Why should I study off-campus?
My number one reason for studying off-campus is growth; the changes that come from being immersed in another culture are like none I've ever undergone. I would also say to study off-campus because the body of Christ is diverse and how better to learn about the body than to study within the bounds of his diverse cultural nation.
What was the best part of your semester abroad?
The best part of my semester off-campus was finding out what I wanted to do with my life. I've known for years that I wanted to do something with music but it wasn't until I went away that I was able to focus all of my heart, attention, and energy. There were no core classes, extra curricular activities, not even television. I worked but it was on campus and only a few hours a week; and though there was television on campus, who spends all their time watching television on an island. Everyday I was surrounded by peers who loved music just as much as I did, and professors who lived to teach, and love, and watch us grow.
What was the most challenging aspect of being off-campus for a semester?
The most challenging time off-campus came after the initial oooos and ahhhs of seeing this place for the first time. The challenge was to remember to appreciate a once in a lifetime chance when the new place becomes familiar and you feel a distant longing for home.
Where or in what ways did you see God while you were abroad?
I saw God in tension and inner fight; I came into contact with a lot of people who didn't believe what I did or worshiped different than what I was used to. This caused me to do two things; challenge some of my beliefs, and figure out what I really believed. God used that experience to cause growth in me and I am better spiritually for having been there.
What do you miss most from your time away?
I miss being immersed in simplicity and music. I also miss being surrounded by people who love the same thing I love; we were all there for one reason, because we loved music and wanted to know all we could about it. The most unique experience of my life!
What did you learn about yourself while abroad?
Off campus I learned that I can survive in almost any situation and when it comes down it, I am a strong person that can survive. More importantly, I found out that when I got out of my own way, prayed and did not worry; that I could do God’s will.
How has your view of your home culture changed or been reaffirmed?
My view of my home culture didn't change much; I still see my culture in the same way. The only difference is that I appreciate more, the kinds of things that are available in my home culture. There were certain services that weren't available while participating in my off-campus program. Things like fast food, shopping malls, and free checking accounts, oh my!
What have you learned about your home culture from your time away?
I learned how much chaos there is at home. From work, to school, to friends, TV and events, there are just too many distractions. I learned how to appreciate the quiet and the simple: “the vineyard”. I miss it!
Would you do it all again?
I would definitely go off-campus again, most likely to the same place. After 4 months you will either hate it and want to go home, or you love it and it will become your home.
What was the best thing you ate, experienced, or learned?
My best experience happened on a regular day at lunch when I was helping a friend. I looked up to see one of my professors smiling at me. When I asked him the reason for his smile he proceeded to tell me all of these random, yet beautiful, thoughts he had about what a great person I was. That was the day I thought, “I'm making it, I am away from all I know for the first time in my life and I'm okay”. I knew then that with all of the stress and discomfort, people were still seeing good in me and I was proud of myself. That was an experience, I will never forget.
Is it easy to apply?
I won't say that it is a piece of cake to apply because it is a bit overwhelming, but I simply paced myself and I was fine. I will say that one of the most important things about applying is to search your heart about why you truly want to go off-campus and tell that truth. Whether your reasons are simple or complex, show your heart and let it speak for itself.
What is the most important thing to take with me?
I would say an open mind, but I believe that open minds can lead you down roads that may not be in your best interest. Instead I'll say a determination to learn; I say this because that’s really all that happens when your abroad, learning. You go with intent to experience, and you do, but when you depart, the place you leave behind will be virtually unchanged, but you on the other hand will be significantly different. If both the good and the bad situations you are expecting the lesson, you won't linger too long in disappointment, discomfort, or fear, but you'll appreciate the growth that they precede.
What was something unexpected or unanticipated that happened during your experience that you learned from?
Well, a little while after I arrived at the CMC I was given two artists to manage. One of my artists did not seem to be adjusting to the culture on the island, and after about 4 or 5 hard weeks, was asked to leave the program. I was changed by that experience, being there became a little more real to me, and though I did not always act like it, I realized how much the opportunity meant to me. It was a once in a lifetime chance to go away and be immersed in another culture and I wanted to make the most of it.