Well….my trip starts today. I’m filled with mixed emotions as I’m incredibly sad to leave my friends at school who have come to be family to me, as well as my wonderful school that I absolutely love (probably a little too much). But at the same time, I’m thrilled. And filled with expectation. I have complete faith in my friendships here and know they will still be with me as I leave and also when I return, and with that knowledge, I can confidently venture out on this once in a lifetime experience with so much joy.
I don’t have all that much to say right now, so I’ll just share the first part of the freakishly-long-for-Christmas-break-paper I had to write as a pre-departure portfolio. No, it’s not that deep or amazing, it’s just my goals for this semester. But hopefully sharing them will serve as a reminder to me of what I hope to accomplish and experience over the course of this semester:
I am beyond excited for the journey I am about to embark on in Oxford during the Spring 2012 semester. As the daughter of a former flight attendant, I grew up traveling. I have packed more bags than I can count and have been riding on planes for as long as I can remember. With the blessing of free flying, my family and I have been able to go on trips all over the United States and North America, and over the years I have grown to love touring. During the spring break of my sophomore year of high school, I was able to go on a trip with my choir to London for a competition. It was then that I really discovered the beauty of Europe and the appreciation I had for it, and I have been anxious to return. I was thrilled to learn that ACU strongly encourages studying abroad and have been awaiting my opportunity to travel for a semester since I applied as an incoming freshman. And now that it has finally arrived, I could not be more thrilled.
My overarching goal for this upcoming semester is to stretch myself—to grow in every dimension of my life—and, ultimately, to just have the experience of a lifetime. I have always been a homebody and a play-it-safer, not one to take risks or seek crazy adventures. Growing up, I was always the one who kept the other kids in line and did the “right” thing. And while I still have a great deal of that childhood self in me, I am learning that there is so much that can be experienced once you open yourself up to those moments that are a bit out of your comfort zone. I am ready to be smart and cautious on this trip, while also letting myself just have fun and embrace opportunities. I want to see what it is like to live somewhere else in the world by having conversations with locals and really learning about their hearts and lives. I want to let loose and not plan every second of the day but just be flexible and see where the Lord takes me. I am strongly looking forward to deepening my relationship with Him through the great amount of trust this semester will require of me. I know it will be challenging to spend time with Him—to remember to seek Him in all things and communicate with Him while I am busy traveling about the continent. But though it is scary to think my relationship with Him will change, it is also extremely exciting. I am anticipating many hard times but also many wonderful times of experiencing His immense love and faithfulness in new ways. It is something I cannot predict or plan, but also one area of my life that I am completely turning over to Him and ready to see a change that affects me for the rest of my life.
Another area in which I hope to experience growth is in my academic knowledge. As an English major, I have read many books that are set in or reference Europe, and I cannot wait to step into these places I have studied and develop a deeper understanding of them. I believe this trip will give me greater insight into those authors and works that are centered on European culture, and I will be better equipped to read, write about, and study them further.
Though I am excited to leave, I am also nervous about being away from my close friends at ACU, missing out on a semester on campus, and frankly, just being out of my comfort zone. I am not one to do things without close friends surrounding me, so studying abroad will be a huge growing experience in that area. I am also completely in love with ACU itself, with the campus and the community there, and am extremely sad to be missing out on campus life for so long. But with all of these fears comes a new set of goals: to form new friendships while also making the effort to stay in contact with the ones back home; to take a leap of faith and not panic when my comfort zone is breached; and to find home in the Lord wherever I am, whether it be Abilene or Oxford.