Students Studying Abroad Experience
Compiled by Kaylee Hatfield
Question: What was the most valuable thing you learned?
Answer: (Gary Buckley; Ecuador) Everything is quite laid back in Quito. Ecuadorians live by [the] phrase “Aprovechar lo que es dado,” meaning “Make the most of what is given.” This includes going out to dinner twice in one night simply to spend time with both friends and family, stopping to watch a beautiful sunset, and being generally thankful for what they have instead of always looking ahead. Two lessons I learned from this worldview are 1) learning to see all that I have as something God-given. If I trust God is good and faithful, then I must make the most of what He’s given me. 2) Be willing to invest in relationships. Even without strict schedules you can invest deeply in relationships with the time that is given.
Question: What is one custom/tradition you would like to have brought back with you?
Answer: (Taylor Lindquist; Rome, Italy) One custom that I thoroughly enjoyed was the timeliness (or lack thereof) of dinner. Dinner in Rome would begin around 7 p.m. with the aperitivo and end around 11 p.m. with the consummation of appetite and conversation. This honoring of fellowship was inspiring to someone whose background honored fellowship by the respecting of time. Personally [I think], time has trumped people in how the watch determines the completion of dinner rather than conversation and appetite. There was no sense of urgency, so much that it would irk the timely, but as time went by and my appreciation grew I found myself viewing dinner as an event rather than an inconvenient, time consuming survival necessity.
Question: What did you become accustomed to that was difficult/strange to get used to again once you returned?
Answer: (Geneva Garcia; Europe—Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, England, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, and France) The hardest thing to get used to upon my return was the huge difference in public transportation between the U.S. and Europe. You can get pretty much anywhere without a car there, whereas here I can’t get from Newberg to Portland without a car, which has now become difficult to not get frustrated about.
Question: What was the most valuable part of your experience?
Answer: (Regan Hill; Dakar, Senegal) My time in Dakar, Senegal was an incredible adventure of delight and wonder, walking in awe and curiosity with Jesus as I discovered a world so vastly different from my own. It was so important, being taken out of my white middle-class American context and thrown into an environment where I was a minority. I have gained so much more empathy for individuals that might not fit the molds made for the majority, and a greater appreciation for difference.
Question: What was the most challenging part of your experience?
Answer: (Geneva Garcia; Europe—Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, England, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, and France) The challenging thing with traveling alone is stuff like missing a flight or bus connections, doing layovers in sketchy bus stations in Vienna at 1 a.m., almost getting stranded in Munich at midnight, and having to lug film equipment around half the time because I was working on a documentary at the same time.
Question: What was the most valuable part of your experience?
Answer: (Emma Leid, France) I once witnessed a profound encounter on the ancient castle streets of Dijon, France. Two friends acknowledged each other in excitement without disturbing the others around them. Once face to face, they did something that Americans just don’t do. They stopped. They stopped and caught up. They said the sweetest most meaningful things to each other. They encouraged and asked unique engaging questions. One might say Americans do that too. Nope. Americans schedule these types of conversations, if they have them. They don’t run their own schedule, business does. Stopping in the middle of the street doesn’t make the cut for all the things we must do halfway and in a hurry during the day. Choosing how to spend your time is a norm in these European cultures. This is what I learned to do. The fact that I get to choose how I spend each God-given hour makes me savor life. The richness of life overflows, the colors aren’t diluted, and we realize that while on a hunt for the gold of this world, we had it the whole time.
Question: What could our culture learn from the culture you experienced?
Answer: (Danielle Howard; Oxford, England) Although Oxford University’s academic culture is very intensive, I learned from the example of my peers and fellow scholars the importance of life balance. Americans have a tendency of working themselves into the ground and have the mentality that rest tends to take away from productive work. This doesn’t do any favours for our uniquely American mental health epidemic! Even Brits at a selective research university are much more intentional with making space for rest and social activity along with work and responsibilities. Rest makes the work sharper and the person more whole and I think our society could definitely benefit from that.
Question: What was the most rewarding part of your experience?
Answer: (Kestrel Ray; Klaipeda, Lithuania) One of the most rewarding, and at the same time challenging, parts of my experience was my Teaching English fellowship that I participated in while abroad. I worked with a couple of adult classes, teaching practical vocabulary and focusing a lot on conversational usage of English. It was amazing as the semester went on to get to help [from] the teacher, Irina, and see how the students were growing in their use of English. It also gave me the chance to learn a lot about life in Lithuania. The students were from all different occupational backgrounds, and each brought some of that into our classes. There were some from the municipality, an economist, an accountant, a few from the immigration office and police department, and even a judge! Getting to know them and see them grow is a special part of my study abroad experience that I won’t soon forget.