Off-campus programs

Semester abroad & other off-campus programs

The following off-campus programs of study are available to Bluffton students: 



You are invited to spend a semester experiencing the colorful culture and beautiful landscape of Guatemala! This Central American country has a population of just over 15 million people. Many Mayans continue to live in small, rural villages, dress in colorful traditional clothing and speak one of 22 indigenous languages. Guatemala is still recovering from 36 years of “civil war” called La Violencia (the violence); Peace Accords were signed in 1996.

Our experience will investigate the integration of ancient Mayan culture and modern life. You will see the ways in which wealth and power are unequally distributed. You will learn about La Violencia and efforts to heal the wounds of that painful experience. You will spend time in the capital city, Guatemala City, and in rural areas, particularly near beautiful Lake Atitlan. You will experience bustling markets full of locally-made crafts, visit cooperatives and learn about how those crafts are made, visit Ancient Mayan ruins, eat local foods, practice Spanish and learn to appreciate rural life and work during a home-stay. 

Bluffton students will live with Guatemalan families in Guatemala City and take Spanish classes at CASAS (Central American Study and Service) program affiliated with the Guatemalan Mennonite Church.  In addition, you will have classes about Guatemalan history and culture and about making peace.  A volunteer field experience will give you the experience of a second Guatemalan community and an organization working to better the lives of the people in the community. 

While prior Spanish study is encouraged, it is not a requirement to participate in this semester experience.

Elaine Suderman, Asst. Director of Cross-cultural programs
Cross-cultural Program Office
College Hall second floor

Fall semester (end of August to mid-December)

Bluffton University students will take classes together as a group.

  • Spanish (8-9 hours)

  • CHS 133 Introduction to Central America (3 hours)
    This is a panoramic introduction to primary themes of history, culture and current events of Central American society. This course facilitates a cultural adaption to and entrance into the Central American realities and context.

  • CHS 234 Anthropological Perspectives in a Guatemalan Context (2-3 hours)

  • CHS 333 Violence, Justice and Peace in Central America (Peace Studies) (3 hours)
    The course seeks to introduce the student to a variety of tools to help identify and analyze the roots and causes of violence in Central America. The situation of peace and justice in Central America, especially in Guatemala, will be analyzed along with the contributions an Anabaptist perspective makes to Christian faith.

Bluffton University general education requirements
By participating in the Guatemala semester, you may meet the following general education requirements:

  • Cross-cultural experience
  • Humanities course (2nd humanities/history/literature requirement)
  • Upper-level religion course
  • Social science course (Part B)

Elaine Suderman, Asst. Director of Cross-cultural Programs  
Cross-cultural Program Office
College Hall second floor


Discover the city life of Washington, D.C., cultural diversity, career-building opportunities, a broad range of university classes and the connections between faith and work at the Washington Community Scholars Center. Washington, D.C., is full of exciting opportunities to explore new cultures, a different pace of life and learning, and a great variety of people, each with their own worldview and passions. The city is also a place to learn about the poverty that exists in our own country, about racism which continues to affect our society and about the ways that real people are addressing these challenges. Through internships, group life and the weekly seminar class, students are encouraged to embark on a stretching journey of personal and professional self-discovery and gain new perspectives on the world we live in.

Build a resume with job skills and work experience. WCSC offers you an opportunity to explore your interests while contributing to your community with a 20 hour per week internship. We can place students from any major, including the sciences, the arts and professional programs.

WCSC's inter-disciplinary seminar analyzes social problems, faith issues and urban experiences through reading and writing, the arts, field trips and group discussion. Guest speakers, internship visits, and history and arts tours are part of the weekly seminar course.

Students may also elect to take 1-2 courses at one of the following local universities, with priority given to those who need the credits to meet graduation requirements: Trinity University, University of the District of Columbia, Corcoran College of Art and Design and Graduate School of the U.S.

Students who successfully complete the WCSC program will have met their LAS 342 Cross-cultural Experience and LAS 301 Issues in Modern America. The course, A multicultural history of Washington, D.C. 1930-1970, meets a humanities requirement. The other humanities course must be taken at Bluffton. 

Participants will live with students from Mennonite-affiliated schools in a working-class, largely African-American neighborhood. WCSC student life is a community experience, including shared meals and household responsibilities.

Courses offered fall and spring semesters: Curriculum A 
Courses offered summer terms: Curriculum B

Curriculum A 15 credits

Students attend and review museum exhibits, plays, concerts and guided tours of public art in D.C. Reading and writing assignments focus on the relationship between historical events and contemporary social issues.

WCS 386 The Anacostia, alleys & the arts: A MULTI-CULTURAL HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C., 1930-1970
The Washington, D.C., setting offers students an opportunity to examine the history of race and ethnicity in an urban context, including the historical African-American community and more recent immigrant communities.

How are leaders made? In these critical times, what kinds of leaders does our society need? How is leadership best practiced? College students, at the cusp of adulthood in American society stand at many crossroads. Life-altering decisions, vocational choices, questions about how and whom to serve can stimulate or, conversely, inhibit creativity, a willingness to engage in the serious issues of our day and a commitment to serve others. This course is taught in tandem with WCS 391.

Explores the many dimensions of servant leadership, starting with traditional definitions and moving into gender and race before engaging with the great non-violent servant leaders of the 20th century. Throughout the class we will talk with local servant leaders in the D.C. area.


Curriculum B 10 credits

WCS 388  Cross-cultural Social Science (3)
This course explores cultural theories that will assist students in navigating the complex culture of Washington, DC while also reflecting on their own cultural identity. Simultaneously, it will look at various religious and theoretical roots for community living, creating a companion for WCSC students' experiences living together within this city. Compiling these two topics, students will dive into the specific histories and cultures present in DC, critically reflecting on the way that their internship and urban experience intertwine with the broader city as they do so.

Explores the many dimensions of servant leadership, starting with traditional definitions and moving into gender and race before engaging with the great non-violent servant leaders of the 20th century. Throughout the class we will talk with local servant leaders in the D.C. area.



 BESTSEMESTER (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities)

Off-campus, interdisciplinary learning opportunities are available to upper-class students at Bluffton University and offer 16 semester hours of credit. For further information, visit or contact the director of cross-cultural programs. 


BCA Study Abroad programs meet the cross-cultural requirement.  For further information,  visit or contact the director of cross-cultural programs. 


Central American Study and Service, part of the Latin American Anabaptist Seminary (SEMILLA), gives North Americans the opportunity to live, study and volunteer in a Latin American context. The core of the CASAS program is a 12-week, cross-cultural study term designed for students interested in studying Spanish while cultivating a broader awareness of the issues facing people in Guatemala. The term begins with eight weeks of intensive study while living with a Guatemalan family in a marginal area of Guatemala City. Students study Spanish (often, in a one-on-one setting) with experienced Guatemalan teachers and participate in visits and lectures with organizations or individuals who are experts on Guatemalan history, culture, politics and religion. During the final four weeks students have the opportunity of working in a voluntary service setting. Students may earn university credit in several areas including Spanish, anthropology and religion. Also available is an intensive Spanish-only program. For further information, contact the director of cross-cultural programs. This program meets the cross-cultural requirement. 


July 2016