Perhaps you’re thinking of taking a gap-year next year away from home. Or maybe your university course requires a year abroad. With so much change, and so many other things to worry about, how can you make sure you stay close to God? Rachel has spend the last year in Mexico and agreed to answer some questions which will hopefully be of help to those who are heading off in September (and those who aren’t!).
1. Why are you in Mexico?
I study languages (French and Spanish) at University and I chose to spend my Year Abroad (a year where you’re supposed to finally become fluent) in Mexico. Here I’ve been working in a school as a Language Assistant (i.e. teaching Mexican teenagers ‘what’s the craic?’, and getting paid for it).
2. Has being so far from home helped your walk with God, or made it more difficult?
Both. When you leave everything you know and head off to the other side of the world you’re kind of forced to put everything into God’s hands and it’s been amazing to see God’s faithfulness and provision throughout the year. He has taught me so much about His love and care for His children as I have seen that He already had this year planned out, from the biggest to the smallest detail.
At the same time my walk with God has definitely wavered this year. I remember really struggling to have proper Quiet Times when I first arrived. Everything and everyone was new and life was so busy trying to get settled. Doing everything in Spanish on top of it all meant my thoughts were all over the place and I found it hard to not get distracted when I sat down to read and pray. But praise God that He’s faithful even when I’m not and continues to sustain me through the ups and downs of a Year Abroad (or any other year for that matter!).
3. What is it like being a Christian witness to people in a second language / different culture?
With regards to the culture, Mexico is a predominantly Roman Catholic country which has meant that people have often been very open to and accepting of the fact that I’m a Christian but often haven’t shown an interest in what I actually believe as they think it’s ‘all the same’.
As for the language, it has definitely been a push out of my comfort zone! I remember when I first started helping out with the kids’ club in church I was terrified of a child asking me a crucial question, me not understanding, or not being able to find the right words, and accidentally teaching some sort of heresy!
Thankfully I’ve taught no heresy (as far as I’m aware) and it’s been a lesson in relying on God for the words to say and a reminder that it’s not about what we say but that it’s about Him who works through us.
4. What impact has your new church family had on your time in Mexico?
Church has been the biggest blessing and highlight of my time here. God has been so kind in providing a great church with a wonderful bunch of students who have adopted me in as one of their own. They’ve really become my family here and this year would have been a lot more difficult and lonelier without them!
5. Any advice you’d give to someone going on a year abroad?
Put it in God’s hands and just go for it! It’s such a unique year with unique opportunities so make the most of them. Get stuck into a church and serve in whatever way you can. Don’t use the excuse that you’re only there for a year, there’s a lot of good you can do in one year!
Take loads of photos and do some journaling. So much happens all at once that it’s helpful to take some time to process things and work out what God is teaching you. You’ll also appreciate having all the memories to look back on.
Be realistic. They all say the Year Abroad is incredible and in one sense they’re right; there will be lots of highs, but there will also be some downs. You might have the best year of your life, but you also might not. Either way, God will be right there with you, walking in front of you, beside and behind you with every step you take. I believe He will have a purpose for you abroad and He will use the year to teach you many things!