Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Visiting different countries is an experience one would never forget. From witnessing God’s creation and history to being pushed outside our comfort zones and experiencing the world God has created, there are numerous benefits to exploring the world. Three Northwestern College students were blessed with this opportunity and recently returned from studying abroad with new perspectives, new friends and a new appreciation for God’s world.
Corrie Hayes spent a semester studying theater at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Days filled with Shakespeare, movement, voice and acting lessons still left her time to explore the city and its sights.
She said she enjoyed the “shared love and passion for art and accessibility to art” and witnessed more than 40 shows, including one in the back of a pub.
Cassidy Bultena’s semester in Seville, Spain featured visits to various cities and towns with her welcoming host family, which expanded her view of Spain and its history.
A trip to the mountain town of Rhonda particularly moved her. She said, “I was in awe of how the history I had learned was so visible hundreds of years later. Buildings and bridges were still standing after surviving battles and several power changes. Each event seemed to come to life as I walked through the different neighborhoods.”
Bultena also took Flamenco dance lessons and rock climbing classes, enjoying the interaction with Spaniards in everyday life.
Bekah Muilenburg studied language and culture in Romania. A favorite memory was her visit to the Revolution Museum, where she learned more about Romania’s history and its split from communism.
She also worked with teenagers through her program’s impact club (similar to a church youth group), climbing gym and bike trails. Through her classes, Muilenburg was able to take a five-day backpacking trip to the mountains, experiencing the beauty of God’s creation.
All three students formed new friendships abroad. Bultena enjoyed long talks with the mother of her host family. Muilenburg bonded with her host family by cooking together and through weekend getaways. Hayes and a new Christian friend participated in a Bible study, attended church and had deep conversations about faith together.
Along with the good times, the women experienced some challenges.
Bultena found learning the Spanish language and navigating the unknowns frustrating at times, and she turned to God for strength on difficult or uncertain days. She says these challenges ultimately humbled her as she was put in a vulnerable place and was able to grow by stepping out of her comfort zone.
Hayes encountered distinctive religious barriers during her visit. One unexpected development was a friendship with a gay Catholic man. “It was like the beautiful thing about human connection with people that are very different from you,” Hayes said. “It makes you think a lot about who you are and what your faith is and what you believe and what your values are.”
All three women are grateful for their time abroad. Hayes said that she grew not just through her theater classes, but also through her friendships as well. Muilenburg said that stepping out of her comfort zone into a different culture can be “scary at first, but it’s definitely worthwhile. I probably learned more about myself in this semester than I have the previous two years in building my relationship with God and others and learning how to be independent.”
The deadlines for studying abroad are approaching. The deadline for the summer study abroad is Feb. 1 and the deadline for a spring or fall semester abroad is Feb. 10.