Life in the land of Oz

Excerpt from Cara Schow’s personal blog ‘Authentic Living’. Cara is a Fall 2016 ASC student from William Jessup University. Reproduced with permission. 

The past two weeks have made it clear to me that I was born to be an Aussie.  I think the stork made a mistake when he dropped me off in the states.  Okay, probably not, because let’s be honest, I also am very much in love with California.  But, Australia is amazing and I’m in love.   Last weekend, I explored South Bank with some lovely friends, got to experience a noodle festival that was going on there, and got to see some amazing and beautiful sights.  The city of Brisbane at night is breathtaking. I also got to attend a BBQ with my host family with some of their family friends last weekend which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The family friends had a two year old daughter, so I was instantly at ease.  Children can instantly take away any sadness or discomfort or awkwardness for me…they just make my heart so happy and light.

Fun fact, Australia doesn’t have a tipping system like in the States…and waitresses and waiters make good money here.  I also learned all sorts of other great things but I can’t tell because I was told what happened and what was discussed in that house, stayed in that house. 😉 But I can tell you that they are fun and great people.

This Farris Wheel is in South Bank.  It’s really big and awesome

Tuesday evening, I went with a group of other ASC Study Abroad students to Mark’s house for dessert night.  Mark is the Student Services Coordinator at Christian Heritage College and works with the ASC study abroad program.  He’s also pretty bomb-diggity.  His last name is also Jessop which is pretty much basically the same name as my college back in the States (William Jessup University, woot, woot, represent!) so, that makes him ten times cooler.  Anyways, I digress.  Dessert night was lots of fun.  I had a bit of trouble with catching the public transportation bus to his house….meaning I missed it.  The buses are the only complaint I have about Australia…and that’s just because I haven’t quite mastered them yet, although I’m getting better.

Wednesday evening, I went to my service placement (I have to do so many hours of community service while I attend this college) which is located in South Bank. I and two other American study abroad students, Kyle and Paige, are working with an organization called Micah Projects, which works with the homeless and marginalized within Australia.  They have housing for people who were once homeless and struggling and every Wednesday evening, I will be helping serve a meal to tenants in the housing and spending time visiting with them.  This week was my first time and I was rather nervous at first, but I ended up having a lovely time.  This week was low-key because the chef was sick and so we just served pizza. I got to meet a lady by the name of Kate, who is in the fashion industry and currently attending college for fashion design.  I also met this lovely lady named Meg who has been with this housing project since it was built, four years ago.  She told me about this beautiful place on the coast that I need to visit while I’m in Australia and was just as sweet as could be.  I also got to briefly meet a man named Ahmed, who was adorable and reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal. I am very much looking forward to returning to serve these people and get to know them.

I think oftentimes, especially in the States, it can be easy to dehumanize homeless people.  But the fact is, they are just people, like you and me, who have fallen on hard times, whether it be by some bad choices or just a bad hand in life.  They are people, human beings, with stories and lives and hopes and dreams, people who need to be loved yet are often pushed aside and forgotten, ignored, or treated like problems that need to be dealt with.  Wednesday night, spending time with those people, talking with them and eating with them, I was reminded of the importance to fight back against the stigma and attitude that is given towards the poor and homeless.  People deserve to be given love and respect, regardless of their situation in life…I think Jesus made that perfectly clear.

As one more fun fact before I end this blog post, Australians pronounce my name as Car-a, rather than Care-a.  I’ve learned to accept it and given up trying to correct them, for the most part…because if they aren’t saying Car-a, they say Kierra or some other name that is not, in fact, my name.  So, I just roll with it.  However, I did have someone say, when I corrected them, “Oh, it’s Car-a but with an American accent” which I thought was pretty funny.

Study Abroad: Post-reflections

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From February until June, I spent a semester studying abroad in Australia. When I initially signed up for the program, I was so excited to go. I was ready to leave the country, have new experiences, and get out of my routine for a while. As the semester approached, I was more apprehensive. Some of my fears were totally irrational and some turned out to be legitimate, like the challenge of transitions and being away from familiar support systems. Never the less, I greatly enjoyed my time abroad, and found that I learned so much more than I ever expected. Here is a snapshot of my time in Australia.

What would you say is the coolest thing you did? 

Holding  a koala was definitely a highlight, especially because as a kid, I thought I wanted to be a zoologist just so I could take care of koalas. I also really loved sleeping out under the stars in the Outback. You could see so many!

