Northern Ireland, Study Abroad, Travel

Two Years Ago

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing–to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from–my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.

C.S. Lewis

Two years ago to the day, I was leaving for what I consider “the best year of my life.” My Northern Ireland adventure.

It was an adventure that I had planned for years–both daydreaming about traveling there since I was young, to actually planning it once I got into college and realised study abroad was my best shot at getting where I so desperately wanted to go.

It was also an adventure with so many unknowns–but the biggest surprise being that I wasn’t going to stay until 19 December as I thought I was going to, but by the end of the first week, I’d already decided I was going to stay the whole year.

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That year wasn’t easy. Two years ago tomorrow, when I arrived in my flat in my student village at Magee, I was sobbing over the international phone to my parents that I “couldn’t do this” and it was “the stupidest idea ever” and I wanted to go home. Jet lag really takes a toll on a person. Once I got past that first day, I could confidently say that I was never really homesick again and had truly found home there–but there were always the ups and downs of international life from finance to homework to being 3500 miles away from my country of citizenship.

It was all worth it, all the struggle, and without those challenges I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am still amazed at the way that God provided for me and really showed me how, above all else, I rely on HIM, when I’m all alone, and even when I’m not. Every shaky step I took on September 9, 2013 was because He made it possible and He put that strength in my little faltering feet that were so terrified, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the airplane.

How am I celebrating today? By focusing on thanking God what He’s done in my life and what He did in me while I was over there. Thanking Him for those memories and that time, rather than being melancholy about it.

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In addition, I applied for a job in Ireland. Oh sure, it’s a long shot, and I expect I’ll be sending out resume after resume after resume after this but I just want to start getting feedback and exploring options and seeing if God would be gracious enough to again open the doors back to my home country. I am celebrating by working as hard as I can to get to where I want to be–and that is much better and more productive than simply being sad about where I am not right now.

To conclude, I want to share a piece of my journal that I wrote the night before I left for Ireland. I love having this journal as it has all kinds of entries in it–including one from September 9, 2013, when I was sitting at the gate for my plane to Belfast, one from September 9, 2014 when I was in the depths of such bad culture shock that I didn’t want to get out of bed, and one from September 9, 2015 which is hopeful and includes the verse “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realised in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.” Ephesians 3:11-12

Here’s what I said the night before I left for my biggest adventure:

You are writing this the night before what will probably be the adventure of a lifetime. […] Odds are, if you’re reading this on the plane on your way back to RDU, you’re laughing and wondering how you could have ever been nervous.

He has opened up so many doors for you and none of this would have been possible without Him. So go, in His peace. The world awaits!!

the best adventure began on 9 september, 2013, but I know that that’s not the last… or the best. It wouldn’t have been possible without my dear family and friends and all the people and connections I made in N. Ireland. Here’s to seeing you all again and having the craic! Much love.

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