Have you ever been to the Netherlands? I have been twice before, but this time was extra special. My parents picked me up in Münster and whisked me off to the tulip fields across the border. I don’t have a particularly green thumb (re: black) but I can appreciate gorgeous flowers as much as the next person. And man, these flowers inspired me to plant my own! These photos were taken at the Keukenhof garden, which is basically Disneyland for flowers. I was awe-struck and couldn’t help saying “Look at that, Mom!” around every corner. Below are a few photos if you’d like to see.Dad thoroughly enjoying the tulips…All in all, an inspiring visit! I’m off to purchase gardening supplies…
Happy happy happy am I
Well hello there! How are you? I am in shock over the fact that I leave Germany exactly a month from today. Where did the time go? The summer here is in full swing and the temperature is finally rising after a month of rain. I thought I’d share a few photos from life lately if you’d like to see. The one above was taken on a walk downtown near the train station. I love the old-timey quality with the faded colors and people on motorbikes! Reminds me of photos from the 60’s.^Fourteen people were baptized on Sunday! Praise Jesus, the angels are rejoicing. I had never seen so many people commit their lives to Christ on the same day. It was truly a celebration I will never forget.^A friend snapped this photo of me in the garden the other day. Aren’t the wild flowers behind me pretty?^This photo is so blurry but I love it anyways! The little goofball in the lower right corner is my number one man. He finally learned my name and I was ecstatic!^Snapped this photo while chilling by myself in a little cafe. Western Europe does coffee shops right. Bravo.^I helped with children’s face painting at the neighborhood summer festival two weeks ago. No matter what they asked for, it always came out looking like a colorful blob…^My lovely internship supervisor and some friends after a christian concert we went to a few weeks ago! And this random biker guy also made an appearance…^The flower market on Friday is gorgeous here!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this collection of random thoughts and even more random photos. Have a great one friends!
Today I am 21. I also spent my 20th birthday in Germany, which you can read about here, and who knows where I’ll spend my 22nd! Last night I went to dinner with my grandparents who live near here and had a lovely time. Then this morning my apartment mate surprised me with beautiful orange roses, I went to coffee with a friend, and then went out to dinner and drinks with three other wonderful Pepperdine students currently interning in Frankfurt. Although I miss my family and friends back home, I could feel their outpouring of love and encouragement today in numerous ways.
Though I can’t say I seem particularly older or wiser, there is definitely something distinctly special about the age 21. It has a different sound to it than 20. I am gaining distance from my teenage years and undeniably entering adulthood. Being a ‘twenty something’ is such a scary, unknown, exiting time in life. This is the year I will graduate from college, get a job (hopefully), move into my first real apartment, and so much more. I can’t wait to see the doors God opens up for me in the coming months and years, and where this wonderful life leads.
P.s. Guess who else shares my birthday? Donald Trump…#honored.
I’d like to tell you about a little phenomenon I’ve come to call “The Cold War.” No, it has nothing to do with the Red Scare or the 1950s or communism at all for that matter. Instead it has to do with the German language.
Every day I go out to a new cafe and order something. I say, “Ich hätte gern ein Kaffee.” I know for a fact my grammar is correct, and my accent is not horribly obvious. But they always respond in english every time without fail! After I take a moment to look around and make sure there’s not a flashing “American” sign above my head, I am left to decide which language I should proceed in. We’ve reached a stalemate.
Now I know they’re just trying to be helpful, and are eager to practice their already perfect english, so part of my is tempted to just give in and speak english. Maybe I should just make things simpler for us all and say, “Yes, I would like a small coffee, thank you.”
But the whole reason I’m here is to learn German! So often I’ll reply in German again, stubbornly smiling and attempting to subtly send them a message. But the really awkward part is when, after I’ve implicitly or explicitly insisted we speak German, I make a stupid mistake or don’t fully understand. Then I’m force to swallow my pride and ask again in English. My face be like:
Its quite the experience my friends. I know I sound somewhat dumb complaining about first world problems, and I really am grateful to have help if need be, but it’s just so frustrating! Over all, though, I’m completely in awe that an entire country know a second language so thoroughly. It is incredibly impressive and inspiring. Bravo Germans, bravo.
