By Andee King
Had anyone asked me at this time last year what I planned on doing the fall semester of my sophomore year, I probably would have wondered why they asked such an odd question. Of course I would be hanging out around the Corban campus, grabbing a bite to eat at Aramark, attempting to do some last minute studying at the coffee shop, and, in the event that I needed to spice things up, maybe take a late night drive to the nearest Taco Bell. Little did I know, God had a much different plan in mind for me. Studying abroad with AMBEX in Germany has been one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences in my life. While I could write endless paragraphs upon paragraphs about the reasons why, I thought it would be most effective to break it down into a list of my top 10 favorite things about AMBEX.
The first on my list would have to be the fact that students are able to study in Europe. Not many college students can say that they have not simply learned about European culture, but have also lived it. It gives students a chance to step outside of their narrow-minded American “bubble” and I can safely say that many of my pre-conceived stereotypes have been completely shattered. Not having left the country ever before, this was particularly exciting for me.
The second favorite thing on my list is the bond and camaraderie formed amongst the different students. Not only do students get to strengthen relationships with those who attend the same universities, but I have personally been blessed with the new relationships established with those who I did not know before. Through Bible studies, chapels, movie nights, and numerous “homework parties,” friendships that will last a lifetime are developed.
Third, students are blessed with the opportunity to work with the amazing AMBEX staff. Always eager and willing to answer questions, they make the process of studying abroad so much easier and a lot of fun. AMBEX’s fearless leader, Jerry Orr, or “Coach” as the students like to call him, pours so much time and effort into ensuring that the group learns and appreciates their time here as much as possible, whether it’s taking a hike through breathtaking scenery or stopping by the nearest gelato stand. Kelley Orr is in charge of much of the correspondence and she organizes many of the events and day trips. She is always happy to help out in any way that she can and she becomes a close friend and confidant to all. The staff at the youth hostel in Regensburg is also extremely helpful and friendly.
The fourth reason that the AMBEX experience is so enjoyable is the different professors that arrive to teach the classes. While students may see some familiar faces, it is also exciting to have class with the professors who come from different universities. The classroom settings are very laid back and both student and professor work together to provide the most pleasant and beneficial learning experience. Also, it was a lot of fun to travel to different places with each professor that came and get to know them on a less superficial level.
Another rewarding aspect of AMBEX is the fact that students get to be integrated into a different culture and interact with the locals. Although there were a couple times I had to blush and laugh off my butchered attempts at German, many of the locals are more than happy to chat with foreigners. Many American students hold on to pre-conceived notions about Germany and what Germans should act like. Being able to communicate and even form friendships with the locals proves to be extremely beneficial to the process of looking past these stereotypes.
The sixth reason on my list would have to be the reading/travel weeks. These three weeks allow for students to travel to other countries in Europe that will not be visited on academic tours. During my travel weeks, I found myself in the heart of London and Dublin, on the beaches of Barcelona and Marseilles, and in the beautiful city of Paris. Not only do students learn so much about the many ins and outs of travel, they get to travel to locations and landmarks that they would only get to see pictures of back in the college classroom.
The seventh reason, mentioned above, would be the academic tours that students set out on as a class. During these trips, the group gets to not only experience the excitement of travel, but have classroom time in the actual cities and locations that are being discussed. I thought that this really added to the academics because it was really remarkable to have more “hands-on” learning. For example, I had the privilege of standing at the door where Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses, walking through several concentration camps and paying respects to the victims, and standing where the Berlin Wall once stood.
The eighth reason on the list, however trivial it might sound, was the different foods that I got to taste. Genuine bratwurst, schnitzel, and even the humble pretzel are constantly available for students to taste. If students thought they knew what genuine German food tasted like, they should definitely think again. I know that I will, for a fact, be missing Bavarian mustard, döner-kebabs, and many of the other delicious foods that I have tried here.
My ninth point would be the fact that ever since being here, I have never appreciated my family, friends, and home so much. Little things that are so easily taken for granted, such as a night in with the folks, spending quality with friends, and a nice home-cooked meal, become so much more important. I can safely say that I have really gained an appreciation for my parents and what they do for me. Sometimes, through missing friends and family, relationships get strengthened and I know that I will show them much more gratitude than before.
The tenth and most important reason on my list is the unbelievable spiritual growth students get to experience while studying with AMBEX. I have never felt so close to God in my life and He has definitely been showing me and teaching me so many different things this semester. Students not only get to experience incredible worship with each other, but they get the opportunity to have fellowship with other believers in Germany. Attending German youth group and Sunday morning church services was such an awesome experience. Studying abroad has been such a great reminder of the fact that God is the same, no matter where I go.
Studying abroad with AMBEX may not have been exactly what I had in mind this time last year, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the right decision. I would encourage any student who is considering this wonderful opportunity to pray about it without ceasing and go where God leads them.
Questions can be directed to Kelley Orr, the AMBEX Enrollment Counselor, at email@example.com.