Another Lesson Learned in Heidelberg

IMG_6584This summer has undoubtedly been the most violent, tumultuous periods of time in the world that I can remember in my life. It seems like every day there’s a new shooting, bombing, or terrorist attack of some kind (if not multiple). Many of these incidences are centered in Europe, and now in Germany in particular, and it breaks my heart to watch them unfold. Reading the news has become even more depressing than usual, and often leaves me posing the exasperated question, “What is this world coming to?!”

This weekend I returned to Heidelberg, the city where I studied abroad for eight months my sophomore year of college. It is such a magical town, a town that fills me with incomparable joy every time I step across its boarders. I still can’t believe I was privileged enough to call this place home. The sheer beauty of Heidelberg is enough to take my breath away. As I strolled the charming cobble stone streets munching on a sweet from my favorite local bakery, my body was flooded with an overwhelming sense of peace. I realized that even if I were to be killed by a terrorist attack today (which is a real possibility), I would be satisfied. I have been able to experience more in my short 21 years on this earth than many people are able to in their entire lives. I am richly blessed, and all I have to do is look around to know it.

As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” I don’t know the future, but I do know it is my duty to appreciate the present. As Christians we are set free from the crippling fear of death, for Christ says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The darkness and devastation in our world are real, and should not be overlooked, but take comfort in the fact that we can have abundant life despite the present darkness.

Thanks again Heidelberg, for teaching me exactly what I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. You never cease to amaze me. Until next time little city!IMG_6595IMG_6570IMG_6573IMG_6579IMG_6591IMG_6604IMG_6608IMG_6617IMG_6624IMG_6628IMG_6632IMG_6639IMG_6640IMG_6655IMG_6689IMG_6693IMG_6699IMG_6705IMG_6732IMG_6739IMG_6744IMG_6753IMG_6760IMG_6768IMG_6764

Heidelberg Through Another’s Eyes

12019787_10205472371669357_1443026368809042979_n.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, I am beyond excited to introduce my dear friend and fellow blogger Jessica from Further Up and Further In to you to day! Jessica is currently studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany through the same Pepperdine program I participated in last school year. She kindly agreed to do an interview about her experience thus far, and I’m trying my best not to turn green with envy. So, without further ado, let’s put our hands together and welcome the funny, beautiful and insightful Miss Jessica!

1. Hi Jess, introduce yourself to the amazing Passports and Paintbrushes readers!
Hi Micah! And hello lovely readers. I’m Jessica, a nineteen year old studying abroad for the year in Heidelberg, Germany. Me in a nutshell: little adventures, German pastries, and any piece of fiction I can get my hands on.
2. How did you decide that Heidelberg, Germany was the right place for you to study abroad?
I think I’ve always known the Pepperdine Germany Program was for me. Being the ninth member of my family to call this city of brown and red my home, Heidelberg may very well be in my bones. Not only is it the perfect jumping off point to other European countries on the weekend, but the city is safe, homey, and positively enchanting.
3. What was your first impression of Heidelberg?
My first impression of Heidelberg was the spirit of Disneyland instilled in a city. The European influence of storybook culture is written down its cobblestone pathways and the flowerpots hanging from each windowsill. Heidelberg is famously the City of Romance, and I fell in love with it at first sight.
4. What are a few cultural differences have you noticed between Germans and Americans thus far?
Well. The differences are certainly everywhere. The streets have a hushed feel to them– the restaurants too, for that matter. People draw deeper into themselves, their thoughts and their purposes. You’ll never hear unbridled laughter break out at the next table over. Transparency is a German ideal, but I’ve learned not to confuse that with expressiveness. If you enter the town with the wrong mindset, you’ll draw the conclusion that the Germans are a cold people. I’ve had to make necessary adjustments.
5. What’s been the hardest part about this experience? The most rewarding part?
The hardest part of the experience is juggling time. There are fifty seven friends to invest in here: which ones do I go out with today? There are only so many weekends to travel: where is a priority to me? There are five classes to balance: which takes precedent right now? And when, and where, do I get some quiet time to myself at the end of each day? It sounds harder than it is, but still, the stress always finds a way in.
The reward is certainly worth it all; this may very well be the greatest month of my life thus far. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what’s best about it, but I’ll focus on the self discovery I’m experiencing in this foreign place. I’ve been ripped away from my hometown, my country, my family, my previous friendships, my language, even key parts of my religion. It makes a girl think. What’s my identity in this micro-ecosystem of fifty seven other American students? What’s my identity in this foreign place, as a regular fish out of water? I’m learning things about myself through the changes; the facets of myself that transcend country and culture; the values that don’t waver when cut away from family and church; the passions that still take precedent when time is a commodity. It’s a growing experience. Journeys, of course, do not always occur by foot and train.
6. Describe your dream trip while abroad!
My dream trip? Honestly, anywhere in Europe is a dream. It’s not the place as much as the people, pace, and activities done there. Flexible and fun friends, a balance of go-getting and relaxation, and a strand of simple adventures is a magical formula. But, if I have to name a couple places: the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, Santorini in Greece, and Prague in the Czech Republic.
7. Advice for others thinking about studying abroad?
My advice for those thinking about studying abroad: stop thinking. Sometimes you have to jump, and this is one of those times. Trust me, the plunge into this bewildering new world will take your breath away.12065649_994208257298182_503413629337318281_n.jpg
Isn’t she a gem?! I loved her words, “Journeys, of course, do not always occur by foot and train.” Heidelberg is lucky to have her, even though I wish she were here with me. Why doesn’t teleportation exist yet? Her reflections remind me of my wonderful eleven months abroad, and all the lessons I learned through the challenging yet rewarding process. We wish you all the best on your crazy adventures Jess, and we will be sure to check back in in the future.11998939_1003413256367995_8222839048226043113_n.jpg
Question of the Day
Have you ever studied abroad? If you could choose anywhere on the map, where would it be and why?

