Top three tips for your year abroad
If you’re reading this then you’re probably one of the 25,000 British students who are heading overseas this year as part of your degree.
I’m delighted that you’re taking that opportunity and as I write this, looking out at the rain, I’m hugely envious of all of you heading off to warmer climates across Europe and beyond. As you head out from the UK, there is a lot to think about and plenty to prepare and organise. Time away from family and friends, the Christian Union and your church can present a whole host of challenges, so here are my three top tips to help you ‘survive’ the year as a Christian.
1. Join a local church
This might sound like a fairly run of the mill suggestion but is crucial as a believer. So, wherever you are heading do some decent research and hunting online before you leave, and when you do arrive try and settle somewhere within a month.
It’ll inevitably be very different and it might take you a long time to feel settled but don’t be a ‘hopper’! Remember, what you need to find is a community to enter into and not a building to frequent! Your involvement with a group of local believers is as vital to you as a Christian as is a “transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man”. Don’t let yourself become isolated!
2. Stay in touch
Although this may be a ‘typical’ suggestion, but you are likely to be heading out to a town or city very different from the one you’ve been in, with the added difficulty of communicating in a second language! Even the most extroverted of us will end up feeling a little low and lonely when we’re away from friends for a long time and even the strongest Christian can face distractions and temptations.
So, make sure you make plans to regularly keep in touch with your friends and family, and frequently keep them up to date with what’s going on so that they can help, support and pray for you.
3. Connect with the local CU movement
Often when Christian students go abroad they may think that it will be a year off from CU! It may well be a year off from your own Christian Union but by no means should it be a break from being involved in meeting with other Christian students on campus. Scattered across the world is a community of national student movements like UCCF seeking to engage university students with the good news of Jesus Christ!
These movements and the local groups can come in many different shapes and sizes and although they may look and feel very different from what you’re used to in the UK, they are a wonderful way to make friends, unite around your love for Jesus, and to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You might be able to share a few ideas but be prepared to learn a lot yourself!
During this period of time at a university overseas, you will have an amazing opportunity to learn from Christian students in a different context to your own – listen and learn from their ideas. As you spend time exploring a new campus, keep looking for opportunities to show Jesus to the people around you. Studying abroad can challenge, push and change us for the better but as Christians we’re not called to just survive, but to thrive, to live in the world and to have life in abundance. I really hope that you will enjoy experiencing another culture and making new friends, making the most of every opportunity to share the gospel, and to introduce students to the eternal life that Jesus offers.
Owen Brown joined UCCF in 2011 and is the Team Leader for Wales. He loves art, food and sport, and is a bit of a twitter addict. You can follow him at @OJDBROWN.
Heading abroad this year? Find out more about Christian Union movements across the world on the IFES website.