4 tips for Christians studying abroad

  • by Melissa Crutchfield

Are you a college student thinking of studying abroad? What comes to your mind? Seeing the world, traveling to a new location, making great friends, or the stereotypical idea of ‘living it up’ during a semester overseas?

But stop for a minute and re-think all the clichés of a traditional study abroad experience.

What if you looked at it as an opportunity to live on mission?

Around the world right now, millions of college students in a variety of cultures are going to classes, eating in school cafeterias and hanging out with friends, but many have never heard the name of Jesus.

If you leave your everyday college commitments behind to study in another country, you will most likely have a surprising amount of free time on your hands. What if you could maximize that time by helping reach every tribe, nation and tongue with the gospel?

You may even be the first person to ever share the Good News with one of those students, all the while earning credit for your required school classes.

Whether you’re just considering the thought or you’ve already signed up for classes, here are a few practical ways to study abroad with the intention of furthering the gospel. 

  1. Go With Vision: Instead of viewing your study abroad experience as just earning some school credits in another country, go with a specific vision and intention to live on mission.

    A student named Jenn from George Mason University spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy sharing the gospel with Italian students. Jenn put it beautifully in saying that, “As Christ followers, we are called to spread the Good News and reach the nations. You are already being sent to the nations to study, so why not share with the locals the news that will changes their lives forever?”

    Before Jenn left America for Florence, she knew that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of fellow students. She shared, “it's important to go into your study abroad experience knowing that you want to be involved in the Great Commission somehow, because once you're overseas, it's easy to get distracted, and before you know it you're on a plane home back to the US."

    Be sure to leave with a clear vision in mind to live intentionally for the Kingdom. 

  2. Work Alongside a Local Church or Ministry: Before you go to the country you are studying in, research different local organizations, missionary groups and churches you can come along side while there.

    With Cru Study Abroad, you can find a list of existing partnership locations and be connected to International Campus Staff in various countries.

    Both Jenn and another student named Mackenzie (who also studied in Florence) contacted their leaders with Cru asking if they could join up with the local Cru team in Florence. They were introduced to a missionary there, and they worked together all semester creating unique platforms to share the gospel with Italians. Research all your options before leaving, and see which local organizations, churches and Cru ministries you can come alongside to help share the Gospel in the culture you're studying in.

  3. Continue Sharing Your Faith After Returning Home: You might think to yourself, how can I make a difference in someone’s life in such a short period of time? It is true that just one semester or summer overseas is a brief time, however, we have one thing on our side in this day and age: social media.

    Your semester abroad could be just the beginning of a life-long friendship with someone from another culture. As you return home, you can continue to process the gospel with them, work through a Bible study together and grow your friendship through Facebook, Skype and other social media avenues. Leaving the country only means changing your strategy to reach the people you have met, not the end of the relationship.  

  4. Prepare for Personal Growth: Ministering cross-culturally is no easy task. It can be hard work to step over cultural boundaries, leave your comfort zone, and share the gospel in an unfamiliar context. But we often experience great personal growth in times of discomfort and difficulty.

    A student named Reid who studied abroad on mission in East Asia said, “Before I went, I understood the gospel, but God stretches and challenges you while you’re overseas. He showed me how deep His love is, and I personally began to experience the gospel in a real way during my time sharing it with students in East Asia.”

    As you study abroad on mission, be prepared for God to grow you more and more into His likeness. God will not only stretch you as you reach out to others, but He will grow your personal relationship with Him in new ways.

Cling to the truth of the gospel, live intentionally, and step out in expectant faith while you study abroad on mission. It will be a life changing experience!

Learn more about Cru Study Abroad.