Ireland. It is no longer just a country to me, but a place of change, memories, growth and a place that I have grown to love. It has been my home for the past month and will for two more.
Before I arrived, though, it was a place that held my expectations of what my time here would be like.
During my final days in northwest Arkansas, I remember thinking to myself “Why did I sign up for this?” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to Ireland, but I instead was concerned of what I might be missing out on while I was gone.
My selfish, human self wanted to pause life at JBU while I was in Ireland so I could return to a campus that was just the way I left it behind. The reality of things, though, is that there is no “pause button” available to press.
Thankfully, the morning I flew out to Belfast I felt God reassuring me that Ireland was where he wanted me this semester. Looking back, I find it so strange that I ever questioned this incredible journey. During the past seven weeks I have found myself overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness. It is so apparent to me that God had such a hand in selecting the perfect group of people for the semester.
Although all 25 of us are very different and didn’t all know each other before the trip, God has really formed us into a family this semester. What a blessing it has been since we not only go to class together, but also eat together, live together, travel together and are, in general, constantly together. It’s funny to me that a lot of us went from strangers to traveling around Europe together.
Each Friday, as a group, we literally go see and experience Ireland. Whether it has been the North Shore, Giants Causeway, castle ruins, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Peace Wall or an Ulster rugby game, it has been so interesting to learn about Ireland’s history and geography that has made it into what it is today.
During the past month, so many memories have been made. Among those, there have been many “that awkward moment when you are American” hashtags. We are learning though… Cookies are called biscuits, wee means little, and “crack” isn’t just a drug but a good time. Most importantly, though, pants aren’t jeans; they are underwear… that one could cause some awkward moments let me tell ya.
We have been enjoying even the littlest things of Ireland to the fullest whether it be listening to the Irish accents, sipping hot tea, or sitting in awe of God’s beautiful creation.
During the time I have spent here, God has really been teaching me about expectations. When I set expectations of what something is going to be like, I most of the time will be cutting God short of what he can do. I came into this semester thinking that I would enjoy it, but I didn’t even consider what he would teach me through my time here.
I thought that I would go to London for fall break and was excited about that, but plans changed and I ended up in Barcelona which ended up being one of my favorite places that I have ever been.
My concerns about “missing out” on what is happening on campus now look silly, because if I wouldn’t have come to Ireland, I wouldn’t have experienced so many moments that are now so treasured in my heart.
I came to Ireland with two close friends and will leave with several more. I completely underestimated what God had in store for me this semester and the semester is only half over.
Ireland hasn’t been a great experience. It has been a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to the next few months.