By Holly Jay
While the beginning of a new semester always requires adjustment to a new routine, for students who travel abroad it may require even more.
Lucas Peiser, Haley Bell and Trey Weise are three of many Union students who spent their summers living abroad.
These students experienced life in cultures across the globe, and they each bring the experiences and lessons learned there back to campus, which is constantly growing in global awareness and influence.
During summer 2012, Union commissioned two summer-long GO trips, bringing the total number of these trips to eight since 2007.
Julie Bradfield, director of student mobilization, said the purpose of the trips is to serve field partners, along with a community of peers in a long-term relationship, while engaging others in relationships in order to seek opportunities to share the Gospel.
The hope is that students will grow and learn and be able to practically apply these things upon returning home, Bradfield said.
Lucas Peiser, sophomore applied linguistics and biblical languages major, spent six weeks over the summer in Botswana, Africa, as part of a GO focus trip.
While in Botswana, three students lived with the people there, intentionally building relationships and talking about the Gospel through daily activities such as eating and playing soccer.
“They like to tell stories and sit around and talk,” Peiser said about the people of Botswana. “That’s something I really like.”
He noted that during his trip, he was able to “really see community played out.”
During his stay, Peiser lived with six other men, two of whom are from Botswana. He said that learning to live daily with this group was a big takeaway of the trip.
This trip to Botswana was Peiser’s first GO trip, but he had previously traveled to India, Israel and Tanzania for short-term experiences. He said being in Botswana longer meant they were able to spend more time reading and discussing the Bible and praying daily.
“We were definitely able to go deeper,” Peiser said. “I realized while I was there, if you want really good impact you have to be there longer, like a couple [of] years. Six weeks really isn’t that long.”
Trey Weise, junior philosophy major, also went on a summer GO trip. He spent nine weeks in a Muslim-majority nation in Central Asia, where he took language classes at a private university and intentionally built relationships with people with the goal of witnessing to them.
“We just hung out with people and tried to build relationships and share the love of Jesus with them,” Weise said.
He said the culture in which he was immersed was extremely hospitable and welcoming to foreigners, saying that people quickly befriended him and opened up their lives to him.
“Reverse culture shock was a lot harder than initial culture shock,” Weise said, noting that adjusting to life back in America was more difficult than adjusting to life in Central Asia.
He described eating at a restaurant the first day he was back in America, saying he waited a long time for the server to bring him tea before realizing that tea is not automatically served with every meal.
“That was when it clicked for me,” Weise said, noting that culture shock hit the night he arrived home.
“I have made it my goal to bring back that hospitality,” Weise added, saying that he has tried this school year to intentionally have conversations with new people and be genuine when opening up his life to others.
“What this trip did for me is really broaden this horizon,” he added, adding that since college he has been seeking to fully be in the moment and not focused on somewhere else.
“One huge benefit from a trip like this is to see the rest of the world and see that people around the world are people just like you,” Weise added. “Anywhere can be home. It was totally worth it being able to have a more full view of the world.”
Haley Bell, junior Spanish and nursing major, spent her summer in San Jose, Costa Rica, taking a Spanish class designed for health care professionals.
Bell lived with a Costa Rican family close to Veritas University and was, through them, able to truly experience the culture.
“Being there a month kind of allowed me to be a part of the culture, and so I was able to communicate with my family as well as natives,” Bell said.
“I didn’t want to come back home because I had gotten so attached,” Bell said.
She has kept in contact with the family she stayed with and hopes to visit them again someday.
“A trip like that will definitely make you independent because you are forced to do everything on your own,” Bell said. “It makes you think more about your personal safety and your personal well-being. It opens your eyes to a whole new world, and you see things differently.”