The MA in International Studies program and the Department of Peace Studies are excited to announce a new partnership with the Center for International Experiential Learning (CIEL).

CIEL’s unique holistic learning model combines extensive interdisciplinary pre-travel scholarly education with on-the-ground experiential learning in conflict-affected regions guided by internationally recognized scholars and local experts.

This past summer, International Studies graduate students Joshua Jackson and Alex Xu, undergraduate student Kate Ricardelli, alongside faculty member and International Studies program director Dr. Crystal Murphy, embarked on the inaugural trips of this new partnership to the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

Chapman University joined other students from universities across the US and UK to receive on-the-ground exposure to the people, politics and realities. In the Middle East, the focus was on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they move between the difficult and contested geographies of Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. In Northern Ireland, the ongoing tension, marginalization and occasional violence that continue to be obstacles to lasting peace and stability.

As a unique part of their experiential learning program, students actively engaged with politicians, community leaders, non-governmental organizations, faith leaders, academic experts and victims/survivors from all sides impacted by the conflicts.

“The classroom can accomplish many things,” said Xu, “what experiential learning does instead is teach via experiences that you cannot get from the pages of a book. For CIEL, I did plenty of both forms of learning, and the payoff was a deep integration into the history of the place I would then travel to. The six weeks of intensive studying was dense, but properly prepared me to be engaged in the places I would go and the people I would get to meet; with the experiential portion, all that I had read had suddenly manifested itself into the lives of people we would interview, and I would get to see the times and dates I had read off of history textbooks take life into far more intimate and personal stories. Without the classroom, experiential learning would never get to go so deep – without experiential learning, the classroom would never be able to affect you so deeply with what you learn.”

The International Studies program has long supported experiential learning. Most recently, students had the opportunity to visit the Mexico-United States port of entry between San Ysidro and Tijuana. Referred to as the “world’s busiest border crossing,” the trip was the culminating project in Dr. Nancy Rios-Contreras’s International Studies Refugees and Migration course, which covered topics relevant to asylum, borders, and transit migration.

The next CIEL trips are planned for summer 2023. More information will be available in the upcoming spring term, and interested students can reach out to Dr. Murphy at