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Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Some of the biggest lessons learned happen thousands of miles away from campus.
Anica Gilbert |
This semester Anica Gilbert, a sophomore strategic communication and vocational ministry major from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, participated in the new global learning program in Costa Rica, one of the top study abroad destinations in Latin America. During the semester, Gilbert shared the group’s experiences in a series of blog articles this semester. This is the final installment in the series.
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Today, I woke up in my own queen-size bed in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and walked downstairs to have coffee with my mom. Three weeks ago, I woke up in my definitely-not-queen-size bed in Heredia, Costa Rica, and had coffee on the patio for the last time with the people who had become my best friends. That day, we boarded a plane for Nashville both anxious to be home and sad to leave Costa Rica.
The three weeks since landing in America have been both wonderful and difficult. I have found myself over the moon to be reunited with friends one minute, only to feel majorly overwhelmed the next. I have loved eating at all my favorite restaurants and driving my car, but I miss the sunshine and the slow pace of life that I experienced in Costa Rica. We were warned that coming home from three months abroad would be just as much of a transition as actually going abroad, however, I don’t think I took that warning seriously until now.
There were so many life-changing experiences packed into the past semester. I saw the most beautiful parts of creation, climbed waterfalls, swam in blue oceans, hiked mountains and volcanoes and explored hot springs. We had so many adventures that I wouldn’t get to experience otherwise. I got the chance to challenge myself by immersing in a new language and culture, and also learned how to be gracious with myself when these challenges became uncomfortable or didn’t come naturally to me. I experienced living in true community, as the 18 members of our group laughed, cried and worshipped together.
Going to church while in Costa Rica was difficult because of our travel schedule and the language barrier, so our weekly devotionals came to be a sacred space. As we lived life together for the semester, we got to witness God’s work in each other’s lives. We watched as members of our group were baptized, lifted each other in prayer, experienced healing and forgiveness, and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. We wouldn’t have come together by our own choosing, but I believe that the Lord handpicked each member of our study abroad group to show us His glory through each other.
Now that I am home and have had the chance to reflect on my semester abroad, the question now becomes how to carry on with these new lessons and experiences.
I loved the relaxed pace and the focus on relationships that I found when I was in Costa Rica, and I can see how that would be easy to lose that focus in the hustle and bustle that can be found on campus. Going back to Lipscomb, I am making gratitude a priority. As I was preparing to live in Costa Rica, so many people told me to be present and to be grateful for all of the things I was about to experience. If I didn’t take the time to be intentionally grateful during my semester, I believe that there would have been many small things that I would have just passed by. I am sure that there are more small blessings that I pass by every day in the United States that I don’t want to just miss anymore.
I am also going to focus on building more relationships. I was not expecting to come away from study abroad with new people who are a part of my life every day, but that’s what happened. Because we were forced out of our comfort zone, we found a family and a support system through each other. I want to carry this people focused mindset with me to Nashville as well.
Even though my time living in Costa Rica is over, the memories of my adventure stay with me. I am grateful for Lipscomb and to be in a place that gives students opportunities to grow them and to broaden their prospective. I am grateful for the people that shared this with me and that will continue to walk with me as we return to campus. Finally, I am grateful for places and seasons of gratitude and growth and the God who blesses us with them.
Want to know more about Lipscomb’s global learning program in Costa Rica? Click here.