Jacob and Nicholas—Living, Learning, Communicating in a Different Culture—We’re All God’s Children

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

Jacob (15) and Nicholas (13) are brothers who recently lived abroad in Spain for a year with their parents. As we talked, they shared what it was like to live in a different country with a different language, what was hard, what they liked, and what they learned about life.

What were you thinking at the beginning of your trip to Spain?
JACOB: As we prepared to go, I was scared that I wouldn’t like it, that I would be isolated from everything because I didn’t speak the language. I felt like I was being sucked out of my comfort zone and placed without choice into a new country. In fact, I even hoped we would miss our flight. But by about the third month, we had settled in and made friends, and I figured out it wasn’t going to be the worst year of my life. In fact, now I pretty much speak Spanish. I’m super happy about that and super glad that we went, even though it was scary at first.

NICHOLAS: At the beginning, it was kind of weird to think about all the stuff I would be missing out on at home. I wasn’t too happy about that because I wanted to ski all winter, and I didn’t know if the dance school in Spain would be good. Once we got in our permanent apartment in Barcelona, I felt more comfortable. By then, we had started dancing and had friends. I felt sad at the end leaving all the friends I’d made in Barcelona. But I looked forward to getting home.

JACOB: What really turned it around was learning the language. I immersed myself in the culture, trying the best I could to speak the language. At one point, we just got it and could talk more with people and have conversations with the locals. That made a big difference. And since everyone was so nice, it was easy then to make friends.

It sounds like you didn’t let fear or concerns get to you.
JACOB: I was able to enjoy life moment by moment rather than thinking about the full year.

That’s huge—being in the moment. Way to go. How was your life affected by not being able to speak the language at first?
JACOB: Well, we spent a lot more time together than we would’ve at home, and we helped each other on Spanish.
NICHOLAS: Well, you helped me.
JACOB: That still counts. We relied on each other.
NICHOLAS: … and family because they are the only ones who could have a full on conversation. Oh, and our Sunday school teacher. He was really funny.
JACOB: He shared some really helpful stories. He talked about the temptations you meet regarding drugs and morality as you grow up.

What helpful ideas came up about overcoming temptations?
JACOB: Our teacher pointed out that 1 John 3:1-3 was a great passage to think about when we faced peer pressure or sketchy temptations. We could either think it in our head or say it out loud if we’re hurt or lost in the forest or need to help someone else. He told us to put our own name in the passage: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on [Jacob] that [I] should be called the son of God.” Or we could put someone else’s name in there to help or pray for them. It made it both more personal and more powerful for me.

NICHOLAS: One passage that I know I can rely on when I need immediate help is “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 KJV).

And you guys had a lot of freedom over there. What was it like?
NICHOLAS: Once I learned how to use the metro system in Barcelona without help from my parents, I had lots of freedom to go many places in the city. It was interesting to go to our favorite restaurants and then come home and eat meals with our family. And we could do that without fear because 1) Barcelona is safe and 2) I didn’t have to be fearful because I know God is with me.

JACOB: It was really awesome. At home, I didn’t feel trapped or anything, but in Barcelona, with the metro, I realized how much more independent I could be.

What were some of the best experiences you had over there?
JACOB: Dancing and traveling were definitely my favorite things about the trip, since that is when we had our craziest experiences and made our closest friends. I learned that I love to travel, especially in Europe, and that visiting other countries is so much fun and provides a good opportunity for quality family time.

NICHOLAS: My best experiences were winning three first place championships with our dance crew. I learned how to pick up choreo. I wasn’t really good at it before. But in Spain, they taught it really fast, so I had to be on my game, and I got used to it. Most of our friends were at the dance school, but we did become great friends with our Spanish teachers, too.

How did living abroad make a difference in your life?
NICHOLAS: It gave me a bigger perspective of the world, seeing different cultures, foods, people. I learned I could learn a language. I thought I’d never get it. But I kept working at it, and it took time. But I got it, which was pretty cool. Now I value learning a second language way more.

Would you recommend living abroad for a year to other kids?
JACOB: Yeah. It’s really, really cool. And I think a year is just enough that you can settle in and have a life with all the necessary stuff, find friends, do social activities, travel to new places, and have fun.