What was your favorite moment or experience from the program?

We went to a place called Stradbroke Island, and I think I enjoyed every part of that experience. I loved seeing and hearing what we were learning in our Aboriginal studies class in action from Indigenous Australians. It was an honor to have them impart their knowledge on us. My absolute favorite moment was listening to our guide play the didgeridoo and do the hand motions along with them (like a snake, kangaroo, or eagle) and see the animals come to life. As a performance artist, story is very important to me, so to see a form of storytelling so rich yet new to me was great. 

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

It was difficult to be away from my Belhaven family (my home university) and not be in theatre. I really felt like I was starving myself and missing a huge part of me. I did not realize how invested my life is in theatre and therefore did not anticipate how challenging it would be to have it essentially absent from my life. Knowing that I was away from my community and friends pre-graduation was also hard to grapple at times. 

What are some of the biggest take-aways from this trip? 

  • I am a citizen of the kingdom first, the world second, and the US third. My kingdom citizenship should influence my actions and opinions as a global citizen and both of those should influence how I live as an American citizen.
  • The Church is meant to be multicultural. It is made up of people from all over the world and when we get to heaven, every nation and tongue will be present. That being said, we as the body of Christ should be learning and growing more together. Christianity is not “Western” though we act like it is. What does it look like to be a Native American Christian? A Chinese Christian? And how can we create an environment where culture and faith can coexist?
  • Our God can redeem cultural practices just as he redeems us.
  • There is no percentage of Aboriginality. In the same way, there are no percentages of any nationality or cultural identity. I am Filipino American. I am Californian. I am a mixture of my places and backgrounds and there is no reason to deny anyone else’s right to identify with their own cultural mixtures.
  • I am a writer. Though I don’t like to say it because I don’t want to fail to live up to the title, it is a title I take on none the less.

Do you have any advice to anyone thinking of studying abroad?

Do it! Just do it! Though it may be hard to get there or hard once you are there, it is worth it. I learned so much being out of my comfort zone and being in places and situations I would otherwise never find myself in. I also recommend going through a study abroad program like BestSemester. I was hesitant at first because I did not want to be limited by a group, but some of the best learning opportunities and adventures came from being with the group. It was also easier to transition having others there beside me and leaders supporting me.

What advice do you have for those about to study abroad?

You are there on an academic program so don’t forget to study, but remember, your grades do not define you. Spend time with people. Learn about those around you, especially those you live with (like if you have a host family). Keep a healthy distance from your friends and family back home. You can’t be in two places at once and too much contact can actually make you more homesick and/or take you away from the limited time you have in your current place. Above all, be willing and open to learn all the time, not just in the classroom. After all, you’ll have classrooms to go back to at your own university. You are only at this uni in this place for one semester. A few months goes by incredibly quickly. Trust me.

Weekends that could last forever

Excerpt from Hannah Matthew’s personal blog “Mainer Gone Aussie”.  Hannah is a Fall 2016 ASC student from Gordon College. Reproduced with permission.

Wow! It still doesn’t feel real that I am in Australia! It’s been a wonderful weekend filled with small activities and time to adjust.

Saturday was filled with a drive around to see kangaroos! That’s right, three days in the country and I saw heaps of them! I didn’t go far, these kangaroos were mad chillin’ on a golf course! I was fortunate enough to get right up close, maybe six feet, from a few of them including a mom and Joey! Of course I got many pictures.

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My (host) Mum took me by Hillsong Church, and then to Mt. Gravatt lookout. At the top of a winding road that reminded me of home, was a gorgeous view of the city equipped with a café.

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Sunday afternoon was eventful! I went to South Bank of Brisbane where there is a market. After scoping it out for the first time, I of course went to the beginning and started with food. I got a big ol’ cheesy brat with grilled onions and sauerkraut. It was delicious. I shopped around at the local vendors a little, and ended my venture with a Peanut Butter chocolate cookie shake from Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar. It’s just as good as it sounds.

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One full week done and I don’t even know how I feel. I believe I am still, and will be for a little while longer, in the “honeymoon” stage of being here.

This last weekend I had plans of my own. Saturday started with some homework and ended with a bang.. or two. While a majority of us were going to an Australian Football League game, a smaller group of us decided to explore before hand. The day started great meeting up with G and Caven in South Bank. We walked around, saw some cool things and then sat by the manmade beach in the centre of the city. It’s a little different than the all natural New England beaches I’m used to, but it’s still interesting.

