Rebekah Childers ('11) | Study Abroad
Bible major from
Rebekah Childers loves it when she finds a God-moment, as she calls it. Sometimes she sees God in nature, sometimes in the soaring arches of a Spanish cathedral, sometimes in the faces of friends that she's come to know and love. One of her favorite God-moments, though, is from her trip to Greece during her semester doing Study Abroad during fall 2009.
It had been a tough day for the group traveling through Greece; tiredness and frustration were wearing tempers thin, and the strain was starting to show. As evening approached, they all sat on a large rock overlooking the Aegean Sea and just took in the glorious sunset unfolding before them. And as she looked at the clouds and the sea and the sky, Rebekah says she could feel God telling her it was going to be all right.
"He's in everything," she said. "It can just be the simple, the mundane things. You didn't have to look for Him; He was just there."
An experiment in learning to get along
That sense of God being with her and all around her was an intrinsic part of Rebekah's Oxford experience. Just as vital was the sense of community that surrounded her in the two houses where the students lived. Almost 40 people ate together, slept in the same rooms, traveled, cooked, and went to class together; life was an experiment in learning to get along. After all, as Rebekah points out, you didn't get to pick these people - but you did learn to appreciate them.
"The bonds that are formed are incredible," she said.
Along with the experience of ultra-community, Rebekah also loved the diversity of Oxford. She loved the fact that you could walk down the street and hear 10 different languages in 10 minutes. She loved mixing with people from different countries and backgrounds and cultures. One of the best ways to do that, she found, was by volunteering at a place like the Globe Café.
The Globe Café, located at an Anglican church, is an organization dedicated to helping international students mingle with other students to improve their language skills while meeting people from other countries and cultures. Rebekah volunteered there about once a week, and enjoyed the chance to soak up others' knowledge and experiences.
Experiencing culture in a variety of ways
Another good way to encounter culture was through travel. Rebekah’s favorite trip from the semester was her visit to Switzerland. She and several other students stayed in Interlaken, which she characterizes as small and quiet and very quaint. Not everything was peaceful, however. Rebekah was also part of a group that went paragliding, soaring over the Swiss Alps with a parachute-like device. It was unbelievably incredible to fly over the mountains and the crystal-blue lakes that dotted the scenery," she says. "It was quite possibly my favorite thing I did the entire semester."
The entire semester wasn't worry-free, however. Rebekah says the hardest thing for her was getting used to interacting with so many people every day. She's shy and has an introverted personality, she says, and so it was difficult at first to "put myself out there to make friends and get along with people." It was also challenging to be completely independent for the first time in her life, she says. Although professors and friends were there to help, she had to take care of everything for herself and learn to cope with whatever situation she found herself in.
"It was hard, but it taught me a lot," she said.
If Rebekah could give future Study Abroad students one piece of advice, her words would be simple. She believes it's important to focus on your studies and do your best at your work. But even more crucial is to pour yourself into Oxford and Europe and the many cultures you will encounter there, she says.
"You have to absorb Oxford," she said.
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ACU in Oxford resident director Dr. Ron Morgan documents a faith-based study abroad experience in his new book. Learn more >>