P.s. Photos from here, here and here.

The Return

Happy Friday friends! Last night I attended an event called The Return here at Pepperdine, where alumni of the different International Programs set up booths to answer the Freshman’s questions and get them excited about applying to go abroad. My Heidelberg group showed up in full force (and Leiderhosen and Dirndles) to convince the world that Germany really is the best program. Above is a video they showed and below are a few photos from the night. Enjoy!11949366_10207341834331670_961381084620797586_n.jpg
11921684_10207341831411597_294814544803581666_n.jpg 
P.s. I’m taking a little break from my Friday Obsessions series, but you can read past posts here.

A Reflection on Endings

IMG_5809.GIFI have five days left in Heidelberg. Let me repeat that statement for dramatic effect. I have five days left. Five days. 120 hours. A few of those hours are occupied by finals, but the rest will be filled with things, places, and people I love. See the crazy kids in these pictures? Yeah, those are my people. I once heard the saying, “Home is where you feel most loved.” If that’s true, then I’m already home. I have never felt more be beloved by so many people at once than I have this year. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to get home and be with other people who love and care about me, but I take comfort in the knowledge that I can always go home. I can’t always come back to Heidelberg. Even if I visit in the future, it won’t be the same. It can’t, because not all 49 of my friends will be there.
In another sense, though, I am glad to be leaving now. It’s better to end on a high note, don’t you think? And this is a very, very high note indeed. I wouldn’t want this experience to loose it’s specialness or be tainted by over-exposure. Or at least that’s what I tell myself to keep from crying! I find I am the best version of myself when I am here. Heidelberg Micah is confident, adventurous, considerate, creative, and much more. But I know that girl won’t disappear when I go home, she will only influence the person I become.
So thank you, Heidelberg, for teaching me how to thrive. There’s something special about you, little town, something words fail to describe. But I, and the countless other students who have graced your streets, know how special you are. I guess it’s our little secret.
Have a great week friends, see you soon 🙂

 

Life Lately

11133716_10206169284738663_2146092816183257206_nHello friends, how has life been lately? For me, life has been an emotional roller coaster! You see, I leave Heidelberg in 13 days. I literally can’t believe my abroad experience is almost over. It is bitter sweet- I am simultaneously excited and sad! I am excited to see what the future holds, such as my internship in Hildesheim this summer and my junior year on campus. But I am mourning the loss of these people, this place, and this time in life. I adore my Heidelberg group, and it is hard to come to terms with the fact that I won’t see them as often next year. We will naturally scatter all over campus, get involved in different things, and make new friends. But I know we will always hold a special place in each other’s hearts for the rest of our lives. These fifty people have changed me for the better, and I will carry the lessons I’ve learned from them with me for the rest of my life.

You see that picture up there? Let me explain. My german class had to put on a play in german for the other students in our program for a final grade. We were split into two groups, and my group decided to perform our version of The Wizard of Oz. I portrayed the role of Flying Monkey Number 1. Yeah, I was pretty much the star. The other group performed Star Wars, which was equally entertaining. See what I mean about this group of mine being special? When will I ever get to be a flying monkey again?

Life lately is all sort of things. I have a million emotions competing for brain space, but not one of them is regret. Every experience taught me a valuable lesson about myself or about others. This has been the best year of my life, but it must come to an end. Sometimes the best things in life are finite, don’t you think? How has your life been lately? Aufwiedersehen!