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We then met up with one more student Sonya to continue exploring. We spent some time in the candy store which allowed me to purchase enough chocolate covered coffee beans to make it through the night and some gummy snakes which are WAY better than American gummy worms. We continued our way to the tourist area of South Bank to “The Brisbane Wheel.” The wheel is pretty cool and we decided that it was time to finally ride it. It was well worth it with the views we saw while going around four times. At one point, we stopped at the very top and of course another selfie was taken.

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For the whole month of July, there has been a noodle festival that is only open in the evening. The lovely “Brisbane” sign is included in this festival so you probably guessed it, we waited in line to enter into the mosh of noodles that prevented us from getting onto the sign.

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The AFL game was great. We got to hang out right outside the stadium for a while where they have a DJ and some others things before the game started. This is where we learned from the Aussie of the group how to kick and throw an AFL football. It’s hard and I don’t plan on getting better at it either. The game was… alright. The Aussie dad (who saved my life that night by bringing my ticket) was generous enough to explain the whole game to a few of us and I caught on for the most part. While the Brisbane Lions rank 17/18 and we played Port Adelaide or as they like to be called “Power” which rank 10/18, we got crushed. With a final score that didn’t register in my mind, we lost by approximately 100 points. It was sad. All in all, we still got to enjoy each others company and have good memories to look back on.

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Americans

Hello! I’m Mark Jessop and I’ve recently joined the team here at the Australia Studies Centre. I’m the Student Services Coordinator and the ‘Aussie’ on staff. My role involves administration and planning, coordinating service placements (community volunteering that student’s complete while here) and internships, updating social media, oversight, and leadership on trips and pastoral care. As a former ESL teacher, I have previously met and taught students from many different countries. However, I had not met many Americans or worked with them until recently. After 4 months of doing so, here are a few things I’ve learned (so far).

  1. They like to sing along. Musicals appear very popular. Students would often break into chorus which brought a cheerful air, though I usually didn’t know what they were singing about!
  2. They like to hammock. Break time = hammock time for the US students who brought their hammocks; something that definitely suits Australia’s northern climate but not utilized much by the locals here in Brisbane.
  3. They like a good plan. Americans appear to be more time orientated than the average Australian, meaning there are schedules for all occasions (though with flexibility). Planning represents initiative, efficiency, and control, which are valued traits.
  4. They aren’t all city slickers. I was somewhat surprised to learn that most Americans live in rural towns, not big cities. This was evident in the mix of students we had from different parts of America, though many moved away to larger towns or cities for college. Comparatively, Australia is a very urban society with most of its citizens living in cities. Many Australian students wouldn’t travel more than a few suburbs to their university.
  5. They get straight to it. Their direct communication style means that they can be upfront about issues, openly express their feelings, and address problems in a matter-of-fact way. Although Australians generally respond well to this, it can be a little jolting. At least you know where you stand with them.
  6. They are not ignorant. This is a common and often unfair stereotype of Americans outside of their country. Most of the students were well travelled and showed an awareness and interest in events and issues beyond their community and country. Though they may not freely admit it, Americans believe they occupy a special place in the world. However, this doesn’t mean they’re arrogant. Given their achievements and influence, it’s not without cause. There is an optimism in their outlook and ability to improve the world as they see it. I find this positivity admirable.
  7. They value self-made achievements. Self-driven success earned through hard work, especially from humble beginnings, is prized, and once achieved, is readily praised. Personal ability, innovation, and intellectual aptitude are given greater recognition in education and public life. Climbing the social and economic ladder doesn’t have to be as self-conscious and self-effacing as their Australian counterparts. For them, it’s ok to stand out.
  8. They prefer a happy ending. There is more romanticism and optimism in the way they present stories and conclusions. The most recent group of US students were struck by the recurrent theme that many Australian heroes were, in the words of one of our lecturers, ‘white, male and dead.’ They don’t have quite the same scepticism that Australians do in the way stories unfold and are therefore more comfortable with ‘Hollywood endings’ at which Australians cringe.
  9. They value individualism. While being a broader western trait, American individualism and its closer tie with personal freedom gives it a more prominent flavour. There are deeper historical roots drawn from the Bill of Rights which take on a quasi-religious status.. Australia doesn’t have an equivalent founding document and differs in its colonial history. Though its influence has diminished, Australia is still part of the British Commonwealth. It hasn’t gone through the same battles for independence or had to ‘earn’ personal freedoms, which means Australians are generally less combative and often apathetic in regards to personal choice and civic life.
  10. They don’t rely on the government. Americans have different expectations from the government. It’s the individual’s responsibility to support oneself when tough times hit and self-reliance is expected. There is a suspicion towards government, the power it yields, and the control it has. By contrast, individual politicians are respected and honoured. Whereas in Australia, it’s typically the other way round. Elected governments are trusted enough to get the job done but the public servants who do so are mistrusted and often mocked.

