First Encounters

It is impossible to anticipate all the circumstances that will cause confusion to a newcomer to a country. This section mentions only a few items that should help ACA students who are going abroad for the first time.

New ACA students are likely to experience three stages in their reactions to life abroad, namely EUPHORIA, FRUSTRATION and SATISFACTION. The euphoric state will generally start when you ask, “Can it really be me going to study abroad?” and may last into the first or perhaps the second week on the international campus. Frustration will usually settle in shortly thereafter, although for some, problems with airlines, taxis, buses, and the language may cause it to develop earlier. Those who are willing to look at life philosophically and stick it out happily reach the final level of satisfaction. A part of this experience may best be described by a Walla Walla College student who once wrote from Sagunto just after Christmas:

When I first drove up the long bumpy road to Colegio Adventista de Sagunto about midnight four months ago, I thought I had finally come to the end of the earth, and started considering plans for a quick return home. I had come all alone from London to Valencia where I caught a taxi to the college. Somebody in the United States had told me I spoke Spanish, and I had believed him, only to discover at the airport that I knew many Spanish words, but speak (or understand) the language I did not.

The first few days were scary, lonely and discouraging, but I got over it with the help from many new friends here. We just got back from Christmas vacation, during which I traveled around Spain, and when I drove up the road this time, I was coming “home.”

Four of the international schools are small. Excluding elementary students, Bogenhofen has a total of about 150 students, Sagunto, about 500; Villa Aurora about 100; and Collonges, approximately 350. Many ACA students have appreciated the personal and friendly atmosphere found in these smaller schools but too often absent on the larger campuses in the U.S. In these schools the larger portion of the student body is in high school, and may “act about how we did in high school,” to quote an ACA student again. The total operation, including some of the regulations, reflects the fact that the younger students are present in general school activities and reside in the residence halls. This is not true of Universidad Adventista del Plata, Friedensau Adventist University or Villa Aurora.

The rules and regulations of each international school have been carefully developed by Faculty and Administration of the College to create an atmosphere that best promotes Adventist lifestyle in their country. As guest students, ACA participants will probably find student life expectations anywhere from slightly to quite different from what they have most recently experienced at Adventist college campuses in North America. In adjusting to the differences it is important for ACA students to remember that they are international students while abroad. The purpose of ACA is not the “Americanization” of the international schools, but rather it is an opportunity for North Americans to learn the language and the culture of another country while studying in and conforming to its mores and environment. An Andrews University student at Sagunto put it this way:

“One important thing to keep in mind is that the people here can teach you many things. . . Like patience, understanding, and open-mindedness.” Another student counseled: “Above all, bring an attitude of adaptability and optimism and have a good year.”

If ACA students wish to have different student life regulations or wish exceptions to be made for them as older, more mature students, they would do well to remember that more can be gained by calm polite discussion and requests than by petulant demands for rights. Calmness and respectful observance of rules and regulations place one in a well deserved position for mature discussion and negotiation. Disregard of regulations and disrespect for those who enforce them are not effective means to bring about change, but tend rather to lock people into firmer positions and make them resistant to what may be seen as obviously immature, irresponsible conduct. Negotiations for change and requests for individual exceptions may take time in coming, but people who go about negotiating changes in a polite manner are much more likely to be treated and respected as adults worthy of new responsibilities. Students who take calm, objective rather than passionate, subjective positions find negotiations much more likely to succeed and gain the well deserved respect of host campus personnel.