Community Learning and Fellowship: How I Engaged in Another Culture Abroad

Hi! My name is Brooke Brodeur and I’m a junior from Taylor University studying Spanish education, TESOL, and intercultural studies and missions. I’ve dreamt of coming to Spain since I was in elementary school, and I’ve looked forward to Semester in Spain since I changed my major freshman year. It’s such a blessing and a dream to be here, and I can’t believe my time here is over halfway over! Studying abroad is an experience that grows you in a lot of ways, something I’ve already seen in my time here. The most impactful way I’ve seen myself grow is spiritually, which has been the result of a few different experiences.

            In the weeks leading up to this trip I had a lot of emotions, but most of it was nervousness. I was worried I wouldn’t make friends, that I wouldn’t feel connected to God, that I wasn’t as good at Spanish as I needed to be… the list goes on and on. Instead of allowing myself to be consumed with anxiety, I started giving my worries over to God. I prayed that He would provide me with friends that would be intentional in building a relationship and in being honest about how we were doing, and I prayed that He would give me strength and confidence and help me lean into all the experiences here- the good and the bad- and trust Him through it all. When I arrived, I quickly saw how God answered those prayers. From the very first few days, He provided me with friends that genuinely love and care for one another. We’ve had honest conversations about what has been good and what we’ve struggled with on this trip. He has given me a host family, professors, and friends that reaffirm me and build me up on how far my Spanish is coming instead of focusing on all the mistakes I make (Which trust me, are many. And that’s okay! You have to be okay with making mistakes and choose to focus on how you can learn from them).

            Along with this friend group has come a weekly devotional brunch that I get to look forward to every Saturday morning. SIS offers a weekly student-led worship night called Encuentro where we gather to sing songs and hear from a student on how God is working in their lives. I’ve really enjoyed this gathering, but my friends and I also wanted some time to have a sort of small group of our own. We don’t plan anything, we just sit down and talk about what we’re struggling with, how we’ve seen God that week, what we’ve been convicted on, and what we’ve been reading in our Bibles. It’s been a great time of accountability and learning from friends who also have Christ at the center of their lives. These ladies love for Christ is evident in how they treat others and talk about Him, and it’s been a blessing to be intentional about our relationship with God while we’re here. It’s so essential! It also provides an opportunity to hear different perspectives on how someone else applies a verse I read, or to hear about what they’re taking away from their own devotions.

            One of the coolest experiences I’ve had here that has contributed to my growth is participating in Acción Solidaria, which is an extracurricular SIS offers where you choose a service project to work with for the semester. I decided I wanted to sign up for this because as I’m here for three months, I don’t want to just be a tourist that’s taking things from the city. I want to give back however I can. My parents have been incredible examples to me of what it looks to show others the love of Jesus, and they taught me the value of serving others at a really young age. The experiences I’ve had serving alongside them have shown me how to be Jesus’ hands and feet to others. I volunteer at an elementary school right outside of Sevilla every Thursday evening with one of the ladies I do my devotional brunch with. We help kids with their English homework, play games and develop relationships with them. I was nervous on the first day, but the kids welcomed us excitedly. They warmed up to us quickly, and by the end of our first session they were hugging us goodbye and wishing we could also come on Tuesday’s. I left with a full heart, grateful that I get the opportunity to work with kids here like I do at home. The next week they attacked us with hugs when we walked in the door, and we got to play more games with them. They were eager to show off their English skills and to learn more from us. Volunteering at this school and loving on these kids provides a unique experience of life in Sevilla, one I wouldn’t get to see without this extracurricular activity.

            Studying abroad isn’t an easy experience, but that’s what makes it so impactful. It uproots you from everything you know and takes you out of your comfort zone, but through it you get to meet lifelong friends and get to know what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in the world. I’m grateful for the support systems I have back at home that have made this experience possible, and for the friends I’ve made here that bring so much joy and laughter into my every day. But mostly I’m grateful for how I’ve seen God provide for me, and how I’ve been able to see God’s creativity reflected in a culture that was once foreign to me.

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