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. One thing that hasn’t changed about me, though, is my love for lists. That’s why for my last blog post of the semester I have decided to do a list. The list will be, in no particular order, 10 of the things I have loved most about this semester. I would love to write about every single detail of the semester and take you through every adventure, but let’s be honest; I don’t have the time to write that much and y’all don’t have the time to read it. So here we go!
1. Traveling to so-so places with people you absolutely love: Yes, Europe holds a wealth of really awesome places to visit. As great as it is to see all of those things, traveling is all about being with the people you love and who put a smile on your face.
2. Mail: It can be really hard sometimes to be at least 6 hours behind in time from your family and friends, especially without a cell phone plan. Communication can become a challenge. There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of walking into the mail room and finding you have a letter, card or package in your box. Facebook messenger has nothing on snail mail.
3. Skyping into Lord’s Day: As the previous number said, the technological disconnect can be hard, but at times it’s also a huge blessing. This semester on main campus my household had our reunion. This meant that a ton of Regina Angelorum women were on the Franciscan campus celebrating together. It was hard to not be apart of that. My household sister who is here with me, Theresa, and I were able to Skype into the reunion Lord’s Day celebration. My heart was so full to be able to see my sisters and bond with them from so far away. What a blessing that technology can bridge the gap of so many miles.
4. Frisbee: Intramurals are huge at Franciscan, especially ultimate Frisbee. Frisbee in Austria, unlike main campus, is coed. My team had some really awesome games, one of them being in the pouring rain and mud. It was a blast! We actually ended up winning the championship!
5. Sunday Brunch: I can’t even explain to you how delicious Sunday brunch at the Kartause is. Belgium waffles with Nutella and bananas. I’ll just leave it at that.
6. The Universal Church: Praise God for the universality of the Catholic Church. I was in Spain for Good Friday and I had no clue what was going on during the service because it was in Spanish. But, when we came to part of the service to venerate the cross, it was exactly the same as my home parish. The beauty of the universal church: no matter where you are, you’ll always be at home.
7. Nature: I have fallen so in love with running and hiking in Europe. I’ve run all over Austria, through an olive grove in Sevilla, along the beach in Barcelona and hiked 18 miles through the Austrian mountains. In those moments, in the silence of nature, I have truly seen God’s beauty and heard the whisper of his voice.
8. Belgium: If I could recommend any place to travel to in Europe, I would hands down recommend Bruges, Belgium. Belgium chocolate, waffles and beer, canal tours of the city, a restaurant named #food, gorgeous city parks…what more could you want?
9. Divine Mercy Sunday: The last weekend of our 10 day break fell over Divine Mercy Sunday. I was able to go back to Poland and go to the Divine Mercy Shrine…on Divine Mercy Sunday. And while there, was able to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy during the Hour of Mercy. It can’t get better than that.
10. Home: The Kartause and Gaming has become my home away from home. It is the place my heart longs for when a long weekend of traveling is coming to a close. The families, staff, sisters and friars dedicate themselves to loving the students and helping us grow. It will always hold a dear place in my heart. I can’t wait to see my family and friends in the States, but I’m not ready to never come back to this place that has become my home.
The next couple of weeks will be full of sunshine, a little bit of school work (well more like a lot) and a whole lot of Jesus and joy. As I soak in all that the rest of this semester has to offer, I can’t help but thank God for this big, beautiful, grace-filled adventure called Austria.
It is such a huge blessing to attend Franciscan University where the study abroad program has become commonplace among the student body. I would say roughly 85% of the people I know have gone to or are planning to go to Austria. Sometimes I forget how awesome and rare of an opportunity that is. Most other schools do not have a program like ours.