have gained valuable experience in international relations and diplomacy while learning about the United Nations and how it works.

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Christy Hazelwood – Studying at Salzburg College

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Christy Hazelwood and her husband, Matthew, are seniors in HPU’s music program. Christy, from Fredericksburg, Texas, is majoring in Music Education. Matthew, who is from Corsicana, is majoring in Church Music and Worship. They spent the Spring semester at Salzburg College in Austria. For more information on this program visit

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Attending Salzburg College has been a fantastic experience! From the moment I met our group, I knew that I had made the right decision to study abroad. Everyone has been warm and welcoming. My husband and I have been staying with host parents this semester and they are, to say the least, awesome. We have our own little flat, which they provided us, and they cook the most delicious meals. I am now a huge fan of Austrian Cuisine. As for the classes and music lessons I have attended, I could not be more pleased. The professors are well educated and great at what they do. The college has also provided us with plenty of outdoor excursions and field trips, so that the students really get to experience Austria. Last but not least, I have loved getting to travel Europe on my spring break. I have visited France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England. Because of my experiences here in Austria I have a better appreciation for the world around me. If you get the chance to go, please go! This is an experience that you will never forget!

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Courtney Beene – Surfing in California

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Courtney Beene is a senior education major from Red Oak, Texas. This summer, she traveled with the exercise and sport science department to learn how to surf in California.

As a young student, you dream about getting out into the world and experiencing anything and everything you possibly can. Here at Howard Payne University, students are blessed to have such an opportunity. Students have a variety of different activities from backpacking in the wilderness to skiing the slopes in Colorado – all offered right here at HPU.

beene blog 1What seems to be one of the most successful classes offered here would be the surfing class taught by Dr. Rick Beelby. This class not only allows students the opportunity to travel to the beaches of California but also offers an insight into a completely different way of life. On this trip, the students will drive to Encinitas, California, to camp out only approximately 100 yards off the beach at a surf camp called the Eli Howard Surf School. This camping experience is unlike any other. While we stay in tents, the tents are located in an enclosed area that provides a different experience than that of the typical camping tradition. This camp is equipped with an outdoor living area, a kitchen, showers, fun outdoor games, a Ping-Pong table, and a campfire area. Crazy, right?! Greg and Emily run this camp, as well as live there, and their primary focus is finding a way for students to come and get a one-of-a-kind experience. They believe that students should play an active role in the planning of the week, so they encourage students to help plan out the week’s activities. Students ride bikes as transportation to most of the activities. This is very different than driving a car around everywhere. After all of the extra time gets squared away, students have an allotted time to surf every day. During these times, the students get into their wet suits and are taught how to surf. They are educated about all that goes into the sport by not only Greg and Emily, but by an entire team of surfers. These instructors actually go out into the water and teach students one-on-one how to surf the proper way.

Despite what most people think, surfing is easy to pick up at a beginner’s level and can be done within the first hour or so during the first session of the week. The waves here on San Elijo Beach are perfect not only for beginners, but also experienced surfers. The waves can range anywhere from 1 to 6 feet and provide the perfect opportunity for surfing. Surfers normally stay out on the water for about 2 hours (by that point, you are exhausted) and when they are done, they simply ride a wave right up on the beautiful sand beach and step off. The feeling when a surfer is able to ride a wave and step off onto the beach is one of pure magic. Those moments are rare, but when experienced can change your life and your perception of the sport forever.

Aside from surfing, the trip holds so much more! When the students finish surfing for the day, they are allowed to get out and experience the culture of Encinitas for themselves. In California, it is not out of the ordinary for everyone to be walking around downtown. On the trip, students meet a variety of new people. On this most recent trip, students had the opportunity to go and serve the community by helping feed the homeless and sharing their own personal testimonies. This had never been done before so students and professors had no idea what was in store for them at a small park downtown. This experience bonded the students and faculty of HPU even more so to the area by investing such personal relationships with people from the area. Although that was a new experience, I hope that it is carried out again in the future.

beene blog 2Another fun activity would be the trip that students get to completely plan themselves. The class will research throughout the semester to see what looks like fun and then they will plan out an entire day devoted to that activity. This year, we chose kayaking. Kayaking on the sea is no simple task. It is an activity where you really find out who you work in sync with and who you do not. During this leg of the trip, students were paired up, hopped into a boat, and began paddling out to sea. Once out past the area where the waves break, students sat peacefully and gazed out on the open sea. The water, although not perfectly clear, does offer a degree of visibility. This is the best part because it is where students are able to sit back and admire the beauty of a new world underneath them. Once everyone made it out past the waves, we paddled to a cave and jumped out of our kayaks and entered the water. Being able to swim in the ocean is an extremely different experience than that of a pool or river. We were swimming side by side with seals and watching as the state fish, the Garibaldi, swam beneath us. The funniest thing about the little orange fish is that when they get scared, they begin to blow bubbles! This was another first for the trip and proved to be a great experience!

