As I was watching Moana the other day I realized that, from the start, Moana has always believed that “there’s more beyond the reef”. She has always wished to explore and discover what’s out there. But as I continued to watch, I saw that “there’s more beyond the reef” is not only a literal phrase, but one that means there is more beyond life than what we can experience in the same place we’ve always known. There is more out in the world than what we know. Experiences, sights, memories to cherish, and senses to remember. God has created this amazing world, full of stunning beauty and intricate design for us to admire and explore.
One way that you can do that while not going on a ten year sojourn of the world and abandoning your career, life goals, and the realities of everyday life – which is not recommendable to most – is to study abroad. You might say – if you are an extranjero – that you already are. You are both right and very fortunate, but you shouldn’t stop there. Travel and live in as many places as you can while you are young, because it will be the experiences and cultures of other places that you remember, not the lifetime of work you will do in your home. As Mark Twain says, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
If you are a puro pinolero, then you haven’t studied abroad in Nicaragua so you might be tempted to follow the lots of NCAI graduates to some corner of the United States. If that is the path you decide on, good on you, but we are all of multiple cultures. Every member of Nicaragua Christian Academy is interacting with different cultures daily, from the cultura rica de Nicaragua to the academic and gringo culture of the United States. So you could almost say that everyday, a student at NCAI is studying abroad in multiple different countries, especially the E.E.U.U. Todos saben que la escuela es un poco – o muy – white, so just imagine if you could study abroad somewhere unlike any culture you’ve ever lived in.
Those even more fortunate than you who call the United States and/or Nicaragua as a part of your home may have beautiful Korea or industrious China claim a piece of your identity. Or maybe sunny, rugged Australia to call your own. Or maybe the impressive and very stunning Netherlands, cultured and athletic United Kingdom, or gorgeous green Bolivia as a part of your home. Wherever you may call home, I want to try to expand and open your horizons, because there’s more beyond the reef.
Everyone often has their places they’ve marked out for where, should work allow them, they’d like to vacation or travel to. Whether it be beautiful Brasil, tropical Hawaii, Italy’s golden coasts, Fire&Ice Iceland, or stunning techno-Korea. However, have you ever thought that maybe you want to explore those places as more than just a tourist? Have you ever hoped that you might be able to live in another culture as you do now? This article is all to tell you, you can!
We are fortunate enough to graduate with a high school diploma which is recognized internationally. From the United Kingdom to South Africa to India to Singapore, a US diploma can get you so very far in the world. Given that, you have the opportunity of a lifetime to travel and study abroad, outside of your own countries. It gives you experience that is invaluable in the world we live in today.
Former student and graduate Andrea Torres is studying and living in Granada, Spain at the University of Granada. From the Class of 2021, Andrea is only a few days into her second year of University and has wise words for us to hear about her experiences.
Andrea from a young age always longed to learn more of the famed European lifestyle. Young Andrea saw pictures of her aunt in Barcelona and yearned for la increíble cultura vibrante y cálida de España. She was willing to go anywhere however and found it difficult to decide exactly where. All she knew was that studying abroad was part of her plans. That decision has come with various challenges though. “The hardest ones,” she states “have been being so far away from family and friends.” She recently came back to Nicaragua to visit which was and still is quite difficult for her to do, especially because her school calendar is so demanding. “Also, I have to become independent in such a short period, because the modality of dorms is not as common as it is in the US, which means that I live in a shared apartment with 3 other college students. I had to learn to do everything on my own, no help, no support, just me,” she says.
After those negatives you might be scared away from ever studying abroad, away from everything you’ve ever known, but, though it’s hard and pushes you to grow, the result is quite impressive. “However, the easiest part of this experience is having the ability to discover the peace of being completely alone, finally understanding the reality behind adulthood, making new friends, and adapting to the culture.” I am sure that Andrea is now ready to face the world and has so many great experiences to use in maneuvering everyday life. Andrea and I “would encourage people to follow their goals.” If you “wish to go elsewhere from Nicaragua or the US, it is possible, to take the risk, and go abroad.” To explore, like Moana, what is beyond the reef. “It is always a learning experience as well as culturally, spiritually, and historically enriching.” Andrea, despite the hardships and “up until now, [has] had no regrets about traveling to Europe.”
Although it deviates slightly from the point, Andrea has some more advice and things to tell all of us which I believe are very important. If you would like to read the rest of her advice, it’s at the bottom of the page.
Another former student and graduate Josue Bonilla – from the Class of 2019 – is living and studying in New Taipei, Taiwan at Ming Chuan University and has some information and advice for us as well.
Josue didn’t go to university in Nicaragua, because he felt it was too difficult to study and make a life for himself here. “The US,” he says, “is nice and everything but it is too expensive.” He knew that at the end of the day, paying for college “was going to rest on [his shoulders]”, so Taiwan was the place for him to go. While it is an unfortunate reality of the world, where you can pursue further education often comes down to where you can afford to go. But always trust God in everything. God is good and he provides.
“The best part of being here in Taiwan,” he writes “is the experience of being in a different country so different than yours. Here, the culture is different yet interesting [so that it] makes you want to learn more. Even studying Chinese was something that made me feel excited about it.” Being in another country, another culture is a fascinating thing and is one of the reasons why people love to travel. There are downsides however, as you saw with Andrea. “Now, being far from home really affects me,” he states and proceeds to give an example. “I’m not able to travel that often because it is really expensive. So homesickness is really a thing.” One of the biggest challenges you will face will be homesickness and if you aren’t ready to face it, you might want to wait a year, like Andrea did. Overall though, after what he’s experienced so far, Josue recommends that you “…give it a shot. There’s nothing to [lose] when you try… I can guarantee you that some opportunities are just ready for you. It’s only a matter of looking.”
Andrea from a very young age wanted to go abroad after high school. Josue wanted to experience a new culture and get further education at an affordable cost. That doesn’t mean that you have to have the same or even similar experiences to Andrea and Josue. All you need is a place or three where you are fascinated in traveling to or have even dreamed about living in. Studying abroad doesn’t need to be a lifelong plan, it can definitely be a last minute decision, although that isn’t advisable. I would encourage everyone to at least look up some of the further educational institutions there are in those places you dream to vacation on or yearn to explore and travel to.
Now you might realize though, that however cool studying abroad may be, there are quite a number of disadvantages, some that Andrea and Josue just pointed out. You won’t get a clear picture, though, of what the realities of studying abroad are until you investigate for yourself. So, I would also encourage everyone to really look into personally the pros and cons of traveling to wherever God and your heart are calling you. Josue advises the same, “before anything else, really considering the pros and cons. Making a big step like going to a different place can really make a difference in the long run. Meditate on it and let your heart guide you.” It’s also something you can take to God in prayer. That he would guide and work in your lives so that we end up on the right path, the one he wants us to trek. God does have those plans and if they are followed we will have hope and a future.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Find your path which leads you into the horizon. Find that long road into the sunset which God has planned for you.
“Up until now, I have had no regrets about traveling to Europe, but my best piece of advice is DO NOT RUSH! I truly can understand the enormous pressure there is once you get to your Junior-Senior year and everyone expects you to have your life figured out, but trust me, the best thing you can do for yourself and your future is take your time, God has absolutely everything planned out for you. I took a gap year and worked as a medical interpreter. I remember feeling left out because all of my friends were taking off to college, yet I was still here and clueless, God had a bigger plan, I just needed a little more time to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Remember, you do not have to go at the same pace as everyone else, do what is best for you. Enjoy [the rest of your high school days} as much as you can, because in no time you will be walking to receive your diploma.” -Andrea Torres