Sara Morris ('11) | Study Abroad
English and art major
from Abilene, Texas
Sara Morris is a writer. Some people express themselves through art. Some people express themselves through public speaking or sign language or music. Sara uses the written word.
So for a writer, 3-1/2 months spent in Montevideo, Uruguay, was a dream come true. Sara was constantly surrounded by new experiences, continually challenged by a new culture and different lifestyle. She kept a blog to remind herself of what she'd heard and seen and what she hoped to experience in the future.
Immersed in the culture
Some of her favorite experiences include a trip to Iguazu Falls in Argentina, a trip to Machu Picchu over spring break, a few days in Buenos Aires, and some time camping in Rocha. Nearly everywhere she went involved long bus rides and plenty of interaction with locals on the same route.
"You kind of get that road trip feeling," she says.
She also got to improve her foreign language skills with almost complete immersion in a Spanish-speaking country. Lots of conversation practice helped - and apparently the best place to talk to people was in taxis. Uruguayan cabbies love to talk, Sara says.
"I really wanted to learn Spanish," she says. "You really immersed."
A sense of community
Part of the experience was the sense of community she shared, both with her fellow students and the church next door to the Study Abroad house. One of the things Sara regrets is not spending more time with the youth group at that church. However, she did attend services there Sundays, experiencing God in an entirely new way.
In the house itself, most people got along well as students began to form a cohesive group. By the end of the trip, they were "tight, unified." But Sara admits there were a few bumps in the road.
"Any time you're that close to that many people, there's going to be a little friction," she says.
However, students overcame any differences to support each other through homesickness, communication mishaps and culture shock. The house parents tried to prepare them for cultural differences and introduce them to another way of life.
Even Christianity was practiced differently, she notes.
Other Uruguayan traditions were unfamiliar to students as well. Uruguay's signature drink, maté, became a favorite with many students. It is prepared from steeping dried leaves of the herb yerba mate in hot water. More than just a drink, maté signified social interaction and friendship.
"It's like a bonding time," Sara says.
Socializing with fellow students and new friends helped dull the edge of missing family back home and dealing with the sense of being alone in a new place.
"Of course you miss the people you left behind," she says.
There was a benefit to being on her own, however. "I think that was really cool … that sense of independence," she says.
Sara doesn't have just one piece of advice for future Study Abroad participants. But she does have a suggestion for finding out what to enjoy while exploring another country.
"It depends on what you love," she says.
Study in Leipzig
Want to hike the Alps, visit Bach's hometown, and see where Martin Luther hung the 95 Theses?
Study in Montevideo
Want to stroll the beaches of Uruguay, visit Machu Picchu, and attend a real fútbol game?
Study in Oxford
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About 25% of a graduating class will have had the adventure of a lifetime through an ACU study abroad program.
ACU in Oxford resident director Dr. Ron Morgan documents a faith-based study abroad experience in his new book. Learn more >>