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Pepperdine London Program Director Heather Pardee (’08) Guides Students as They Navigate a New Country and Culture

Heather Pardee

Located on Exhibition Road in South Kensington—an area surrounded by several major museums and academic establishments—just a few blocks from Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, Ƶ’s London international program places students at the heart of the city’s vibrant offerings. During their year abroad, students explore museums and markets, immersing themselves in the rich history and diverse culture of an international city.

Pepperdine London House at 56 Prince's Gate Ƶ "London House" at 56 Prince's Gate

Heather Pardee, the director of Pepperdine’s London program, is dedicated to crafting a dynamic study abroad experience. "I feel that I'm on the front line of this amazing international educational experience that transforms students," Pardee says. "I not only get to facilitate that transformation but also enjoy a front-row seat to their journeys as blossoming young adults."

A Seaver College alumna, Pardee has a rich background in international studies, inspired by her own study abroad experience in Pepperdine’s Lyon, France, homestay program, where she lived with a French host family for an academic year. An avid enthusiast of the French language and culture, the homestay program was the perfect opportunity for Pardee to experience life in France and to venture beyond her comfort zone. 

“It was challenging living in another country, communicating primarily in a foreign language, and relying on myself to navigate a new environment without the safety net of my family,” says Pardee. “However, it was also really rewarding. Pepperdine’s international programs challenged me to operate independently and helped me grow and flourish as a more dynamic individual.”

Pardee also credits Pepperdine for preparing her for a career in purposeful leadership and believes that the University uniquely provides students with a comprehensive education that expands their minds as well as their career aspirations. “Pepperdine does a good job of teaching students to consider their life holistically, whether that's talking about their calling or vocation, or the impact that they’re making in the world,” she says. “This is an institution that gets students thinking about leadership through the lens of service and helps them to develop as a whole person rather than just handing out a degree that's going to take them into a career.”

According to Pardee, her daily responsibilities as program director are constantly evolving, and she thrives when managing the various projects she is required to lead to be successful in her position. She shares, “It’s always different. What I like the most about my position is that I can tackle new challenges every single day.” 

Heather Pardee (middle) with studentsHeather Pardee (middle) with students

Pardee also enjoys spending time with the students, exposing them to a new world while also helping to cultivate a viewpoint of the city’s lifestyle and culture. She says, “The students come from all over, but similar to myself, many are coming from the suburbs, and the city life is so different from what they likely have experienced before.” Her goal, she explains, is to facilitate an experience for students that feels authentic while building their confidence when navigating a new country. Drawing from her own study abroad experience, she believes challenging students to immerse themselves in a new environment will ultimately prepare them for the variety of obstacles they may face in life. “I like to show them that sometimes living in the city is hard, but sometimes it's really beautiful and sometimes you have to work through the challenges to see the beauty.”

Pardee outlines key elements in planning the program, including student orientation, onboarding, delivering a unique curriculum, and partnering with faculty to provide students with a diverse and immersive learning experience. She also teaches several courses, including British literature and Enriching the International Experience, in which she leads students through London and its bustling multicultural, cosmopolitan environment. “My hope is to show them a different side of London and to talk about what it means to be Londoners.” For students, the course serves as an open forum to discuss topics such as immigration and the balance of church and state, as well as the political roles of the crown and Parliament. “It’s a bit of everything and helps students get a holistic view of the city.”

As Pardee reflects on the transformative journey students undergo during their time overseas, she is inspired by the ways the unique blend of local immersion and the distinct Pepperdine community shapes them.

“I regularly meet with students and get to watch them change through their time here,” she says. “They often come in very fresh and green, and then they leave as world travelers. What is so extraordinary about this program is that they are living in London, but it's still a uniquely Pepperdine experience. It's the best of both worlds.”