But the Cold War rages on.
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.
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.
Question of the Day
Have you ever studied abroad? If you could choose anywhere on the map, where would it be and why?
Hey there friends, are you managing to stay cool? It is mighty hot in this part of the world, and we don’t have air conditioning, so It. Is. A. Struggle. But I really can’t complain about the one or two weeks of bad weather a year in California, now can I?! Today I thought I’d share with you a piece I wrote for the site Magnifications, a blog that publishes theoretical reflections written by women from the Church of Christ. My piece is a reflection on my time abroad, and how it ties in with the message in John chapter 12. Keep reading below to read the whole thing or click here to view it on the site!Even now, three months later, I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I stood at the entrance to my flight departure gate at LAX airport, backpack slung over my shoulder, passport in hand. I waved goodbye to my parents and turned around, just in time to hide the tears forming in my eyes. They weren’t tears of sadness as much as tears of change. I knew I’d made the right decision, and was confident God would take care of me, but I also knew this moment marked a drastic change in my life. I say so because this moment signaled the death of my old life in this world and the start of my new life in Christ. And here’s why.
The plane I boarded was bound for Hildesheim, Germany, where I would spend three months working as a youth intern for a Church of Christ. My job responsibilities included investing in the middle school and high school aged youth group members, planning events, attending summer camp, and helping fill any of the church’s needs. And while I felt extremely fulfilled and content with my work, I also felt extremely uncomfortable at times. Living in another country is a lot of things, but comfortable is certainly not one of them.
Going into the experience, I spoke hardly any German, was unfamiliar with the cultural subtleties, and knew a total of two people. The first few weeks were full of doubts, fears and frustration. I constantly found myself in awkward situations, such as accidentally buying sour creme instead of whipped creme, or calling someone pregnant instead of beautiful! In my defense, the words sound incredibly similar.
But slowly God began the process of melting me down and reforming me to be stronger than ever. He led me outside my comfort zone and used my discomfort to shape and retrain me to be fully reliant on Him. I often fought the process kicking and screaming, as I tried to lean on my own understanding and failed. Previously trivial tasks like grocery shopping or holding a conversation with someone in German, became huge victories that I had no choice but to give God the credit for. In this reshaping process, God also revealed to me that I have a serious lack of self confidence, and showed me that the only lasting source of self confidence I will ever find flows from the cross.
With time, I started to notice that the further outside my comfort zone He led me, the more confident I felt. He blessed me with deep friendships, wise female mentors, and travel experiences I will never forget. He showed me how capable and worthy I am to do the work laid before me.
Jesus too had to die to this world in order to live again. In John chapter 12, he enters Jerusalem on a donkey to celebrate passover, and is greeted triumphantly with palm branches and praises from the adoring crowd. A short while later, Jesus predicts his fast approaching death and ultimate glorification in front of the people, saying, “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me” (verse 23-26).
Before my experience abroad, I was only a single seed, serving no one but myself. I had to fall to the ground by saying goodbye to my southern California life and everything I knew, in order to produce more seeds. The conversations I’ve had with the youth group members here are not more than seeds at this point, but I’m confident they will one day grow and bloom into beautiful plants.
If we claim to follow Jesus, then we are obliged to actually follow Him, whether that be to another country or right next door. The statement, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be” has never rung truer. I was called to follow Him half way across the globe because, contrary to what I sometimes believe, Jesus is not American. He is universal, and is actively working in every heart, in every country.
Friends, I encourage you to examine your life today. Is Jesus calling you to follow Him in some new direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Thats probably a good sign you’re headed down the right path! Jesus does his best work when you are completely and totally reliant on Him. Maybe that looks like asking someone you usually don’t converse with out to coffee, or signing up for that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. Perhaps you need to die to part of yourself in order to bring glory to Christ, and that death is precisely the place you will find new life.