Summary of Travel Experiences
While studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay, I learned many things beyond the book through traveling among the continent of South America. From spending three weekends throughout smaller cities in Uruguay; five days in Buenos Aires, Argentina; five days in Iguazu Falls, Brazil; and ten days in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, I was able to broaden my understandings of other cultures in both a general and a specific way. I learned that peoples' environments, such as the bright and tropical parts Brazil or the flashy area of Argentina, affect the different societies’ way of functioning and processing because the different socioeconomic statuses, national and traditional pride. Not only did I gain new awareness but I also acquired many fun experiences with friends. The travel experiences that were journeyed upon by the study abroad group in Montevideo, Uruguay, magnified the cultural exposure of the entire encounter.
Two Greatest Adjustments or Challenges
The first biggest adjustment for me was language. Since we were in South America, the dominating languages were Spanish and Portuguese. Initially we were thrown into the large ocean of the Spanish language. Since I had only taken two years of high school Spanish, I was still in beginning Spanish. The course required a total of eleven hours of Spanish class a week as a means to accustom us to the language more easily. I remember the first outing we had; reading the menu at the restaurant was one of the most frustrating things because I could hardly understand anything. The first several weeks my brain was very tired as well. I could literally feel my brain hurting from trying to think so hard and deep in another language. By the end of each day my head was exhausted. I remember sleeping extremely well the first month because of the mental exhaustion. This was certainly the first greatest adjustment I had to overcome. My brain had never physically hurt before, nor had I ever needed another language to survive in a community. Not having the luxury to go into “auto pilot” mentally, thus, having to constantly strain my head to think of just simple phrases to say was difficult. I constantly worked through this difficulty by having determination in my Spanish class and by regularly conversing with native Spanish speakers. At the beginning of our time in South America, I had a pressing desire to learn the language as a means to connect with the people of the region. However, as the semester continued, I began to sink into culture shock. I greatly desired to be able to speak my own language all the time; I did not want to have to talk to anybody who did not speak English. Because I had no strength or desire of my own and I knew it was necessary to have these in order to enjoy the latter half of the study abroad trip, I did the only thing I knew to do; I prayed. God proved Himself faithful, as always, and He renewed my desire to learn the language as well as blessed me with His strength to endure the pressing culture shock. Speaking in Spanish was the first great challenge I encountered, and it lasted all the way throughout the trip. With God’s strength though, there is no challenge too big to overcome.
My second greatest adjustment was revealed after some time of being way from my usual social life in the United States. I usually hang out with many different groups of people and somewhat “float” around. I have a core group of girl friends, but I enjoy having a diversity of other friends. After about a month of being around the same nine students, I started to feel the affects of not having this diversity in my life. Though I tried to talk to different people over the Internet, nothing satisfied because no one on the other end of the line used the Internet as a “necessity to social survival.” I felt that I was not being myself because I was cooping myself in my room since I was trying to socialize “elsewhere.” Normally I constantly hang out with people but not the same people all the time. I started to long for other people, but I knew this would not be possible. As my struggle with this continued, one of my friends messaged me a simple yet striking message, “You are around these people for a limited amount of time. You have a purpose being in their company, and they need your presence in the room.” His encouraging words, along with much prayer, helped me to break through this challenge and to adjust my social life to being around only a few people. Having a limited amount of people in which to interact was my second greatest challenge, but it was endured.
What I Learned about Living in the Mini-ACU Community
Since our group was so small, there was not a great variety of people with which to hang out. Since there were only ten students and one ACU professor, we all became very close. Being in this small ACU community made me realize how important relationships should be valued above material things. I struggled with balancing hanging out with people and working on my studies. Since I am a “Type A” personality, I am very particular about being on top of my studies before socializing. However, being in the close-knit community, showed me how other students in the group make a priority of the people rather than glorifying an A grade. As I worked to find a balance between socializing, studying, and having alone time, I grew in multiple ways in our little community. I grew as a person; I grew as a friend to those around me, and I grew intellectually through my studies. Living in the ACU community was an encouragement to me through providing areas of growth and rich fellowship with fellow believers in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
What I Learned about Living in Uruguay
Before hearing about Study Abroad, I had never heard about Uruguay. As my interest in studying abroad increased, I gained a little bit of knowledge about the country, but not very much. Since I knew very little before entering into it, I had a wide, open void of space to learn. I learned about its history, art, literature, politics, and people. However, learning facts did not nearly compare to learning about the life style of Uruguayans. There are many things in Uruguay that contrast to things in the United States. From the infrastructure of transportation to the absence of religion, living in Uruguay proved to be very different from living in the United States. I learned that one does not have to have a car to survive, which is counter to my upbringing in the States; busses and walking are fine methods of transit. I also learned how to apply my faith differently through living in Uruguay. The country is the most unreligious country of South America; it is marked with sin as every human development, and it lacks hope when it comes to death. I learned how to apply my faith by not taking part in the cultures “major sins” such as drunkenness and sexual immorality. I learned how to see God in different aspects through the different society, and I learned how crucial the hope of Christ is in my life.
What I Learned about Myself
While studying abroad in different societies and cultures of various countries, I had many hours, even days, to think and reflect on what I observed. In doing so, I learned several things about myself. One, I learned that though I function most comfortably with a wide variety of friends, with many luxuries, and with the ease of having my own car, I am fine without them too. I also learned that when I am outside of my comfort zones, such as speaking a second language or making new friends of different backgrounds, God stretches me and opens my eyes to new perspectives. As I gained perspectives through learning about other cultures, I learned many things about myself as well. I saw how I have had a wrong view on people’s “faults” and unhappy attitudes. I saw how I have not been as welcoming to foreigners as I should be. Finally, I saw how plugging myself into a close community is very beneficial to having a foundation of accountability and encouragement. Studying abroad taught me both about myself as a person and how to become a better person.
What I Learned about God
In my study abroad experience I gained new insights into the creativity, love, and greatness of God. Through traveling, I saw many new and exciting sights, all of which reflected the creativity of our Creator through the diversity in the world such as: different people, animals, vegetation, and landscape. As we encountered different people ranging from those in the church in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the our cook at Casa ACU in Montevideo, Uruguay, I observed how open they held their arms to us. This gave me an insight as to how God invites all of us no matter how different we are into His wide spread arms. I also learned in a new way, how great is our God! As we visited the raging water falls of Iguazu, my fear yet love for our God increased through seeing the mighty works of His hands. If the creation is so great, how much greater must its Creator be? Study abroad opened my eyes to new aspects and perspectives of our wonderful and loving God.