As most of you know, I’m a homebody. I love spending evenings with my family, and I’d probably be content to stay in Reston, Virginia for the rest of my life. For some reason, the idea of traveling frightens me – I guess I just don’t know what to expect from the unfamiliar! Yet, looking back on adventures like my whirlwind trip to Phoenix last March, I’m glad I’ve forced myself to step out of my comfort zone. Granted, that trip did leave me with gastritis, but I’m so glad I went!
So, as you might imagine, studying abroad never even crossed my mind. But, guess where I’m headed in two weeks? Northern Ireland. Yep, that’s right. Another country, another culture and far, far away from home. For nine months. Am I coming home for Christmas? Nope.
How did I get myself in this situation? I applied for the Irish-American scholars program on a whim, after a friend had highly recommended it. The program, which covers full tuition for selected students, is a partnership between select U.S. and Northern Irish Presbyterian universities. Furthermore, scholarship money can be used to pay for additional expenses while abroad. I thought that it would be an inexpensive way to travel in Europe and figured it couldn’t hurt to apply. Granted, the idea terrified me, but I thought it was something I should do. Something that would challenge me and that, looking back, I’d be glad I had done. After all, I wasn’t signing myself up for anything and deep down, I didn’t really plan on going through with it…right?
Now, with two weeks until departure, I’m gearing up for the biggest event of my life. I will be renting a room in a beautiful home overlooking the River Foyle, which runs through the heart of Londonderry. It is 5 miles from the Magee campus of the University of Ulster, where I will take 3 classes per semester. (Don’t worry – I’ll be more specific once school starts. At this point my courses may change.)
From what I hear, studying abroad will change my perspective on everything – in a positive way. It will mature me and enable me to grow in ways that I couldn’t otherwise. I’m extremely nervous, but I know this experience will cause me to depend all the more on Christ as I navigate a new culture. I don’t think I’ll even need the luck of the Irish since I have Him with me all the way.