God use me? On my year abroad?
By Sean Wood
Jemina studied Russian language at Cambridge University. When the third year arrived, it was finally time for her to embark on the adventure that is studying abroad!
“I was quite nervous arriving in Russia for the first time. I had never been there before and therefore didn’t really know what to expect. I prayed a lot in the weeks leading up to my trip that God would protect me and help me to settle in!”
It is a great opportunity to have the chance to study abroad. Learning about another language and culture through living amongst its people is exciting and a unique learning experience, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.
“It was surreal at first to suddenly be in Russia and to have to speak Russian all the time in shops and cafés, etc. Not having to think about potential grammatical mistakes and pronunciation errors whilst speaking was a privilege I took for granted before going abroad.”
‘English Movie Night’
Before arriving in Russia, Jemina had done some research on churches in the city where she was studying.
“I met some Agapé team members at the church I was attending. They invited me to ‘English Movie Night’ which was a weekly event for students to come to and watch films and discuss them in English.”
Jemina went on her study abroad year before the Agapé UK Study Abroad programme existed, but she was still able to connect with a local Agapé team in the city where she was studying. They helped support her and provided her with an opportunity to build community with local students in her university. Through this community Jemina was able to have fun watching films and discussing them, helping the local students practice their English as well as discussing faith and other meaningful topics, all related to the films they were watching together.
“It was amazing to see how God could use me on my year abroad, even simply by me speaking my own language with others.
A couple of other Christian students I knew also helped out at ‘English Movie Night’ and we met up with an Agapé staff member every week before the event to read and pray together. It was great to have a group of Christians to regularly meet up with as a source of encouragement whilst I was there.”
Agapé UK Study Abroad
Agapé UK Study Abroad has now been set up to help connect Christian students – just like Jemina – with Agapé teams in the cities where they will be studying, before they even leave for their year abroad. Through the programme they get to meet other local Christian students who are already building communities in their university where everyone can discover Jesus together. It’s also a way of offering an extra level of support to help UK students cope with the challenges of learning a new culture.
So, what’s Jemina’s advice for surviving studying abroad?
“I would say to go with an open and positive mindset. A lot of things will be different, new and potentially confusing! You will probably love some aspects of your time abroad and hate others. But, on the whole, whatever experience you have, it will be a very unique one that you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Do some basic research before you go. Find out what some key cultural differences are in the country that you are going to and sharpen up your language skills. You can also start looking up the locations of some key places that you would like to visit, for example good churches nearby. This will make you feel more prepared when you arrive. And, most, importantly, pray for your time abroad. Give all of your concerns and fears to God and pray that He will use this time to grow you and change you in the way that He pleases.