I’m looking forward to meeting the next bunch of North American students for our fall semester and learning more about American life and culture. The winter break between groups has given me time to reflect on and evaluate my own Australian culture (as much as that’s possible!). We share many similarities but also some important differences as I’ve shared in this blog.

Snakes, 9/11 & Iranians

How fear can change a worldview, and not for the better

 

For so many years, Iran was the outline of the country, alongside Iraq or Afghanistan, on the news. Red arrows pointed in directions of how our troops were moving through and removing the regime of the dictator Saddam Hussein. Their stories were tales of extreme Islamic terrorists, terrorism, and how if we didn’t protect ourselves by hurting them, we’d be next.

I never understood, nor did I ever support, the idea that someone born in the Middle East was more dangerous and therefore someone to be feared. I noticed the hollow eyes of the children my age (then in third through sixth grade) looking through the news crew camera at me. I noticed we were nearly the same skin color and I thought, “They’re people God loves; why should wasting their lives be better?”

But I watched “Iron Man” when it came out, and took for granted the desolate rocky landscape, the harsh notes of the Arabic language and the gunfire. I saw the ads making “Arabian” women “exotic” in it, as seen in many other movies, TV shows, and ads, using traditional and cultural symbols to either promote this idea of a violent savage or a lush delicacy to be desired.

I didn’t expect to have my world rocked by two gentlemen in front of me one Friday.

Again, I’ve met, interacted with, and shared meals with Persians, Iranians, and other Middle Eastern families, thanks to my father having a multitude of multicultural friends (yes folks, soccer is an international sport). My brain, however, saw these families as the exceptions to the rule. They were in America. Therefore, they were more American, and less of the country they came from.

Back to these two gentlemen. They were in class to talk about how they’d come from the country of Iran–how the sociocultural and political landscape was so tumultuous that one faced jail for an anti-government statement slogan on Facebook, and the other escaped because he desired to live in a country that didn’t threaten curiosity with a gun.

These men risked their lives on rafts, crossing open ocean for nine days, all to reach safety, and now they face the incredible task of attempting to obtain not refugee status, not work permits, but the ability to have permanent residency in Australia.

They were–obviously–some of the most human people I’ve ever met. Yet in my mind, I’d allowed my culture to shape my perception of these beautiful, loved by God people steeped in a culture hundreds of years older than ours.

I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and sorrow. Grace given, I was a child and easily shaped, but for years, I’d had a perception dictated only by people who had no interest in the heart of Iranians (and no, they are not Iraqis. There is a HUGE difference!

Random but relevant story– The other night, walking down the street back to my house, I saw what I thought was a stick in between the street lamps. The closer I got, the longer it grew in my eyes until I saw a beady little eye and a small tongue flicking out to catch my scent. An internal shriek and short sprint later, I realized my understanding of Australia –the land of poisonous and deadly things–had me gone out of ever knowing what that snake was, whether it was poisonous or not, and whether it was aggressive or not. While I was safe, I’d lost an opportunity to have an experience. Yeah, it was dark, and yeah, I am not an ophiologist, but still; opportunity gone.

The next few nights I did a hybrid of high knees and ground pounding (vibrations scare snakes, not noises) as I walked down that street, but I quickly realized my encounter directly dictated my behavior. Although the snake didn’t attack me, and although I haven’t seen any since, my knowledge of what a snake can do, and the fact I was unexpectedly brought face to face with one, sprouted fear and effectively changed how I behaved and perceived that particular section of road.

did some rabbit-trail thinking about how I got to my “understanding” of their culture after they had gone – trying to understand how I could be so subconsciously two-faced. As an American, I know and remember 9/11. I allowed the idea of men in turbans (Muslims) or women in burkas were unknowable, alien, not like us, radically different, and strange.

