Monday, December 16, 2013

Final Thoughts

Spending four months in Europe was one of the best experiences of my life so far. Being able to travel and see all these places that I’ve only ever seen in pictures was unbelievable. Like, they actually do exist and they are even more beautiful in real life than in pictures. This semester really helped me to see that I am able to be independent and follow a map and communicate with people who don’t speak my language.
After anything anyone ever does, people always ask “what was your favorite part?” I would have to say that I didn’t have a favorite part because everything I did was so different. Each adventure had its own favorite part, but there was not one adventure that stuck out above all the others. I think this is because each trip has its own category such as “learned the most here” “most somber trip” “most breathtaking adventure.”

Looking back on my semester studying abroad I have such an appreciation for it. While I was at all these different places, I thought I had a great appreciation for where I was standing and what I was looking at. Looking back even just a few days later, I can see that I appreciate it even more now than I did while I was there. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad with my friends and travel to monuments, ancient places, and pilgrimage sites. It is an experience that I will never forget as long as I live. 


Christmas break officially started in Gaming, Austria on December 10th after my nursing final. Marissa and I came back to our room and started packing right away! I was mostly packed before I headed off to bed.
Wednesday morning we packed, cleaned, helped Shannon pack, cleaned some more and then went to Mass. We kinda cleaned in the afternoon, but we were at the point where we couldn’t do too much more without moving out, so we just hung out and then I went for a walk up behind the Kartause. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
After my walk, I went to dinner at the Pipp’s and then we came back to the Kartause to watch the end of the semester video. It was about 40 minutes and made for a lot of laughs. The RD’s were having a bonfire out in the courtyard, so Cheris and I went out and stood around and talked for a while. We wanted to go look at the stars, so we walked out front by the creek but we couldn’t see any of them because the street light was too bright. So we stood on the bridge and watched the water while we talked for a while longer. We went back to the fire and warmed up and then came back inside to go to bed. We had been outside for two hours, but it was a perfect way to end the semester.
Friday I was up early to shower and start cleaning…but my roommates had been up late so they slept for a while. I knew it was going to be a long day, so I didn’t disturb them or start cleaning until 10:30am. I spent an hour and a half cleaning the shower until Mass because there was so much calcium build up. In the afternoon we cleaned some more and then just chilled out. We had dinner and then I laid on my bed and tried to rest before our room check. Our room was first checked my Theresa the RA who told us to dust a few things. We did that and then Scott the RD came and double checked it. We had to clean under the sink a little bit and then Scott gave us the all clear to leave! We picked up our stuff and then shut the door behind us.
It was about 8:30pm and we had nowhere to go before midnight Mass, so we hung out in the lobby on second floor outside the computer lab. I braided a few peoples hair, wrote a suggestion for Mr. Pipp, tried to sleep and talked with the people walking by. I have never felt so much like a homeless person in all my life.
Around midnight, I headed over to the church. Everyone was there and Fr. Ron gave a homily giving us a little timeline of what we had done while we were in Austria. After Mass, there was a sharing/witness time and a few people got up and spoke. Some people talked about how this was the best experience of their life and how they grew in their faith or friendships. The best one was definitely Denis. He said that the most important and best thing we did all semester was what we just did…go to Mass. He said that we were so privileged to have been able to receive Jesus every day and that when we go back to the states, we can still receive Jesus’ body and blood every day. It was really awesome and kinda just put the whole thing in perspective. After the witnessing, the sisters turned the lights off and Cara came in with candles dresses as St. Lucy because it was the feast of St. Lucy.
After all of that, people went outside and started saying their goodbyes. There were so many tears and laughs and hugs all going around. I had already lost it at communion time when Daniel Pipp and smiled at me and it hit me that I’m never going to see him again. After I hugged a zillion people and cried some more, I loaded Shannon’s and my bags on the buses and then we got ready to pull out. The Kartause parents and staff stood on either side of the driveway and waved us off while the kids (who were awake at 2:45am) stood at the end of the driveway and waved as well. We were on our way back to the states.
