The Jay and Barb Barnes Global Study Scholarship Reflects Their Commitment to International Experiences

Elijah De Jongh ’23 will study at Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica in fall 2023. His program reflects several of the Barnes’ passion areas: international study in a non-Western setting, a Christian focus, and time spent immersed in a homestay.

By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS'16, contributing writer

June 15, 2023 | 2:30 p.m.

President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes

President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes

President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes have a deep commitment to global learning and international experiences. Their tenure at Bethel built many partnerships abroad, the backdrop to their Zoom meetings features photography from travels in Africa, and they’re quick to rattle off the countries they’ve visited in recent months.

Since Jay’s retirement in 2020, the Barnes have reimagined their role in Bethel students’ lives moving forward. They’ve set up an endowed scholarship fund centered on student-faculty science research, but they wanted to do something more to make global study possible for more Bethel students.

“We care about Bethel, and we care about its future. And there are some life experiences that we think are really transformational for students. Study abroad is one of those things.”

— President Emeritus Jay Barnes

Under Barnes’ leadership and through innovative programs designed to make study abroad affordable, Bethel became one of the leading universities in the country for study abroad—in terms of the percentage of undergraduate students who study internationally. Recent financial changes and changes in the national landscape for higher education have brought on some changes to how financial aid can be applied to programs abroad. The Barnes were quick to ask themselves how they could help. 

As they thought about their experience with international education—and the many Bethel student stories they’ve come to know over the past decades—they began to put specific language around the exact type of transformational global study experiences they wanted to help fund.

Through the Jay and Barb Barnes Global Study Scholarship, they’ve committed to providing funding for students pursuing their first semester-long, Christian study abroad program in a non-Western setting that features immersive living with local students or families. There are application cycles in the fall and spring, with up to $25,000 awarded per year.

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Barb mentions Bethel’s long-standing connection to Daystar University in Kenya, and how the two Christian universities have many programs in common and had long sent students back and forth. The partnership will hopefully be renewed between the two schools. 

“I’d love to give priority to anyone who would go to Africa,” she says. “It’s just an amazing, cooperative experience that Daystar offers students!”

This fall, relational communication and Spanish double-major Elijah De Jongh ’23 will become the first recipient of their scholarship. He’ll study in San José, Costa Rica, at Universidad Veritas, an independent private university. The university welcomes several hundred international students each term, offering them a homestay with a local family as well as excursions designed to showcase the region’s culture and biodiversity.

Elijah De Jongh ’23

Relational communication and Spanish double-major Elijah De Jongh ’23, who will study in San José, Costa Rica, at Universidad Veritas.

De Jongh was especially drawn to the intentional Christian mentorship within the program, as well as connections with local ministries and opportunities for career exploration.

“It emphasizes a wholly integrated and lived-out type of faith. This is the type of Christian faith that I personally desire, and in terms of a study abroad experience would give me the best opportunity to take part in and experience a holistic connection with those who I will be in community with,” says De Jongh. “My hope is to be able to engage in the profoundly relational design of human connection—that goes beyond differences of culture and language by fully embracing them. I believe this to be the type of loving connection that we are called to cultivate and foster.”

Associate Dean of International and Off-Campus Programs Virginija Wilcox and her team have worked with De Jongh to select a program that will help meet his degree requirements. When he expressed that he was concerned about the cost of studying abroad, and that he’d recently taken a semester off from Bethel to save up money to finish, they suggested he apply for the Barnes scholarship. 

“He has resilience in regards to his study abroad journey and has worked immensely hard to make sure he is an international student while at Bethel,” says Wilcox, who notes that the most recent data shows that just under half of Bethel undergraduate students study abroad at some point. 

Assistant Director of International Studies Nicole Kang adds that female students are more likely to study abroad than male, and short-term programs—during January session (formerly interim) or summer—are the clear favorite among students. As more students choose to start college through PSEO, some tighten their schedules to graduate as quickly as possible. Other students commute or work on campus to offset the cost of college. If a student wants to study abroad, short-term programs can provide an international experience with comparatively less cost and time away.

There are a number of national scholarships available for international study, and Bethel donors like the Barnes step in to help close the gap for students who want to study abroad, but are concerned about finances. They’re committed to providing funds for the scholarship for five years, and hope that other Bethel donors feel compelled to give in similar ways. And, if the student response takes off like they hope it will, they’ll continue their giving because they believe deeply in this cause.

“When you study abroad–especially in non-traditional settings–you come to see yourself differently, see the world differently, and see God differently. When you’re in situations where not everyone grew up the same way you did–where people love Jesus, but see Jesus from a different angle–it’s so transformational."

— President Emeritus Jay Barnes
Student submissions to the Fall 2022/Interim 2023 Study Abroad Photo Contest

Expand your worldview by studying abroad.

Choosing to study abroad means embarking on a journey that you'll never forget. You'll learn about cultures by experiencing them for yourself. You'll visit sites of historical significance. And you'll grow personally, professionally, and spiritually as you explore and interact with the world God created.

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