Fear of 9/11, the wars in the Middle East, and terrorist attacks have given us an out for looking at the effects of what a few have done, resulting in a judgment of those who we don’t give a second thought to.

As followers of Christ, brothers and sisters, is it not our job to see the person, the created? Why do we spit in the face of a culture that cherishes the importance of family? Hospitality? Along with so many other things that yes, I still don’t know or understand.

Here’s my point: if we’re to make a ruling on a group of people based on the actions of a few, are we truly looking at these people and giving them a chance to be understood, acknowledged and loved? Are we letting fear of a possible outcome stop us from loving our neighbor?

These two men forced me to confront an worldview fed to me and made from fear.

I leave you with a challenge. Today, tomorrow, the next – go talk to someone you have a misconception about. Start a conversation, invest in a new group of people. We’re here to spread the gospel to people, and to love our neighbor. Let’s not forget that and let fear do our thinking for us.

 

 

‘Australian Heartland’ (A Poem)

Excerpt from Laina Faul’s personal blog “Thoughts From Laina.”  Laina is a Spring 2016 ASC student from Belhaven University. Reproduced with permission.

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Charleville, Queensland, Australia | Photo by Sierra Tinsley

Australian Heartland
by Laina Jo Faul

She is a silent beautiful.
Thick-skinned and harsh,
bootstraps and tracks,
hot-iron branded,
She looks good in leather,
makes rugged fashionable,
and has so many hidden talents,
discovering them all is a talent in itself.

During the day,
She paints you in red dust,
invites you to experience her
fully.
Flies colonize your shirt back and
tell secrets in your ears.
Roos bound through low brush;
the Bush comes alive.
Cattle roam as the Ute engines roar;
dust clouds envelope the road.

At night,
the ground folds into sky
full of constellations I don’t recognize.
A whisper
a wish,
falls from the stars.
I wake to a risen moon,
wander back into dreamless sleep
and do not wake again
until first light.

Night air retreats,
makes way for rising sun’s heat,
the Cattleman already hard at work.
She shows him the way,
gives and takes;
She reminds him it is not his land.
She is Life and Death,
hope and regret,
the river in flood and drought.
Her trees are old,
her soil older.
We only know
what she reveals.

I,
a pilgrim,
a wanderer in this place,
came to her unknowing,
willing to taste her tastes.
She left satisfaction in my gut,
but a longing in my throat
to know the heart of home land
the way she wants to be known.

 

Last week we spent several days in Charleville, Queensland. The vastness of the land is difficult to fathom. The way life is sustained within a harsh environment is astonishing. There is unexpected beauty everywhere. Most of Australia’s population lives in its major cities, which are primarily coastal. Even so, most of the continent is bushland. Much of the country is the Outback, and even though most people do not live there or have spent any significant time there, it is part of the Australian identity.

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Outback sunset at Charleville, Queensland

Crossing Paths & Fleeting Moments

Excerpt from Shannon Nace’s personal blog “Crossing Paths and Fleeting Moments.  Shannon is a Spring 2016 ASC student from Messiah College (PA). Reproduced with permission.

Life in Brisbane:

 School: is busy but interesting! I’m learning a lot. My favorite class right now is a Communication for Ministry class which is teaching me all about effective communication in a ministry role. This is definitely something that will influence my career and I’m really excited about what my future holds.

Personal Life: I’ve started volunteering with Red Frogs Australia! They’re an awesome organization who goes to college parties and events to hold hydration stations, give out food, snacks and make sure that students get home safely at the end of the night! They’re really great and you should check them out.http://www.redfrogs.com.au

Weather: it’s beautiful! Finally cooling down so a t-shirt and shorts are good for the day and I can even where a jumper or pants around in the evening. It’s in the 70’s, which is my favorite weather. But it’s certainly still nice enough for the beach!

What I’ve seen: Cairns, QLD. Traveled with some mates for spring break! Coff’s Harbour/Red Rock, NSW. Went camping with my host family & Bree.Byron Bay, NSW. Got to stand at the eastern most point of Australia!…….I’m headed to the outback in the morning!

Friends: See Below!

 

Lessons in Brisbane:

One of my biggest struggles of being abroad is feeling like I’ve lost my support system. The people that I used to spend late nights giggling with in the basement of Mellinger or playing pool with in the Union. It feels like I’ve just been picked up and placed again on a different continent. I keep wondering where all my friends ran off to.