The surfing trip to California is one of the best trips offered at HPU. This trip is packed full of activities that students themselves plan. The way this trip is designed, students get a chance to develop leadership skills by planning and acting on what they have decided should be done. With students planning a majority of the trip, each year it is completely different. Students learn because they have a chance to experience everything for themselves. This experiential learning is a major part of what draws students in because it is unlike any other. Just about every classroom a student will walk in, the professor has designed just about every detail. Here, Dr. Beelby believes students are more likely to learn and develop at a much higher rate if given the chance to not only plan, but experience their planning in full effect. Students come to class with the campsite pre-booked but nothing else. Students plan and execute meals, activities, and extra trips. This is very unique in the sense that HPU has taken the student and made them the professor. Overall, this is an opportunity that should be experienced once in everyone’s lifetime. Students will always remember this unique experience and carry it with them into their future endeavors.

Catherine Mullaney – NCCFI Nationals with SSB!

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Catherine Mullaney is a recent graduate from Boylston, MA. She was an English major and a member of the Guy D. Newman Honors Academy.

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The Howard Payne University Speech and Debate Team – Student Speaker Bureau – is a group of students from all majors and disciplines at HPU who compete at intercollegiate speech and debate tournaments, host our own high school UIL speech and debate workshops, adjudicate elementary, middle and high school UIL tournaments, and emcee HPU and area public events. We are members of the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFA), the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA), the American Forensics Association (AFA), the National Forensics Association (NFA), and the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA). The team also competes in World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) tournaments and the International Public Debate Association (IPDA). For more information on this program contact Dr. Julie Welker.

This spring, the Student Speaker Bureau (SSB) speech and debate team traveled to California to compete in the invitational tournament for the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFI). The team spent the first half of Spring Break at California Baptist University competing in a wide variety of events from two forms of debate to speeches ranging from prepared persuasive presentations to impromptu or limited preparation events. We also had an amazing time traveling to Disneyland together and sleeping on each other’s shoulders on plane rides.

Benjamin Palmer, my fellow team captain, and I led discussions during preparation time for NPDA (parliamentary) debate rounds. Each school team only gets 15 minutes to prepare for debating each topic presented to the debaters, whose sides have already been chosen for them by tournament officials. Debate prep is an exhilarating time filled with Google searches, frantic scribbling of notes, and occasional jokes about funding policy proposals with government cheese.

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These times of preparation, and the debate rounds that follow, have been one of the most educational experiences of my time at Howard Payne. Not only do we learn about history and philosophy, we are able to apply these facts and concepts to events happening in the world today.

Many members of the team also competed in International Public Debate Association (IPDA) style debate, an individual event that SSB has never competed in before. Andres Zambrano, a freshman on the team this year, advanced to the bronze medal round. Jaclyn Bonner, also a

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freshman, was named national novice informative speaking champion. Adam Jones, sophomore, received the third place award in extemporaneous speaking. Each of these nationally ranked students exemplifies the excellence that we strive for as a team.

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After the successful tournament, the team headed to Disneyland for a day to wind down and spend time together following the last event of the year. We stood in many lines together, ate overpriced food, and met a cast of characters I can only imagine were actually exuberant actors sweating inside costumes with gigantic heads. Our experience at Disneyland is indicative of many times we’ve shared together as a team – fun, memorable, and incredibly exhausting. SSB has been an amazing blessing to me during my time at HPU; without

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the guidance and support of Dr. Julie Welker and Professor Kim Bryant none of our successes or good times had on trips would have been possible. This team is a family and no matter how often it changes its makeup we remain close and have fun while working tirelessly to bring awards back to school and represent Howard Payne well. I’ll never forget the amazing experiences I have had as a member of SSB, including this unforgettable trip to California!

Photo cutlines, from top: Catherine Mullaney with teammate Marcos Corley.

Catherine, right, with Dr. Julie Welker and Kim Bryant.

Team picture outside the convention center where final rounds were held.

Team picture at dinner.

Marcos Corley inside a teacup at Disneyland.

Members of the SSB at the park entrance.


“I saw the Queen today!”

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Sometimes we live vicariously through others — like when your roommate decides to spend a semester studying in London, or Austria or Costa Rica. But there’s only so much stalking we can do of their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. As happy as you may be for your friend, there are only so many times you can see her posing just-so in front of The Globe theatre, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, the Alps or a real-live Costa Rican volcano. When you get to that point, maybe you should come talk to me. I can help you get some pictures like that of your own.

