There and Back Again: A Study Abroad Student’s Tale

“Do you miss studying abroad?”

Munich? You bet! I miss it all: the U-Bahn, the Brezen, the gelato, walking through the city streets, hiking in the Alps, the coffee shops, hearing German spoken everywhere, and even living in my tiny little apartment in StuStadt, but most of all, I miss the people. I miss the friendships formed and the laughs shared. The many nights spent playing card games, making pizza, going to the movies, and days spent adventuring and learning. I’m thankful for the internet and the chance to keep up with the friends I made, but if I could go back and spend just one more day in the Englischer Garten, I would.

I miss the carefree summer days. When I wasn’t worried about applying for jobs and what I would do after graduation. Life was simpler then.

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One year ago today, I got on the plane to Munich. My brother (and parents) came to see me off. He’s standing on his toes here. 🙂
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My favorite brother and I at the Journey retreat at Rockbridge this weekend. He’s actually this tall now.

But it couldn’t stay that way.

I’d be lying if I described senior year as easy. It’s definitely presented some challenges; lack of sleep and piles of homework; balancing school, the writing center, Cru, running, and friends. I’m slowly learning when to say no and what taking care of my health actually looks like. It’s easy to look back to Munich and wish myself there instead of waiting for an employer to tell me they want to hire me. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned since my study abroad experience, it’s to be present wherever I am and to be thankful for each opportunity I have.

I could very easily place Munich (and the rest of college for that matter) as the some of the best highlights of my existence, but if I did that, what would that mean for the future?

My senior year of high school, I remember talking with my dad one night as we were driving home. I was asking him about his experience at Virginia Tech and wanted to know if college was as wonderful as people kept saying it was. I’ll never forget what he told me; it went something like this: “Sure it was great, but it wasn’t the best part of my life. Life keeps getting better; if it didn’t, what would be the point of today?”

Although I couldn’t quite relate to his words then, they planted an idea that I think I’m starting to understand. College is not the pinnacle of my life; it’s the present moment that is.  

As graduation gets closer, I’m beginning to reflect on these past four years and how much I’ve enjoyed them all, not just the four months in Munich. I’ve had the opportunity to take some fun classes, help other students with their writing, lead on servant team with Cru, explore Harrisonburg with some of the best friends I could ever ask for, and travel around Virginia and much of the rest of America with my friends and family.

I can easily complain about the difficult parts (like I did above and every Monday and Wednesday night when I tell my roommate I don’t want to get up for my 8 a.m. gen ed P.E. class the next morning), but the truth is, I’ve had a fantastic four years at JMU, and I can’t thank my parents, friends and professors enough for all that they have done for me. And as ready as I feel to move on to the next step, part of me doesn’t want to because this experience has been so wonderful.

I’m terrified of the future. I don’t know what’s coming next, and I’m scared that it won’t be as good as it is right now. But I guess that’s where faith comes in. Where trusting God comes in. Where the hope that this isn’t the best that life’s got to offer comes in. And while I’m not sure what that looks like or where to start, I know that it involves looking forward, not back. So bring it on Zukunft (future), I’m waiting for you.

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment.“–“Miracle of the Moment” by Steven Curtis Chapman

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2 thoughts on “There and Back Again: A Study Abroad Student’s Tale

  1. For the record – I absolutely loved college! And yet I wouldn’t go back, because the 4 years I’ve been out have, in some ways, been better than the 4 years I was in 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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