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What They Don’t Post Online About Living Abroad

The thought of international travel sounded glamorous and thrilling. I’ll admit, my expectations were set high and why shouldn’t they be? All I have heard about international travel is, “Oh it was the best time of your life,” or “Oh I’m so jealous, I wish I would have…” So naturally, after viewing gorgeous pictures of dream destinations on Pinterest, Instagram, even friends’ Facebook photo albums, I decided this was something I MUST let my eyes behold.

The things people don’t tell you about their cultural submersion, is it’s much like being submerged in water. The feeling of suffocation overcomes the body and panic sets in. The mind races to find some form of familiarity while trying to look composed and put together. THAT sums up the first few days of my abroad experience. No worries, it gets better, but this shouldn’t be overlooked. The misery in the beginning only leads to a greater victory and triumph in the end. No matter how much you anticipate the submersion, brace yourself, because no amount of preparation can set the tone for what is about to be experienced.

letter from home

I would say I am a confident, independent person and I ENJOY throwing myself into unfamiliar circumstances and learning how to adapt. If anyone can conquer a foreign country for two months, I surely can…so I thought. When I stepped off the plane and into the Frankfurt Airport I soon realized it was going to be a paddle upstream. I didn’t realize how much I rely on my cell phone until I couldn’t use it! Not even a quick text to tell my family I made it safely.

So my form of communication was a game of charades with the locals. YIKES! I was running on adrenaline, caffeine and prayer alone!

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For me, it starts and ends with Dear Jesus…

Dear Jesus,

I didn’t see You yesterday when the rain wouldn’t let up or when my luggage was 3 lbs. overweight and I had to transfer perfectly packed belongings into a jumbled carry on bag. I didn’t see You when I couldn’t find my luggage at baggage claim and discovered it was lost in the airwaves in a country unknown. I didn’t see You when I was the only one assigned to a guys’ apartment and I didn’t see You when my phone couldn’t receive a wifi signal as I stood on the street corner of a land with signs I couldn’t read and people I couldn’t communicate with. Jesus, I couldn’t find You when I awoke in the middle of the night in a sweat of tears and fearful dreams…

I was searching for You, but in all the wrong ways. I was looking for You in the form of comfort and then I remembered the question presented to me at dinner the previous night, “What do you want to get out of this abroad experience?” That’s when I realized my answer to that question might be the source of all the discomfort. I wanted to learn how to be with You, God, to hear You in a new way. Last night I wished for a way to talk to someone, my family, a friend, even a text message would suffice, yet there was no one; no one except You, Lord…

I didn’t see You before because I was searching through human lenses, in the form of convenience, blessings, a random hot spot or a static signal from home. Then I remembered to count my blessings…and I dust of Your fingerprints. I see You guiding my car through the flooded highway and in the hug of a good friend at the airport drop-off lane. I see You packing a bag for me with all the essentials I would need to get by until my luggage was found. I see You providing a ghost flight that wasn’t listed on the board headed right where I wanted to go. I see You as I listen to music that warms my heart and watch the sun set and rise again over the wing of the plane. I see You when I find familiar faces of other travelers. I see You when I got moved to a new room with 3 sweet German roommates who help me understand. I see You in two strangers I now call friends. I see You when the wifi signal made its way to my room and a fan blew cool air on my sweaty face (because nothing is air-conditioned). I see You in a guided trip back to the airport from train to train to retrieve my lost luggage. I couldn’t see you before, but now I see You were with me every step of the way.

Thank You.

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I am one of little faith, still learning how to walk on water. 

I am reminded yet again of the Lord’s outstanding love and protection. As I navigated a foreign transportation system that I was neither familiar with nor understood, I was at peace; trusting I was not alone. These many inconveniences ended up being some of my first documented moments of beauty on this trip abroad. I sat back in the seat headed somewhere in the general direction of the airport and watched the rain-filled skies splatter on the window. The gray skies are not gloomy, they make the earth look greener. Water craved by the earth, it’s giving life. Raindrops stream horizontal on the train window in perfect unison with the lightning making a statement of power across the sky. I am a lover of Your Presence, and a keeper of Your peace.

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