Features

Summer in Spain

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For the duration of six weeks senior Megan Kobler lived in Spain during the summer through a program offered at Bethel. For the first four weeks she lived with a host family with two other Bethel students in Salamanca.
Senior Megan Kobler on her last day in Spain after spending six weeks in the country.
“At school, I had a grammar class, conversation class, writing class, and a business class,” Kobler said. “My class was full of students from around the world, so it was really interesting to meet and build friendships with people I otherwise never would have met.” Kobler said a typical day in Salamanca was very relaxed. “We had a lot of free time outside of class to explore the city and experience typical Spanish life,” she said. “We mostly spent our time at some local parks, near the river, taking advantage of the 50 percent off sales, watching old Spanish films on Tuesdays, or outside at cafes in the Plaza Mayor.” Once classes were done the group traveled for two weeks in the northern cities in which they experienced new restaurants, beaches, museums and parks. Kobler said aside from the friendships she built the best part was being able to apply her Spanish in everyday conversations and learn more of the language all the time. “In Toledo I had an amazing conversation with a nun at a Jewish synagogue/Catholic church about some artwork that described how the two faiths are connected,” she said. “Having a Catholic and somewhat Jewish background, this was a very special moment for me. It was the first time I had a truly meaningful one-on-one conversation with anyone completely in Spanish, so it was an accomplishment of sorts, but more so a blessing to have talked with that woman.” The most challenging part of this experience for Kobler was being intentional about showing love and respect. “It is, and was in Spain, too easy to get caught up in school work, today's plan and routine, and my pride and forget to love as Christ loves me,” she said. “It was important to me that I be a reflection of Christ’s love to the people I met in Spain.” At first Kobler said as she tried to understand the Spanish way of life she found herself putting her needs first. “It became a daily act of denying my needs, my plans, my fears, and my pride so I could really open my eyes and my heart to the new family, professors, and students around me,” she said. God taught Kobler through her time in Spain that nothing is new to him. “Through this trip God taught me that even when a culture, language, city, or home is new to me it is not new to Him,” she said. “Leaving everything that is familiar and entering into a new country and culture is overwhelming, but I found a lot of peace in knowing that even when everything around me is unfamiliar, God is constant and unchanging.” When she got home God was still teaching her more about His faithfulness. “Even from the very beginning with providing the funds to go, to safe and easy flights, to the family and roommates I lived with, to the content of my classes, to protection as we traveled around the country by bus, He was there,” Kobler said. “There are so many little moments and situations I could share about His provision and timing, and it is amazing to look back and see how He shows love through such simple things, even when we are halfway around the world.” Kobler admits it was hard to not respond in a way a Spaniard when she got back to the States. “When I first came home, I had to bite my tongue and not respond to people, in public, in Spanish,” she said. “Once, a complete stranger opened a door for me at a restaurant and my immediate response was to say ‘gracias.’ I quickly stopped myself, stared at him, and slowly said ‘thank you.’ (It was) embarrassing to say the least. It was also a little strange to adjust back to the typical American schedule and routine. After eating, taking siestas, and walking everywhere like a Spaniard it was strange to think I had ever lived any differently at home.” After this experience Kobler would like to return to Spain. “I kind of have this secret hope of teaching English there someday,” she said. “If the opportunity presented itself, I would have a hard time turning it down.”
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