Guest Post by Harrison Fowler
A little bit about Harrison:
I’m originally from Louisville, Kentucky but attend the University of Cincinnati in Ohio where I was converted just three years ago. I’m 22 years old and am in my last semester as a Spanish major.
Recently, God opened up a very big door for me in my life to study abroad in another country. As a Spanish major I jumped on the opportunity to take classes in another country, another language, and another culture in Madrid, Spain. What an experience! For the purposes of this blog post I wanted to discuss how it was studying abroad but through the eyes of a disciple.
The first few days of my study abroad experience were especially challenging simply because I was the most alone I had ever been in my life. I was alone in a completely new country where I didn’t know a soul, which for some people (like me!) can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting. But God is good. Through events I can describe in no other way as miraculous, He was able to get me hooked up and acquainted with the disciples in Madrid. From that point on, my summer experience truly began.
As a student who was in Spain for solely academic purposes, you can imagine that a good deal of my time was spent doing things that people who’s sole purpose for being in Spain was academic would do. I lived in a homestay with a Spanish couple provided for me by the study abroad agency. I went to class every morning, five days a week, till late afternoon. I went to the study abroad outings and events hosted by the agency which served no other purpose than being a glorified first day of kindergarten with slightly more advanced questions than, “what’s your favorite color? (mines grey by the way. I know it’s very odd). But after I was done being a student for half the day, I was free to do whatever I wanted. Which always meant take a siesta nap or meet up with the disciples to hangout.
For me, the student-study abroad aspect of my time in Madrid wasn’t a necessary evil (that’s way too strong) but maybe more of a necessary boredom. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the student side of my trip to Spain. I was able to knock off an entire semester worth of classes which means I’ll be graduating early. I built confidence in my language abilities. I fully experienced the education system in a completely different country in a second language. There are so many benefits from my time spent in the classroom through the study abroad agency that I am grateful for, but the enjoyment, the satisfaction, the memories, and the quintessential Spanish experience I received, all were a result of the incredible outpouring of love I felt during my cherished times with the disciples.
In other words, my day never truly began until I was hugging a brother or sister in Christ.
I don’t want to make it seem like the moments I spent away from the Body were in any way, shape or form, a drudgery. They weren’t. But there were many times I felt like an outsider at school, in the classroom, or at my homestay simply because I was living life with Jesus as my Lord and other around me weren’t. There were times that this could be difficult, constantly standing out for hours in a day because I merely was unable to laugh at certain jokes, tell stories of nights spent at the Spanish discotecas (clubs), and had to bare the brunt of jokes thrown at me by my host-mom for being a good church boy who didn’t truly want to enjoy his time alone in another country because he was with Christians all the time. But it was fine. I survived and survived all the better. God is good and took care of me each and every time I felt alone. And the disciples in Madrid wrapped their arms around me with love that I can’t to this day comprehend. So, yeah, I was taken care of real good. No doubt about that.
For anyone wishing to study abroad, and specifically studying abroad in Madrid, it is a must.
You will knock out necessary school credits, build eternal friendships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and experience another way of living that many fellow believers simply call life. Leaving them was heartbreaking which is a testament to God’s outpouring of love I saw while I was in Spain. In the illustrious words of the great Winnie the Pooh, my time and experience on the last day could be summed up with a simple quote, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”