If you know me at all, you know that I love people and will find you and hug you and ask a bunch of questions. But imagine how weird that is when you’re in a country filled with strangers. At bus stations, in parks, in the grocery store with a bunch of people you will likely never see again. It is strange thing that people are living their own very personal lives amongst us and we often pass strangers by without a second thought. It’s times like those where it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to be surrounded by people whose stories you know and resonate with.

I had a revelation just the other day; I’ve met a lot of really awesome people here. At first, it was frustrating not having my people around but now; I’m quickly realizing it’s a blessing. If it weren’t for my lack of comfort, I would just be getting by without ever realizing the stories people are living around me; without finding others who are searching for something too. And I’m glad we’re all searching together. Life is confusing and messy and the thing is, we weren’t created to face that alone. As I travel and write my story, I’ve met some really great people who are feeling the same way.

People are genuinely nice, when you care about their stories. When you acknowledge them as a person and ask questions. Even if you might only see them for 1 week or 1 hour, investing in others lives is so very important. It’s in those moments where you find a sense of clarity, hope, fun and sometimes bravery. Opening your arms wide to others not only welcomes them in but welcomes joy and love into your heart, but only if you let it.

I have spent much of my life not letting that joy and love in. I loved people on the outside but never let them touch my heart. It wasn’t until I got here that I learned how important it is to take every moment for what it is worth. I used to think that only the people that I was close to or that I spent time with regularly were the ones who would change me. That what they thought of me, saw in my future, wanted from me, was all that mattered. When in reality, this experience has taught me that those lessons and clarity can come from people that you meet in fleeting moments.

I spent my spring break in Cairns (pronounced cans) with two of my mates. We spent some time on the Great Barrier Reef, in the clouds and exploring hidden beaches. It was a great time to unwind and relax. But you know that it’s in those moments where your mind starts to wander. I was on a beachside oasis when I got a message from a friend back home. He was asking about my experience and ways that he could pray for me. Much of what he said reminded me of the importance of taking a step back. I was looking too closely at my situation that I was missing out on the lessons that I was being taught. I’ve been too busy reading the fine print, and have been missing out on GOD written in big bold letters. That there was so much I could be learning from the paths I was crossing along the way.

  • After we landed in Cairns, we were waiting for the shuttle to our hostel when someone sparked conversation with a girl named Emily. She is a kindred soul from England who is living and working in Brisbane as an au pair. We spent some time chatting and decided that we would grab some breakfast and invited her to join. Over the following three days, we spent time hearing about her experiences, sharing our lives and getting to know one another. It was refreshing to meet someone from a totally different cultural context, experience and style. It had never crossed my mind that I may never see her again, but I enjoyed her company for the time I was able to spend with her. She taught me mostly about spontaneity and that is something I will always carry with me.

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  • During our same trip to Cairns, we spent a day on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a beautiful sunny day and our boat set sail around 8:30am. Around 9 am, I became a lone snorkeler as my mates were overcome by seasickness. At first I was really disappointed, because I wanted them to feel better and also because I didn’t want to snorkel alone. I was frustrated that I would have to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world by my lonesome. After the first of three snorkels, we had time for lunch and I made conversation with the girl in front of me in line. Her entire family was on board vacationing from Buffalo, New York. We immediately bonded over our homeland but shared discussion in a wide variety of topics. I remember the passion in her eyes when she was telling me she just received a scholarship offer for her first choice, University of Michigan. After lunch, she asked me if I wanted to snorkel together and I immediately said yes. We snorkeled and had a great time. Her kindness, passion and excitement for life are something I will always carry with me.

Before this experience, I would have never thought to grab breakfast or snorkel the GBR with a stranger. Those experiences for me were reserved for my friends. But I’ve been learning that in those impromptu experiences there is so much richness and fullness of life. To hear about others passions and dreams is encouraging. Even though I know I may never see either of them again, I am thankful that when I think back on those experiences, I’ll remember their kindness, their laughter and their drives for life.

It’s a small, small world. It’s incredible to see the ways that God has comforted that need for me by introducing me to people who are in the same boat (literally and figuratively). People just trying to find their way. People like me. It’s cool to see how much of a community you can build just by spending time with people who are feeling a little like yourself. A little scared. A little hopeful. But mostly brave.