For ten Bethel students, this semester is their first one of the school year in the United States. From September 1 to December 16 they called the Dominican Republic home. For fifteen weeks abroad, new adventures, “riceandbeans” and team bonding filled their time, but the most impactful experience seemed to be experiencing life with the Dominican people. “Everyone down there became a part of my family”, said junior Amy Fishbein. “Dominican culture is incredibly relational,” shared junior Courtney Chapman. The group was able to get to know people better after absorbing more of the Spanish language. Their trip was divided into three segments with the first 5 weeks spent in language study. Although some students were familiar with the Spanish language prior to the trip, others had very limited exposure. Next, they had two weeks of travel and ministry class, and the last seven weeks focused on local ministry/job sites with opportunities for those interested in education, business, medical work, social work, art and more. Juniors Nate Jackson and Neil Silveus along with Fishbein all participated in the microfinance site, where they worked with women in the local communities and their businesses. They visited women’s homes, discussed life and prayed with the women while helping them maneuver the financial realm. “Our site leader was quite an inspiration because he was not much older than us, yet he had built this whole program up from scratch,” shared Jackson. “It was so good to learn how ministry can be combined with business and just how much synergy those two subjects had with each other.” Chapman was involved with the social work site, where most of her time was spent with young girls between the ages of 12 and 20. She went through sewing classes every day with a different group of girls, making bags, blouses, and other things. With the girls, Chapman and her roommate led weekly devotionals each Friday, celebrated an end-of-the-year pool party and went hiking during Hurricane Thomas. “Basically, the site was all about building relationships with the girls, exposing them to the gospel, and challenging them to grow in their faith,” explained Chapman. Ministry is a major focus of the Dominican Republic study abroad, and students received many chances to apply their faith beyond their normal comfort zones. “I feel like I have a completely new perspective on many things: God, relationship, life,” expressed junior Courtney Chapman. “It’s crazy how much you realize when taken out of a familiar environment.” “Go!” says Fishbein. “It will stretch you in ways you didn’t think possible, and reward you with life-long relationships and language acquisition.” “I know that I have changed and I’m sure I will continue to learn how I've changed for the rest of my life,” Jackson reflected. “I've developed much more compassion for the poor. I realize the importance of being able to drop your work so that you can talk with a friend. The world is much bigger, yet simpler than I thought.” Whether it was hiking up rivers and waterfalls, eating fried cheese and pigskin, or simply sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, each nuance of the Dominican culture had a part to play in the lives of those who went on the trip. Although there are too many stories to recount here, God has revealed Himself across cultural boundaries and continues to spread His aroma to the world even through Bethel’s college kiddos.