I was away for 6 months but I did not fall away from the face of the earth.

by C. Shao Ken

Exchange is a huge part of university life. And for 6 months last year, I was in Switzerland for my abroad study programme. The experience was nothing short of extraordinary: I got to explore 10 countries and cities in Europe. My favourite experience? Hiking the Swiss Alps and making new friends on the trail!

On the day I was supposed to leave Singapore, I felt both excited and nervous. I knew this adventure would bring great chances for personal growth and new experiences, but the idea of being in a new country without my family and friends weighed on my mind.

My connect group friends dropped me off at the airport!

To my surprise, when I arrived at the airport, I saw my church friends waiting for me with big smiles. Knowing that they all came to say goodbye and wish me well on this adventure was such a special feeling! Seeing such a big turnout showed me that I wouldn’t be alone in this journey.

Staying connected with people back home

While being in a foreign land and travelling is fun, it can be lonely at times. 

The lack of face-to-face interaction and the significant time zone differences made it difficult to stay connected with my friends back home. To weather the challenge, I created a Telegram channel to keep my friends back home updated on my European adventures! This allowed me to share regular updates, photos, and reflections on my experiences abroad.

My friends in church also made a point to keep in touch by texting me from time to time and  Zooming in with me to check in on how I was doing. They even remembered my birthday and prepared a digital birthday card. I was really touched by the messages.

The e-birthday card that my CG made for me!

Staying connected with God

Staying connected with my friends back home was one thing, but while I was in Switzerland, I also learnt about the importance of cultivating independence in my walk with God.

Exchange life surprised me with its busyness as I constantly juggled my studies, travels, and plans for future journeys. And I faced a key challenge: Without my church friends and familiar support system, I lacked the usual accountability and motivation to consistently read the Bible and deepen my faith.

However, I discovered two things that helped me stay connected with God during this transformative period. First, I tried to take every challenge as a chance to grow in my character as a Christian. Living and traveling with people from diverse backgrounds and differing values was difficult and conflicts arose from time to time. Plus, I had to take responsibility for my finances to travel within my budget. Through these experiences, I grew in my character and learned to be kinder and to love others despite our differences.  

Second, I realized the importance of setting daily rhythms. Reading the Bible, having my quiet time, and even seeking out Christian friendships during my exchange allowed me to create a space for connecting with God during my exchange.


Reconnecting immediately after returning 

I didn’t expect the 6 months to fly by so quickly, but before I knew it, I was back in Singapore and eager to catch up on what I had missed. 

It’d been a long time since I last stepped into church, and my friends were so happy to see me in person after months away that they immediately asked me out for a meal. But reconnecting took time and effort – I realised that in order for me to adjust, I had to initiate meet-ups too.

Supper catch up with my CG mates.

Day by day, things slowly fell back into place. I even started serving in church again! 

As much as I enjoyed my time abroad, there is truly no place like home.

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