We invited our son, Mark, to join us for the retreat, even though he is not a "study abroad" student. He came to London, not as a one-semester study abroad student, but to begin a full-time, four-year university program at Hult International Business School. Mark spent much of his first two years in college trying to build a series of startups, and after two years, his Bitcoin-related effort, Coinfloor, secured seed funding and he went full-time as an entrepreneur (and proud college dropout).
The other participants were all about the same age as Mark, but his experience in London (and as a student here) helped him contribute to the discussions during the weekend, and he led the group on the outing on Saturday afternoon to Camden Market where every possible variety of street food was available for a good price. Of course, we were glad to get time with our son on both sides of the weekend retreat and to have him join us.
During the weekend, we looked at Acts 8, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was told by God to take a trip to a place he typically didn't go (a remote road south of Jerusalem) and there he met a man who had just been in Jerusalem, presumably where Philip had been. But God did not have Philip meet the eunuch in the city with the temple and the growing group of believers--he directed Philip to meet the eunuch at a time when they were both displaced from their familiar home locations, when Philip could not help but notice the eunuch and vice versa. God had obviously prepared the eunuch for Philip's approach, and when Philip spoke with him, the eunuch was ready to hear more about the scripture and the one, Jesus, of whom it spoke.
In a similar way, students on a study abroad are displaced from their usual patterns of fellowship, their daily contact with their friends, and their reliance on being at home in familiar circumstances. They can be, if they choose to be, aware of God's having prepared other people they would otherwise not know, except for their presence in this unfamiliar place. Often, the students they connect with best are fellow international students, from the US or elsewhere, who also are not complacent at home. We invited students to be like Philip, aware of the Holy Spirit's guidance and open to seeing God at work in part through their obedience to his call in this new place. Several students told encouraging stories of ways they have already begun to see God work in relationships and they spoke of wanting to start or join small groups focused on reaching out to their colleagues in their universities.