Our Time in Spain

Katherine Frykman | blog

A time like none other. An experience that none of us will ever forget and will always cherish. You move away from your home, your family, everything that is familiar and travel to a world of unknown experiences. At first you think it’s perfect, you cannot see any wrong. We live and love and learn and travel. By the end of the first quarter we were discouraged, tired of the food and had begun to form dislikes. We missed home and the comfort it provides. Sometimes it felt like Spain would never be home.

Then, second quarter comes, and you start the grind of school all over again. Here, during the second quarter is where change begins. This is where you realize that you really love the country. This is when it takes hold of a piece of your heart and never lets go. This kind of love is not the same love as last quarter when we all first arrived, and everything was new and perfect. This love sees the country for what it is. A country that isn’t perfect, but unique, and full of incredible people. Just like that It has become home. How did this happen? You don’t know. You just realized one day that you felt at home, as though this place was where you belonged. We loved the country for everything that it was, even the things that used to bother us didn’t anymore. It was just life and it was our lives and now we were really ready to live it to the fullest.

We had all undergone a transformation and we had been through it together. Contrary to popular belief, study abroad is not all travel, happiness, and amazing Instagram photos. It’s tough. Tough to adjust and learn to love and live in a new place in a true way. This is something we all experienced and shared and that, without knowing it, brought us together in a way we could have never imagined.

Throughout this process you also realize what really makes this specific school so special, and the answer is simple: our teachers. They have always been there encouraging us, supporting us and putting their all into making this experience wonderful and unique. They sacrifice a lot for us. They have given up time that they could be spending with their friends, family, sleeping, doing their grocery shopping, and going to the gym. That is a lot of sacrifice for people who will be in their lives for just 9 short months. But we all know that they will gladly do it over again for the next group of people with just as much sacrifice. They welcome us into their homes and lives. They share stories with us, and we laugh together, cry together and dance together (especially in Chelo’s class). We become a family.

Life slows down and it doesn’t feel dreary anymore. You learn to appreciate every moment that you get to spend in such a beautiful place. Every morning a beautiful sunrise greets you, the ocean begins to shimmer silver and deep blue and every night a majestic sunset signals time for the evening campus activities to begin. Then the big moon rises over the hills and shines down on us as we walk to and from worship and the gym. The orange trees always have something wonderful to give. At the beginning of the year it was oranges of course. We ate them and drank their juice and a few times they were used as weapons in epic battles that took place on the walk to and from Sagunto. Then after the orange season is over the blossoms come and the sweet smell fills the air all day long. All these pieces have become a part of us. Things so beautiful it’s actually hard to take them for granted.

You meet more people and make more friends as time goes on. You build a community. You travel and learn how to travel. You learn how to order a taxi in Spanish. You learn valuable lessons from leaving water in your water bottle while going through security, missing flights, trains and buses. Maybe you even had something stolen, or now own a bracelet some man slipped on your wrist and made you pay for. You forget to check into flights and find out that some hostels have bed bugs. You take Ls and move on laughing with another story to tell. The memories multiply.

You begin to learn that this new life is your new reality, and everything just feels so right until one day at 3am everything changes. You have to leave your reality and go back to the other life you lived in the past. Except that you are different, you have changed, and it is scary. Scary not knowing how you are going to fit into that old reality as a changed person. It is exciting to see family and friends and the excitement of this will keep you going at the beginning, but then reality will hit and you realize just how different you are. You miss the quiet sunrise runs with the smell of orange blossoms all around and the happy loving faces of your teachers. You realize that never again in your life will you have teachers that individually know, and genuinely care about you that much. The pain of this realization hurts. You can feel it deep inside of your stomach and it doesn’t go away. It’s simply because a piece of you is missing and always will be. In a matter of hours our lives had been changed.

We weren’t ready. I know we wouldn’t have been anyways when we left in our own timing, but at least we would have had time to prepare ourselves for it. Crying in el Comedor with 60 other people at 8am is not really how any of us pictured leaving. Lidia crying while she hugged us whispering “I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry.” over and over again. We were weak from crying because we were already missing these people and this place we hadn’t even left yet. Every goodbye got harder and harder. It was time to leave and we were still waiting for someone to wake us up, tell us it was not true, it is all just a bad dream. We were not actually leaving for good right?

But we were. We were going home to very different lives. At this point, all we could do was turn our focus forward to the future. The truth is that we will never really leave our lives in Spain behind, because we have changed and will always carry it with us. No matter where we go. We will never forget, never stop loving and never stop missing those we left behind.

Thank you, Spain, for impacting our lives in such a beautiful way. ¡Hasta luego!

Five Reasons to Study Abroad

C.E. Péan | blog

Let’s be honest real quick. If you like being comfortable, this program probably isn’t for you. If you like a life where you can assume you are right about everything and the world has nothing to teach you, I would suggest against Adventist College Abroad (ACA). Mark Twain said “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” and I’m afraid that he was right.

Now if you were hoping for adventure, if you wanted to experience life in an unforgettable year of your life where you are challenged and grow and become the best version of yourself, then there might not be a better time of your life to do so than in college through ACA.

