Class Standing: Senior
Major: Spanish Studies
So where are you from?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles County.
Where did you study abroad, and what made you want to study abroad?
In the middle of my freshman year people were talking about studying abroad and I wondered if I could do that too. They encouraged me to look into it and that is kind of how it came about. I originally wanted to go to France, but then people who went to France said they didn’t use French and recommended that I go to Spain instead. Honestly, I really didn’t want to, but I ended up going and it was incredible; I really love Spain and I ended up making so many friends there. That’s really how I became a Spanish major; prior to that I was studying Aviation and Business Management.
Wow. So were you worried when you made that transition from Aviation to Spanish?
No. I was going to do a double major. I really wasn’t planning to be a student missionary; I was planning to come back for three more years and finish both my majors instead. Since I took another year off, as a missionary, I didn’t want to come back for another three years, because that’d be six years; that was when I decided to drop Aviation.
You mentioned you left as a missionary, where did you go and what did you do?
I went to a small closed country in Southeast Asia. My job was to teach English, but our entire project was about meeting people’s needs and being their friend. We hung out with them and we ended up doing more work regarding health education since a lot of people have stomach problems; a few of them eventually became vegetarian and they loved it. Through our friendship we reached out to them and met them where they were.
For some people leaving for one year is a long time; what made you decide to leave for two?
First off, living abroad is so much fun; even if you’re busy or stressed, it’s great. One of the reasons I decided to take the second year off was because when I was in Spain I was really searching for God’s call in my life. I originally decided on Aviation so I could do mission work, but I wasn’t sure if my motives were matched up with God’s will. So I went through different options and majors, but nothing was satisfying me. It’s a long story of how it actually happened, but basically I got the call from God to go, which I believe was divine intervention. Also I knew that if I went back to school I would need to make a decision on my career, and stick with it. I wasn’t ready for that yet; I wasn’t sure what God wanted me to do. My mom wanted me to go back to school for a year, and then do volunteer work abroad, but I knew that if I went back I’d be stuck. It was the best decision I’ve made, because it was such an incredible experience being a student missionary.
I received so much clarity from God throughout that year; there were at least three different times where God revealed what he wants me to do. I don’t really want a job with Spanish, but I’ve never felt more peace in my life than I do now. I feel more content in what I’m doing now than ever before because this is the direction God has been leading me and I’m going to walk into this direction until He points me in another one. Whenever I thought I knew what I was doing that is when I was the most stressed. However, now that I trust that God is guiding me despite not really knowing where I’m going, I’m at peace. It’s weird, paradoxical and incredible; I didn’t think I could ever have that kind of clarity in my life until I had nothing to contribute to my own situation—that’s when He showed me that I really needed Him.
How was it coming back after being gone for two years?
I’m really adaptable so I don’t really get culture shock. Usually, with a lot of people, when they come back from studying abroad, they get reverse cultural shock. They are surprised with how things work here versus whatever country they just came back from. For me, though, it was little moments here or there, nothing really major. For example, I was washing dishes back home in America and I realized I could use hot water.
So you would encourage anybody to study abroad or be a study missionary?
I would definitely, because you learn a lot more than you do at school. Learning to cook well was a very important skill I learned, and learning how to take care of myself. I think it was a very good preparation for the real world.
Do you feel like you’ve been changed?
When I came back I knew I was different, but I saw other people who stayed stateside that were changed as well. It wasn’t like everyone else was stagnant while I was learning all these things. We were all experiencing the same different stages in our lives, and it was nice to talk about it. For me, my morals and values haven’t changed, but what has changed is that now I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.. I can stand firm in my convictions without a doubt, and I feel a lot closer to Christ.
Would you say having that dialogue and exploring what God wants you to do is important?I think so considering that before I went on my mission trip I was a lot more dependent on myself than on God. I told myself I was trying to do what God wants me to do, but then I realized I was trying to fit God into my picture without actually including Him. I think when it comes to that dialogue it’s important, because it helps you to truly seek God’s will. We’re all pretty stubborn, and we think we can sometimes tell God what we want to do, and I did that. Later, I realized it didn’t really give God much space to move and do His work. It also didn’t leave room for me to have a relationship with Him and let go of my own plans. There’s a saying that in order to know God’s will, you need to know God’s heart. Honestly, by getting to know his heart, I was starting to finally see glimpses of where He was trying to lead me.