This semester I am blessed to be studying at Franciscan University’s study abroad program in the foothills of the Alps at the Kartause in Gaming, Austria. When people told me about the program it was a little bit difficult for me to picture, so the picture to the left is hopefully worth 1,000 words.
The semester here started with an Orientation week where we talked about how life at the Kartause works, the school trips we will be going on, and much more. One of the biggest themes from the week was transformation. This semester in Gaming is meant to be one of transformation, and after the first few weeks it is clear as to why.
Major transformation takes place when you are taken out of your comfort zone and placed in a new environment. This new environment encourages growth in maturity, faith and charity. Gaming, Austria, is a brand new environment where the culture, language, food, people, faith and government are completely different than I am used to. This environment has already offered me so many opportunities to grow and challenge myself. I mastered (I’m using that term quite loosely) the Vienna underground train system in one day; I have prayed in beautiful and new places that have inspired in me a deeper sense of prayer; I’ve lectored at Mass in a diverse array of churches, literally proclaiming the Word of God across the world; I’ve had lunch with the bishop of Gaming, Austria, after he celebrated Mass with our community where we talked about the challenges and opportunities facing the Catholic Church in Austria and in the United States; and all these events took place in the first two weeks. These experiences are offering me an opportunity for transformation, a transformation that is bringing me closer to Christ each and every day.
A large part of this transformation occurs because of the people that I am able to spend the semester with. All of the faculty and staff are an integral part of the program, and one of the best parts so far has been getting to know the faculty’s families. I have had the privilege to spend time with the “Kartause Kids”, the kids of the faculty and staff here in Gaming. They bring a great joy and life to the Kartause that adds to the unique atmosphere of the Gaming campus. All of my fellow students in Gaming are also an integral part of the transformation here in Gaming. I have met so many new people that if it weren’t for studying abroad with them, I probably would not have gotten to know them so well. These are people who I have played soccer with multiple nights, hiked to a waterfall and jumped in, hiked up a mountain to a cave where we spent an hour and had a dance party, and who I have prayed with almost every day. Each student in Gaming, Austria, adds to the adventure and the transformation that occurs here.
It’s safe to say, even after just a few weeks, that this will be a challenging, exciting, adventure-filled and transformative semester, and I am looking forward to sharing part of it with you.