I spent my sophomore year in France at Collonges-sous-Salève and a year after graduation in Italy at Villa Aurora and during that time I can give at least five reasons why you should spend at least a semester abroad. These reasons are in no way exhaustive. I could spend all day telling you the benefits of ACA but these capture a big reasons that you will definitely experience.

Language

Studying abroad will help you learn a new language. Some languages are helpful for a future career, some languages can connect to your family history, while others are worth learning for their own beauty.

Even studying abroad in England can teach you about language. The Adventist school in the UK, Newbold College, takes students through the history of the English language through texts and places, showing students how clever their own language is in the very country and culture where it was invented.
All the other foreign languages give you the opportunity to look behind the curtain of your own worldview. Whether you plan on using a foreign language at work someday or not, this skill will help you better understand the global neighborhood you live in. And let’s be honest. It’s really cool to be able to parler français quand tu veux.

Culture

This is one of the best reasons for studying abroad, even if you don’t end up learning the language fluently. You start to realize that the entire world doesn’t live in just one way, and now that you know, you are free to create your own future.

I’ll forever miss the French practice of La sieste. From noon until about 3pm, stores close, schools are let out, the entire country slows down. Why? Because we’re humans and we deserve rest. You were going to nap at your desk anyways. Why not go home and enjoy your family?

Or in Italy, where beauty is valued as much as a virtue as honesty and patience. I’ll never forget when I was trying to send a letter from Italy to the US and the post office worker took the longest time to mail my letter. When she finally returned to the desk, she told me it was because she wanted to find a stamp that would be beautiful for my family.

I remember thinking to myself, how different would our world be if everyone valued beauty like this for its own sake? But seriously, learn the language.

Friendships

There is an unspoken bond between all people who travel abroad, even if you didn’t study in the same program. There’s this look, this understanding of, we DID that! We raced to catch trains and planes. We felt like we would never learn how to speak another language until we found that we could. We slept in strange hostels and made friends with people we could barely understand. We matured so quickly when we saw that the world was so much bigger than we had ever suspected. That it was beautiful and good and worthy of love. Any friendship built on that intense shared experience is a friendship made to last forever.

Experiences

There is nothing like wandering around Florence and coming across some graffiti left behind by Michelangelo. Your friend tells you that he carved this image of a face behind his back with a hammer and chisel and the city has never been able to bring themselves to clear it away. As you’re staring at it, a fire jumps from your stomach to your heart and it comes out as a gasp.

It’s the same feeling found touring the Tower of London, or walking the halls of Versailles. You are in the presence of history. Here all of the boring stories from history take on new life. Kings and queens lived in these spaces. Their choices changed the fates of nations. Many became known around the same age that you are. And now you’re in their spaces. You too have become a part of history.

Growth

This last reason is what truly holds the magic of ACA. After returning home, people want to know, how was it? And in all honesty, it will be a question that you won’t be able to answer in one word because one word would never be enough. But maybe if I told you about a moment, it would explain what I mean.

A moment of ACA alumni from PUC who met together in London for Thanksgiving after we had all graduated. When we were huddled around the only restaurant that had enough space for all of us, I thought about how we had reached this moment.

Of the ten PUC alumni gathered around the table in a London restaurant, seven had studied abroad or were studying through ACA, and one was spending this year as a student missionary.

There was my former roommate Josh who had studied in France after I couldn’t stop gushing about it and after another year abroad in Germany, he had found work at a resort. His life was forever changed by ACA.

There was Christian who had come by from France. After graduation he took a year to catch his breath after all of his hard work and was now using the experience to learn more about himself and the world before he raced to find a job.

Emily and Pascale had studied in Spain at Sagunto, a beachside city older than the Christian religion. They held the wisdom of traveling safely, whether they were alone or with friends. They knew that their gender was no reason to limit themselves from all of the beauty and richness the world had to offer. If their male friends could wander the world, so could they.

Laura had traveled the shortest distance from Newbold College. It was so close to one of the greatest cities in the world where you could see ruins of ancient Romans and a working palace in one afternoon. She, like Trent, now had the practical knowledge gained from planning trips with limited incomes and little to no familiarity with the local languages or customs of the countries. They know how to convert between Euros and Dollars and Krona while trying to figure out the time back home.

Renee knew that deep secret behind the eyes of everyone who gets stamps in their passport. It is addictive. And it is addictive because it is beautiful. The quiet, narrow, cobblestone streets of Barcelona one wanders before they are startled by the sudden bustle of La Rambla. Cats stretching slowly on a white-washed Greek porch. Snowflakes lashing at your cheeks as you glup warm drinks in a Christmas market, hoping to taste the cinnamon, orange peels, anise pods, and cloves before the heat burns your tongue.

Gabe and Ashley weren’t ACA students but were learning the magic of travel. That it breaks your heart, opens your eyes, mind, and vocabulary to other hearts, other minds, other souls.

We ate, laughed loudly as Americans are prone to do, shared stories, switching between English, German, French, and Spanish. We had slept in hostels, airports, and on trains. We had gone without food, had identified with the homeless and outsiders. Love beat in the air, proceeded by the small fear that we would never be able to do something like this again, but surrounded by the deep thankfulness that we were able to do this here and now. And all because of ACA. Thank God for ACA.