It’s been said to me before, usually by friends of mine or others that I meet who aren’t fully aware of what life at Franciscan is like, that this little University on top of the hill is a bubble. That it’s a collection of like-minded people and I would be almost kidding myself to be convinced that I’m not just developing an idealistic view of the world while I’m here. But this isn’t the reality of what Franciscan is, and what this University does for its students.
For those of you who don’t know, I recently returned from a semester abroad in Gaming, Austria – Franciscan University’s study abroad program. I also blogged about it here if you are interested in reading more about that experience. To sum it up, it was the semester of a lifetime.
This last week and a half, all the students studying abroad at the Kartause this semester traveled to Rome and Assisi for a pilgrimage put on by the University. Rome and Assisi – I can’t think of two better places for a Franciscan student to travel to on pilgrimage.
During a semester in Austria every student has the opportunity to travel almost every weekend. Since classes are 4 days a week, you have 3 days to travel each weekend. On top of those weekends, there are two 10-day breaks: one break that you can travel and plan with other students and one break that is organized by the school, the Rome & Assisi Pilgrimage.
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 end of my semester abroad in Gaming.
I can’t believe it.
So much has happened this semester. I’ve done so many new things, seen so many beautiful places, made so many new friends, and encountered the Lord in a profound way in my life.
In 17 very short days, my feet will land on American soil for the first time in 4 months. I hate to be that person who’s all sappy and sentimental at the end of the semester, but I ‘m going to be. My semester in Austria has been the hardest and the best semester of my life all at the same time. I haven’t quite nailed down all the details of how I’ve changed, but I’m not the same woman I was when I stepped through the doors of the Pittsburgh airport in January.
Holy Week seems to be a fitting time to reflect on one of the biggest lessons I have learned in Austria thus far.
The Miriam Webster dictionary defines trust as the “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc”. And this is of course true, but the richness of our Christian tradition enlightens our understanding of trust, making it more expansive.
Around the time that I was in 7th grade, I began to develop a deep love for learning about history, especially World War II. I vigorously read every book I could find on the topic. If you were to quiz me, I could have named off dates, given summaries of battles, and even told you personal testimonies from those who had been in concentration camps or fought on the front lines.
Austria changes you.
If you are open to it, it changes your heart. You are stretched and increased in ways you could have never imagined for yourself. And it’s not because of seeing so many sights and enjoying so much foreign culture.