Sitting in the living room of my house in Dallas (America!), I have a little bit of time to reflect back on the time I spent abroad. It’s been a good semester. I’ve done a lot. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve eaten a lot. I’ve walked a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve studied a lot. (Just kidding about that last one.)
Okay, so what have a learned? Have I accomplished my goals?
–Pray. Every day. Check. This semester has had an incredible impact on my spiritual life. There is something about being at the center of the Catholic faith, visiting the sites of a multitude of saints, and witnessing the election and inauguration of a new pope that is inspiring and motivational to pray. Probably the most amazing thing about the Catholic faith is that no matter where you are, what language is spoken, you can step inside a church and say hi to Jesus, physically present in the Eucharist. And He is the same everywhere.
–Keep up with this blog. Okay, maybe not a complete success. I was doing pretty well for a while, but definitely slacked off in the last month or so. My apologies. Not to make excuses or anything, but there was a lot going on.
–Develop an existing friendship. Huge check. Maria Buckner, you are such an inspiring and amazing individual. I am blessed to consider you one of my best friends, and I will miss you dearly.
–Make a new friend. Another big check. This one goes out to my other roommate, Marie. I am so glad we were able to go from hardly knowing each other to become good friends. I will certainly miss you (and your songs and dance moves) very much. Here’s to a very cheeky room.
–Develop impeccable European style. Please refer to my photos.
-Try a native dish of every country I visit. Yep. I must say I was the most impressed by France; they worthily take pride in the quality of their food. The duck was pretty delicious, and I ate more than my fair share of crepes.
–Learn a new dance move. I don’t know that I will have occasion to use it, but I did indeed learn some Greek group dances.
–Stay on budget. Yes! Thank goodness…
–Stay out of jail. A very definite check.
And a few other things I learned along the way.
-There’s always more room in the Cotral bus.
-A SITA bus can fill up.
-Pope’s can resign.
-Don’t drink the tap water on the ferry.
-French people are actually very nice.
-Easy Jet > Ryan Air
-If you arrive to a destination after dark, get a taxi to your hotel.
-Keep your travel groups on the smaller side.
-Make sure you do not put yourself in charge of planning everything for a trip.
-Don’t expect to be able to follow a detailed travel itinerary.
-Charades will take you a long way.
-Study enough to keep up your grades, but don’t forget: you are in Rome. It’s okay if you don’t have your best semester and instead get to see some of the greatest sights in the world.
-You can just walk across the street in Italy; the drivers will stop for you (it’s actually quite empowering).
-Do not attempt Italian pedestrian styles in France.
-There’s no place like home.
There are certainly many more things I could eventually think of. Those are some more specific things, but I also learned quite a bit about life, generally. As a person who usually likes to a have a plan – for the present and the future – it was a little difficult at first to not get stressed out by the last minute planning that takes place when you travel to a different country on a long weekend. Soon though, I learned that it is okay not to have every detail worked out. If one thing fails, find another solution. There really is not enough time to plan for the future perfectly and to enjoy the present. At the same time though, one has to plan a little bit and not just float through life without any goals. There is a median that must be found.
Each day I discover different ways that this semester has changed me and helped me grow. I can’t wait to continue to discover how my experiences have shaped me and to carry with me all that I have learned. Most important of anything that I have learned: don’t forget through everything you are not really in control. God knows what’s up. He will take care of you if you just let Him.