This page is dedicated to the men and women alumni of the AMBEX Semester Abroad program. Here students can share their thoughts about this program and the life changing experiences they had while studying abroad in Europe. Please take the time to read a few of these testimonials. Who knows, maybe one day your own reflections may appear on this page.
Ambex has in every way changed my life. Through the challenging courses I have reaffirmed my belief that God is calling me to a specific vocation and I have been reaffirmed in how that can still honor God. The German people have been welcoming and wonderful, yet not what I expected. I have slowly fallen in love with the German culture and their adherence to rules and propriety, something you do not see very often in the states. However, and most specifically, the Germans that I came in contact with at the Open Door Church in Regensburg have been some of the kindest people and the most welcoming fellowship that I have ever come in contact with. The German culture has taken me captive. I have always been one to follow the rules and I am never late for anything, I like to say I would rather not go than to show up late, and to find that the German culture values those things as well is wonderful. Not just those two things have endeared me to the culture, the importance of family and the selectivity with friendship, the coziness of cafes and restaurants, the friendliness of the people you meet at those places is just wonderful. The organization of the German culture is also very comforting to me. The German culture also includes their food, which I was worried about liking; however I have truly enjoyed almost everything that I have tried. My favorite is of course the vanilla dumplings; however I really love schnitzel as well. Most importantly I have found classmates who have shown me the love of God in a real and tangible way. Through our prayer nights we have grown with each other and with our Bible study we have grown in Christ. Classes were more challenging, but not overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to have my choice of vocation reaffirmed so often. God has used this experience to give me ten amazing sisters in Christ and a support system that I hope will withstand the test of time and distance. He has reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher by helping me learn more history than I could have hoped for as well as rekindling my passion for learning. God is not done working through this experience in my life and I hope that He uses it in bigger ways than even I anticipate.
A poem dedicated to the AMBEX program by Alexis Beattie
How can three months be condensed to a page,
When there’s so much there to say?
The weeks, and days, and hours are packed
But I suppose I can find a way.
A wise man once told me
“Live life to the fullest.”
I am not sure I knew what he meant.
Until, that is, I hopped on a plane
To Germany and made my descent.
The language of Germans is harsh, to be sure,
But their hearts are so open and kind.
I knew nothing of them but Hitler and Jews
Yet soon they would all change my mind.
Germans are people just like you and me,
We have all made great mistakes.
Judging them won’t help us grow from the past
And we need to for all of our sakes.
Church is sadly not very personal
For most Germans are Catholic at heart
They sit there in mass, in a cold stony church
Not seeing Christ there from the start.
A mission field lies here in Germany,
For Catholics need the truth of Christ, too.
Their churches are filled every Sunday,
But with Mary, their saviors make two.
My heart cries out for their souls,
And I see such a need for God here.
But there is so much indifference.
Some Germans would rather drink beer.
With beer and a roll they begin their day,
Well, maybe not at 8 o’clock.
But their culture says it’s not very weird at all
To always have beer well in stock.
Incredible minds have come out of this place
Like Bonhoeffer, Einstein, and Strauss.
Theology, science, and music affected
Yet nearly forgotten because of a louse.
Hitler tainted the country’s good name,
They cannot even be proud,
For all of their past, both good and bad,
Is covered by the Holocaust cloud.
I am not saying it is unimportant.
World War II changed the world to be sure.
Yet we see the infection of sin on the earth
When we just see ourselves as most pure.
Christ came to the world to save,
Not some but all of mankind.
Sitting in church on Easter Sunday,
I realized how much I was blind.
For I forgot to see the world as a whole,
Outside of my own little shell.
I have learned a great deal since I’ve been here.
I hope you will learn much as well.
God brought me here for a reason,
The whole one I might never know.
My life has been changed by these mere three months,
And it wasn’t just ‘cuz of the snow.
I have fallen in love with this country,
The language, the people, the views.
From Munich’s döners and Nürnberg’s brats
And sitting in the great Luther’s pews,
To Neuschwanstein castle up there on the hill
And Dresden’s Il Troubadour play,
And let’s not forget the town I’ve called home,
Where some of my heart will now stay.
