6 Top Tips to Take on Your Year Abroad
Your year abroad, whatever form that takes, is going to be one of the most exciting and challenging things you’ve ever done. Some people love it so much that they don’t want to come home; others look forward to returning to normal life. Whether you’ve already embarked or you’re just in the planning stage, have a read through these top tips from Hannah for making the most of it!
- Find a local church
Wherever you are, Christian fellowship is key. You need support, you need friends and you need to be feeding on the Word of God regularly with other believers. You may want to look for an English-speaking church, or you might not – I really grew to love my Spanish-speaking fellowship. Find somewhere that will refresh you spiritually.
Finding a church may sound obvious, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. If you’re still planning, then consider church when choosing your location. Big cities are more likely to have evangelical churches, whereas smaller towns and villages might give you less choice. Contact local mission organisations or churches and find out about the local church where you’re going – they might even be able to put you in touch with a Christian nearby!
Of course, not everybody gets to choose their location, but you can be sure that God will be placing you where He wants you.
- Stay in touch with your home and uni church
Even though you’ll be part of a local church while you’re away, nothing beats having the support of people who have known you for years. If you’ve got a mentoring or discipleship relationship with someone from your home or uni church, how could you keep it going this year?
If you’re already on your year abroad and you haven’t had any contact with your home or uni church – don’t miss out! The devil roams like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). An isolated lamb away from friends, family and the support networks of a church is an easy target, so keep up those close Christian friendships.
- Make new friends and keep up with old ones
If you want to delve into the culture, improve your language skills and have some fresh experiences, then making friends with locals is essential. Through these you can also reach out and share your faith.
However, friends from home are also important for those moments of culture shock. When your year abroad presents you with somewhat unusual situations – ‘We have to write a whole school’s RE curriculum in three days!’ or ‘We have to get up at 5am to make 200 sandwiches!’ – it’s important to be able to share how you’re really finding things.
- Find opportunities to serve
Believe it or not, your year abroad isn’t a sabbatical from serving God! He has good works prepared for us to do, and that’s still true whether you’re at a uni in Florida or teaching kids English in Malaga. If you’re studying abroad, get involved with the local IFES group (the CU equivalent).
Look out for opportunities to serve in your new local church family. In my church in Moquegua we had nothing for the young people, so a local student and I started a youth group on a Saturday night. Your church will definitely have an area that needs more help – figure out what it is, and get stuck in.
Just like at home, there are always opportunities to serve others. Could you invite a student who is finding things tough over for a home-cooked meal? If you’re living with a non-Christian family, then this can be a particularly good opportunity to demonstrate the practical outworkings of your faith.
- Feed yourself
Your year will be full of both ups and downs. Daily feeding on God’s Word and coming to Him in prayer are essential in keeping you clinging to God in the tough spots, and keeping you spiritually filled so that you can give out to others.
If you’re studying languages, you might be thinking about reading the Bible in your target language. You can decide what’s best for you, but from both my experience and the experiences of friends, it’s probably best to allow God to speak to you in the language you most easily understand.
- Enjoy it!
We’re so fortunate to get the opportunity to experience another culture and to meet new people. Embrace every opportunity that comes your way, and shine like stars – whatever nation you find yourself in!
Hannah is studying International Development and Spanish at the University of Leeds, and spent her year abroad teaching English and RE in the Moquegua, Peru.