What made you decide to participate in the HUA program?
When I was looking at colleges my senior year of high school, Harding University grabbed my attention because of a video posted by a previous HUA student. After watching people bungee jump from a crazy height, snorkel in the great barrier reef, tour Angkor Wat, bathe elephants, and see Mount Fuji I realized I wanted to get out and explore the amazing earth God has provided. So when I went to orientation I immediately signed up for HUA.
What was it like attending HUA?
Attending HUA was an experience of a lifetime. I was able to experience something unique and exciting in every single country — New Zealand’s spectacular mountains, Australia’s kangaroos, India’s vast cultural differences, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, Thailand’s seven layer water fall and Japan’s amazing views and close knit community. It felt like I was able to gain insight into how vast and amazing the world is.
What was it like living in Australasia?
Living in Australasia was honestly like a dream. I know that sounds silly but it’s true. We had apartment style housing overlooking the spectacular Remarkables Mountains in Queenstown. Each day I stepped outside, I found myself in awe of the crystal lake and the snow capped mountains. It was like God took the time to form each piece of Queenstown with just a little more care. Every day we had class, I would sit at the Exchange Coffee Shop and complete my homework. This allowed me time to get away from everyone for a little bit and relax with coffee and the mountains surrounding me. Life was calm, but there was something to look forward to every weekend. Adrenaline junkies were able to choose an extreme activity like skydiving, bungee jumping or white water rafting. Each memory in Queenstown was a gift that I will treasure always. We stayed in New Zealand the longest, but we also bounced through all of the other countries. This allowed us to see many different areas of the countries.
What did you learn?
When I was abroad I learned how to step out of my comfort zone, embrace the different culture and live each day like it was my last. I was scared to leave home but excited to travel across the world. I learned how to be independent and confident in a new and different environment. I learned how to embrace the cultural differences in India, where we dove headfirst into unfamiliar food cuisines and discovered how other people carried out their daily lives. Lastly, I learned how to not regret any decisions I made while abroad. I wanted to live each day like it was my last because I didn’t know when or if I would ever be back to any of the places I visited. I chose exciting and fun experiences I would have not been able to have in the United States.
How did you grow?
Going abroad allowed me to grow deeper in my faith. I was able to see God through not only the incredible views, but also the people I met along the way. I learned how to communicate despite a language barrier being present.
Going to different countries where you don’t know the language can make it harder to communicate with the people. I grew by trying. Try to ask questions because if you don’t ask you won’t know the answer. I made some very good friends in Thailand because I stepped out of my comfort zone and grew.
How were you challenged?
I was challenged by learning how to get along with and live with the same group of 40 people for three months. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Although it was hard combining so many personalities into such a small group, I was able to gain lifelong friends. I didn’t know anyone going abroad, so making new friends in a different country was challenging at first. However, I was able to connect with people that I probably would have never met if it wasn’t for HUA.
I was also challenged spiritually. Going to countries where Chistians are considered a minority was something that I never really considered doing. So when we went to India, Thailand and Japan, not only did I not understand what anyone was saying, but I also was faced with religions that you don’t see a lot of in the United States. This experience allowed me to grow deeper in my connection with God.
What was my favorite aspect of HUA?
Honestly I don’t have one part of HUA that was my favorite. Because we traveled to so many countries, I was able to have so many memorable moments that will always hold a place in my heart.
What is one standout memory from HUA?
One standout memory for me was independent travel in New Zealand. I hiked the Kepler Track with 19 other people. It was one of the hardest physical and mental experiences I have ever had. What made the hike worth it was the amount of encouragement that I felt when I thought I couldn’t go on any more. Along with that, the views were amazing! Walking up the mountain and seeing how small everything was in comparison was astonishing.
What do you wish people knew about HUA?
At the beginning of HUA, I was told by a friend to keep a record from start to end of my experiences abroad. The teachers require so many journal entries for a grade; however, don’t look at it just as a grade. Look at it as keeping a journal so you won’t forget all of the experiences you had.
What would you say to others thinking about joining the HUA program?
I would say if you’re thinking about doing it, just do it. If you want to travel and see the world with a community of Christians, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
How do you see the world differently after studying abroad?
The world is such a large place however, I am able to have connections that I didn’t before. In my Bible class spring 2020, I ran into someone from Thailand that knew some of the friends I made while attending one of the churches there. It seems like I am almost always able to find a connection to a place or someone I met while abroad, or at least to a place I have been.
Paige Holland attended the fall 2019 Harding in Australasia (HUA) program.