I’m afraid my description is useless
For mere words cannot explain,
Like a raindrop journeyed from the sky,
Cannot describe the rain.
You have to be a part of journey,
To describe just what has occurred.
For sometimes even the best words you can use
Will only make it even more blurred.
I hope I did Germany justice.
Unless you come you will never be sure.
Be ready to have your life totally altered.
THAT I will gladly assure.
There is nothing like studying abroad. All of the memories made and the friendships formed to any other experience. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should be embraced fully and lived thoroughly. The past semester has caused unexpected growth, and has presented challenges completely out of the norm. It is something that cannot be fully expressed in words, but its importance will never be forgotten. It is the difference between learning and experiencing. Anyone can sit in a classroom and take notes; it is a completely different thing to be standing in front of the piece of art, or standing in front of the building, or walking in the footsteps of historical people. Being in the rooms where they worked and slept is different than looking at a flat picture of the room. New levels of understanding are reached just by being there. It is also the chance to branch out and meet people beyond the normal comforts of home. People one would not normally talk to suddenly become a best friend or a sister. The bonds formed will never go away. It will always hold a special place in memory; it will always be a safe place to return to. Trust has been built where it was not present before. Lives have been changed for the better, and it all happened by taking a leap of faith and flying across the big pond to the beautiful land of Germany. God, Coach, Kelley, the parents, and all the professors who came and put their hearts into the program have impacted lives and made the experience. It is their hard work that made the program a success. It is to them the eleven young women owe their thanks and gratitude.
I could never have dreamed of the implications that a semester at Ambex would have for me. I wasn’t expecting to face certain challenges and adversities, but that seems to be the way the Lord always works. The courses from this semester all blended together in this complementary fashion that has made me examine the way I read books, watch movies, and speak with people. The places I’ve traveled have opened my eyes to mankind in a world outside of my hometown. Above all I’ve seen God work in every country, every class, every girl in this program and I’ve seen God work in me in a way I could have never expected. I didn’t understand the implications German culture and geography would have on me during this semester. I thought that it would be a course where I would learn some facts about a country and then move on to the next subject without applying the information, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, reading books can help explain the German life-style, but that is nothing compared to living among the people. I watched the employees at the youth hostel and I spoke with kids from the Bliss youth group and was able to discern for myself how the German people really tick. My classes taught me how to defend “Truth” to a lost world without being judgmental or condescending. They taught me that not every situation is black or white and pushed my boundaries. They taught me to look at the world through the eyes of others and see religion, books, movies and art through their eyes. One of the most beautiful moments of this 3-month endeavor happened on Easter Sunday. When the Scriptures were read in 4 different languages I was almost moved to tears. God presented this opportunity for me to come to Ambex this semester and I jumped on it for my own personal experience, but He quickly revealed that this semester was not about me. This semester was about Him, and how to explain to others His love and His grace. This semester was about understanding people that live with different customs and who speak different languages, and yet need God the same as I do. God sees and is concerned with the heart and that is why this semester was important.
This semester and the European History, Geography & Culture course has allowed me to grow in my spiritual walk with Christ because I have been pushed past my comfort zones. Traveling for three months time without my parents or the comforts of my own home, friends, and places allowed me to dive into God’s Word with a different view. I wanted to grow in the gospel to further my discipleship in other countries. God called us to make disciples of all the nations and being able to learn the culture and religious aspects of Germany helped me understand the people and culture better. I learned that God is a big God who really can handle everything at every time, anywhere. I used to not think that much outside America, let alone California so I realized I only was thankful for or prayed for the things and places I knew but God is everywhere and everyone needs to hear His Word which is partially why I was sent here. I thought I would not have a lot of time to connect with Germans or let alone tell them about God but He has definitely provided opportunities. I truly believe it was God’s divine appointment for me to be here and He has worked not only in my life but in the lives of the other girls who are studying here too. This semester was important because I got to learn so much from different professors all over America from Reformation to Art History, and Christian Worldview to the Third Reich. The Master’s College does a great job in every class that is offered but this experience allowed me to take a hands-on approach which is how I like to learn. These last three months have permanently left an imprint on my heart and I can say that I actually do feel German. The people I have met have changed my life, the classes have challenged me in ways I never imagined and the relationships I have formed will be difficult to break because my friends here are the only ones who will understand how this experience has grown me and changed me for the better. Studying abroad can be a tough decision but the opportunity is one that can never be taken back. Germany has become a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine my life without it now.