IMG_5731

Scotland

IMG_4389

Just when I thought I could never love a country as much as I loved Ireland, I took a weekend trip to Scotland. I try not to compare or rank countries, because each one is so unique and my experience is unparalleled. But if I did have to rank Scotland, it would definitely be near the top! I fell in love with this place from my first glimpse out the airplane window. It’s green fields, striking mountains, and deep blue ocean took my breath away. Keep reading for more details of my love affair with Scotland.

IMG_4266IMG_429411102960_439221532897560_1944849096773045305_nWe landed at noon on Friday, and wasted no time exploring the gorgeous city of Edinburgh. The city felt to me like a cross between London and Dublin, but not quite as busy or large. First, we headed to The Elephant House Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote the manuscript of the first Harry Potter! I ordered her favorite drink and even sat in her seat! The cafe over looks the castle, and has a warm, homey atmosphere- no wonder she was inspired! Don’t be surprised if I bust out a famous novel too one of these days :p After our delicious lunch, we strolled through Greyfriars Graveyard across the street, where J.K. Rowling used to wander to find inspiration for character names- sure enough, a certain Mcgonagall and Tom Riddel are buried there!

IMG_4430IMG_4428IMG_4366IMG_433411070898_439222626230784_4071241552390975455_nNext, we hiked all the way to the top of Arthur’s Seat, a large undeveloped hill (it felt more like a mountain to me!) in the center of Edinburgh. The summit offers stunning 360 degree views of the city. This was definitely a highlight of the trip, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Edinburgh. IMG_4403
^You could say it was a bit windy at the top…IMG_4441IMG_4502IMG_4499IMG_4509IMG_4450IMG_4463IMG_4473
After a dinner of traditional Scottish Haggis (lamb innards that are surprisingly good), we hit the sack, because we had to wake up early the next day for our bus tour of the highlands! The Highlands are God’s country- my mouth was hanging open the entire day in disbelieve. I couldn’t believe something so beautiful exists on our planet Earth! We saw glens and mountains, lakes and forests, not to mention the filming sites of the last Harry Potter, Skyfall, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We also saw the castle residence of Mary Queen of Scots! I’m a history nerd, so that was kind of a big deal.

IMG_4537IMG_4545^Did I mention we took a boat tour across Loch Ness? Yeah, that’s Nessy the monster right there. No joke.IMG_4567^We wore our Scottish wool scarves all weekend- stayin’ stylish and warm.IMG_428115549_439224066230640_897485188280311516_nTypically when I return home to Heidelberg after a trip, I am so relieved and glad to be back in the comforts of my room. But this time I was genuinely sad to leave Scotland. I wish I could have stayed longer! My sadness was heightened with the knowledge that this was my last travel weekend of the year- I fly home in two weeks! But if it has to end, I’m glad it ended on a high note 🙂

On Disappointment

IMG_5823.jpg

Everyone knows in their head that disappointment is a natural part of life. But it has not been a large part of my life. As bratty as that sounds, it’s a truth I’ve come to realize in the last few weeks. I hear the word yes much more than I hear the word no. I live a blessed life- my parents are beyond supportive, my socioeconomic status provides countless opportunities, and my personality is extremely driven and ambitious. For instance, I got into my top college, I was selected to be RA in Heidelberg, I got the summer internship I applied for- the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder that when I hear the word no, I don’t exactly have the strongest coping skills. I haven’t had much practice!
Recently, I found out I was not selected to be an RA again next year. This was especially painful because I feel as though I’ve done a good job this year, and everyone in my program seems to agree. Even my program director was shocked when I told him. I expected to be rewarded for my hard work. I thought I deserved it. I legitimately couldn’t believe I was rejected. Now, I know there are a million factors that go into these decisions, and I shouldn’t take it personally, but I did.

Then, a few days later, I found out I did not get on-campus housing next year and that one of my apartment mates would not be living with us after all. Talk about adding salt to the wound! Not only would I not be an RA, but I wouldn’t even be a part of the residential community! I felt utterly disappointed. And I didn’t know how to deal with these foreign feelings. It’s one thing to say “God will provide” and another thing to actually believe it.

In the midst of my dejection, I stumbled across the verse Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I had a very specific plan in mind for my future, but it was swept away with the tide. I have to believe that the only plan left is God’s plan. And in reality, God should be my plan A. I need no plan B. His plan is always infinitely better than mine, even if I can’t see how just yet. There is no comfort in growth and no growth in comfort. God says he has everything under control and it’s my job as a Christian to believe him.

So although I’m ultimately glad there are more yeses in my life than no’s, I am confident God’s no is better than any human’s yes. He has my future in his palm- a future of prosperity and hope.

I pray my little rant encourages you to push through any disappointment you’re currently facing. Have a great weekend friends- I’m off to Scotland to cheer myself up!