As you’re picking up this paper after chapel, the sun is beginning to set in Paris, France. The metro rattles by right outside my window, and the smell of fresh baguette signifies suppertime. It’s more beautiful here than I ever could have imagined, just as learning French is more challenging than I dreamed it would be.
I’m in Paris for the maiden voyage of ORU’s new study abroad program. With a goal in mind to integrate into the French culture and, of course, learn French.
“The overarching distinction of this new [study abroad] program is that we are infusing ORU’s DNA into studying abroad,” Dr. Kevin Schneider, executive director of the newly founded office of Global Services, said during an interview. “Before this program, you might go overseas and have an amazing cultural experience, yet not feel like you are any way tied to ORU. This is different. We want you to have the experience and a dynamic spiritual environment.”
Every detail of this seemingly massive undertaking has been laid out, every stone turned over by Dr. Schneider, the provost and many others to ensure our safety.
ORU has partnered with Martin Luther King Church, located right outside of Paris, to immerse students in the life of a normal French citizen. We’re taking ORU online classes, as well as attending a local language school.
MLK is housing seven ORU girls in flats that are connected to the church, where we have the opportunity to serve and get involved with a thriving French Christian community—and oh, what a community it is. The church is a home. People are there everyday, praying, fellowshipping and drinking gallons of coffee.
This experience is distinct from other study abroad programs due to the community, service and missional outlook on everyday life. Rather than being solo overseas, our support system is extensive—the Paris Project, as I have unofficially dubbed it, has someone on call 24/7 in the United States, as well as pastors and several contacts in Paris.
Before I left America, I dropped in on a conference call with Team Paris. They encouraged us and gave us tips on traveling, serving, and a variety of other things. They prayed for us and promised they would be there if anything went wrong. They didn’t promise everything would go right, but they did pledge to do their best for us.
ORU has created a program that enables students who feel called overseas to be able to combine study and calling. Without anything to gain for themselves, they invested hundreds of hours into the dreams of seven girls. I’ve seen the Father’s heart like never before, and for that, I am overjoyed.
Until next time, bon voyage!