I am Prof. Jennifer McNiece, and I am Howard Payne University’s Director of Academic Travel and Study Abroad. I wanted a space like this blog to do both of the things I just described above. I want for there to be a place where Howard Payne students can tell the world about the amazing experiences they are having all across God’s creation—and I want their experiences to make you want to do the same!

At Howard Payne University, we are strong believers in the value of experiential learning. Basically, this means: Learning by doing. Sometimes this can happen in a traditional classroom setting, like a science lab, or a music or theatre performance, or a mock-election in a government class. Sometimes lessons need to be lived out to be learned.

Through a variety of programs, HPU students have the world as their classroom. In the London Semester Program, in partnership with Hardin-Simmons University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, 10 Yellow Jackets spend the spring living and learning in London. There they can take art appreciation by going to museums like the Victoria and Albert or the National Portrait Gallery, theatre by attending shows in the West End, and history and culture by visiting sites like Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Scottish Highlands, and the pastoral Lake District.

“I absolutely loved my semester studying in London and traveling around the British Isles. Traveling internationally is an experience all students should take advantage of if possible. I will always remember the incredible experiences I had there with all the friends I met. I built a fort in the hills of Scotland, hid in a castle in Wales, wandered the lake district of England, and saw the beauty of Ireland. I would go tomorrow if I could, and you should too.” – Tim Hardy, political science and international studies major from Corpus Christi, TX tim hardy london


If you like the mountains more than the big city of London, maybe you’d be interested in studying for a semester in Salzburg, Austria. Through a partnership with Salzburg College, Howard Payne students can take classes ranging from international politics to voice lessons and music performance (including, if you’re up for the challenge, “Alpine Sports”).

“Studying abroad at Salzburg College is the best decision that I have ever made. Not only was I able to live in a European city and completely immerse myself in Austrian culture, I was able to spend much of the semester traveling around central and southern Europe. My experience abroad has shaped my worldviews and has inspired me to want to take on a career in international relations.” – Kerrie Ford, political science major with a specialization in international studies from Houston, TX kerrie ford salzburg


Or maybe you’d rather brush up your Spanish than your German. If so, consider a program in Latin America offered by BestSemester. Thanks to Howard Payne’s membership in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), we are able to offer you experiential learning opportunities living with families in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, or studying the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia or social work in Uganda. And the recent partnership of the Consortium for Global Education (CGE) with CAPA International provides even more opportunities around the world for Yellow Jackets to learn-by-doing.

“Living with host families in Central America allowed me to experience full cultural and linguistic immersion, which provided me with opportunities to converse with Latinos about their political views, their thoughts on international economics, and global affairs, thus enabling me to gain an understanding of issues that cannot be absorbed in a university classroom. It was a life-changing and paradigm-shaping experience.” – Landon Hankins, 2013 graduate from Decatur, TX, who majored in political science and Spanish

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From China to India to Italy; from London to Tokyo to Istanbul; and just about anywhere in between, the world can be your classroom through Howard Payne University’s study abroad opportunities.

Of course, not everyone wants or needs the same things. This is why our study abroad and academic travel programs can be general in nature, or intensive and specific to your individual major. Learning-by-doing doesn’t always have to be a semester-long thing; sometimes it happens in just a few days or weeks, like when a Spanish class travels to Spain or Latin America or future educators spend a week in London classrooms trading tips with British teachers. And few experiential learning opportunities are as personally moving as a trip to the Holy Land with Christian Studies faculty.

Spanish Spanish language students hiked through the Arenal National Park in Costa Rica to learn about the devastation of the volcanic eruption and the current state of recuperation of the affected area.


Israel Trip HPU students and faculty are pictured in the Dead Sea on a tour titled “Walking Where Jesus Walked: A Study Tour of Israel.” The trip toured key biblical sites, participated in simulations of first-century life, and held nightly lectures and discussions.


So: whether it’s for a whole semester or a couple weeks; regardless of your major; HPU wants you to experience learning. We’ll use this space to highlight a variety of experience from the student’s perspective. Check back here to share in travel and learning experiences with Yellow Jackets all over the world

For more information about these programs and the many more like them that I just don’t have space to list here, please contact me at the phone number, email address or office location listed below. In the meantime, be sure to also check out the rest of the information on our main academic travel and study abroad site:

Be sure to bookmark this blog and check back in regularly for program updates, messages from Yellow Jackets sharing their experiences, and exciting new opportunities!

–Prof. Jennifer McNiece
(325) 649-8179
Academy 201