Aaron: Fresh bretzel, bratwurst mit sauerkraut, schnitzel, Regensburg, Bayern, Deutsche Bahn, cobble stone, old cities, Christkindlesmarkt, and Ambex friends are a few things I miss about Deutschland. My name is Aaron Thomasson, I am currently a student of the Humanities/Philosophy and Biblical Studies programs at Columbia International University. As a student of the humanities, I have an immense interest in the culture, history and academic movements of Europe. More specifically, I have the desire to familiarize myself with the German people. The Ambex Christian Exchange program was an answer to prayer. While studying in Regensburg, I was challenged in a way that is exclusive to the Ambex program. I experienced personal growth through my studies, my relationships with fellow students and the surrounding culture; while having the opportunity to broaden my perspective on politics, culture, faith, and international affairs. I am certain that my experiences from the Ambex program will continue to influence my life and future ministry decisions. Because of its faculty, curriculum, and study tours, Ambex was beyond suitable for my needs. I am very grateful for the directors, professors and other persons who have assisted the growth and success of the program through their many sacrifices. I recommend that students, with an interest in a European study abroad, should consider the American Bavarian Exchange Program.
On January 18, 2013 at 6:25 AM, my flight took off from Fresno-Yosemite International Airport bound for Munich, Germany. Like my journey toward reaching AMBEX, I had a few layovers along the way, yet ultimately I made it. During my three months in Germany, I had the chance to travel all over that beautiful country. I looked over Bavaria from the windows of Neuschwanstein castle and stared in awe at the Brandenburg gate in Berlin. I walked the streets of Wittenburg and peeked inside Luther’s study at Wartburg Castle. Our adventures extended past Germany into Austria; in Salzburg I skipped along with my fellow “AMBEXers” through the city of Salzburg to sites where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. We journeyed into Italy, where I got lost wandering Venice and climbed to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence. Besides traveling for class, I also had the chance to do some independent travel. With some of my classmates, I traveled across the beautiful country of Spain; in another week I toured the amazing cities of London and Dublin. For my final travel week, I marveled at the cultured elegance of Vienna. It was three months jam packed with seven European countries, thousands of miles, and an infinite amount of moments I will never forget. Ninety days later my plane landed back in Fresno, late the night of April 18th. Although Fresno hadn’t changed much since January, I had. I grew intellectually and spiritually during those three months in ways I’m still discovering, even today, and will continue to discover in the years to come. I cannot begin to express my thanks for your charity. Your kindness made my final semester of college so much more meaningful to me, as well as a time I will always cherish. Intellectually, my knowledge of Europe, its people, and its culture grew as I had the chance to see and experience it firsthand. I made friendships that will last a lifetime and was stretched spiritually in ways that encouraged me to lean all the more on my Savior. My semester spent in Germany was one of the hardest of my college career, but one of the most worthwhile. Places I had read and studied in my classes came to life, and the realities of our world today grew so much more real to me in ways that would have been impossible in the United States. As someone who hopes to work overseas at a US embassy or consulate someday, I treated this experience as a “test” to see whether or not I would even want to live for extended periods of time in a foreign country. My time at AMBEX encouraged me to pursue this path all the more, and I am excitedly pursuing this goal. Thank you for helping me attend AMBEX this past spring. Your investment in my life was a tremendous blessing, and one I know the Lord will use in mighty ways toward furthering His kingdom. Thank you so much, and may the Lord bless you always. In Christ and with a Thankful Heart,