During the hectic days of move-in and the series of meetings that followed at the beginning of 2015’s fall semester, students returned to campus from all corners of the world. With them, they brought the stories of their summer experiences, whether they worked or went on vacations. Some students, however, chose to spend their break differently.

If you were to ask Dakota Stiling, a senior accounting major, what he did with his summer, you would have the opportunity to hear about his study abroad trip. Stiling joined a group of students as they made their way to Spain for a month-long adventure.

The group, led by Dr. Amos Kasperek, of the Division of Modern Language and Literature, was completely immersed in Spanish culture, speaking the language and participating in unfamiliar lifestyles as soon as their plane touched down. “We were speaking Spanish instantly the whole time,” Stiling said.

While in Spain, Stiling and his group lived in the homes of host families in the same city as Dr. David Bell, a church planter and English teacher at the University of Alicante. Bell, a BJU grad himself, taught and guided the visiting students during their stay. The students spent much of their time in classes, earning credit and learning more about the different culture that surrounded them, but they also had the chance to go out and engulf themselves in Spanish life. “We would just go out in the town and experience the culture,” Stiling said.

Many other students chose to spend their summers serving at camps. For Sara Phillis, a senior mathematics major, this meant a long flight to Alaska and Higher Ground Baptist Bible Camp. Phillis chose to volunteer her time at the camp, operated by a fellowship of several churches, after hearing about it from a friend.

“I got to help out with games and take pictures and whatever they needed help with,” Phillis said. “It was neat to have the opportunity to just help wherever.”

Besides being able to work in multiple positions over the course of the summer, working at the smaller camp gave Phillis the chance to get to know the individual campers more personally than if she had been working with a larger organization. “Each week I was able to learn most of the kids’ names that came,” Phillis said.

Working at camp wasn’t always fun and games though. Phillis was responsible to help the camp administration to complete their goals and to serve the young people who were spending their summer vacation learning more about God.

“You are there for the campers,” Phillis said.

A few students chose to give their summers to the Lord and serve not at a camp or in a classroom but on the mission field. Angelina Zimmer, a junior health sciences major, accompanied Kathryn Gamet, a faculty member in the Journalism and Mass Communication department, and her husband Jonny Gamet, sports information director for the Bruins, as they donated two weeks of their summer to working with missionaries on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Zimmer’s experience as a missionary kid in the Micronesian islands attracted her to the Antigua mission team. “It was kind of like going home,” Zimmer said, referring to the atmosphere of Antigua.

During the course of their stay, Zimmer and the rest of the team reached out to the community, but they also helped the local missionaries repair a radio tower. Although she spent much of her time helping the team bury fence posts and dig trenches, she did have the opportunity to enjoy the island. “It was very culturally diverse,” Zimmer said.

Although not every experience left a good impression, particularly a run-in with some fire coral, Zimmer came back from the trip with a fuller outlook on life. “It’s really given me a love for schools.”

Although the new academic year has just begun, students can still begin preparing for their next summer’s adventure. Students wishing to participate in out-of-country ministries such as study abroad or missions trips are advised to begin their preparations early.

“Do some research about it. Know where you want to go,” Zimmer advised.

Phillis also cautioned students not to be selfish about summer ministries. “Be looking at others and how you can help them as well.”

Even though a nice break during the summer seems like the perfect remedy for a long year of tests and projects, Stiling gives apt advice that every BJU student can appreciate:“You’ve got one life to live. Don’t waste it.” So what did you do with your summer?