We got to the airport around 5am and Marissa and I helped Shannon get her bags checked and her backpack on. After that, Marie, Andrew, Tess, Marissa, and I hung out at a cafĂ© and then a McDonalds until our flights at 11:30am. We got the London at 1pm and because I had booked my flights differently than Marie, she was able to check her bags to Newark but I could only check them to London and then I was going to have to re-check them. I had to go out through customs, claim my bag, re-check it, go through security again, and then wait for our gate to be announced so that I could find Marie again. It wasn’t too bad.
It was actually pretty cool because when I was changing terminals, I was standing in the same spot I had been in on August 25 when I was changing terminals and missing my flight. I stood there in London and realized that I had come full circle. It was really awesome. 
We boarded our flight at 3:30 and then we were on our way back to the states by 5pm! It was a really long flight…like, really long. We were on the plane for about 9 hours. We had dinner, I watched a movie, played Battleship and Sudoku, slept for about two hours, and then ate a breakfast/snack. We landed at 6:30 and realized we were back in the states. We got off the plane and went through customs/border patrol and then went to get our bags. It took forever for my bag to finally come off and while we were waiting, Marie and called her dad who said that there was a huge snowstorm on the way. My flight the next morning was most likely going to be delayed if not cancelled, so he suggested I try to find a flight out that night. It took so long though to get our baggage and then drop off our forms to declare what we had, that I opted to just go back to Marie’s house and see what happened the next morning.
Marie’s mother and had made dinner so we had salmon, broccoli, and sweet potato fries. It was really yummy and so nice to have a home cooked meal. We visited with her family and then she unpacked her souvenirs to show her family. Then they set up a mattress in Marie’s room so that I could sleep in there and we went to bed around 11:30 with plans to wake up at 5:30 to leave for the airport at 5:45. The snowstorm had been moved back so it didn’t look like it was going to hit until 10am.
At 4:18 I woke up and could not fall back to sleep. My body was telling me it was 10:18 and that I had missed breakfast. I laid in bed until 5:30 and then got up and got ready. Marie and her dad drove me to the airport at 6:15 and then Marie helped me check my bag and get to security because it was 7am and my flight left at 8am. And I had to switch terminals. I made it through and had about five minutes to wait before boarding. Once we boarded, we didn’t leave for an hour because they had to spray down the plane with de-icing chemicals. It was barely snowing when we had left Marie’s house, but the snow was really starting to come down while we were waiting on the runway. Finally, we took off and we were one of the last flights out!
We landed in Buffalo at about 10am and I got off the plane and headed out to see the family! They were all waiting and watching and waving! It was so exciting. The people in front of me were like, “I thought they were welcoming us back!” Gabby recognized me and gave me a big hug and kiss. There were hugs all around and we made our way downstairs to wait for my luggage. After we waited for a while and there were no bags to be seen and nobody else standing around, we went over to the desk to see where we were supposed to be. They checked for my bag and it turned out that it was still sitting in the Newark airport. They said they would get it out here on the next flight and then deliver it to the house.

We all went out to the car and I told stories all the way home. Everyone had made quiche, little biscuits, and ham, and then there was also placek and raspberry sweets. I shared about my experiences all morning and afternoon and just enjoyed spending time with the family. It was so great to be home and with my family after almost four months! 

Adventures with the Pipps - Dinner

On December 11th, the Pipp’s invited over all the girls who had done Ministry to Mom’s with their family. It was so nice to hang out with their whole family while Mr. and Mrs. Pipp cooked dinner and the kids ran around and played. They made tacos with homemade soft shells and then had chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I sat next to Joshua who could not sit still and decided to tell me about his Monster boxers. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Pipp (who was on his other side) was mortified, but she just laughed and said, “well, I’m glad we so comfortable with you!”
When we had dessert Joshua had gotten up and Gianna had come to sit on my lap so I braided her hair and then we ate our cake together. Damien was on the bench next to us, so I fed him his cake and ice cream and played with him. Later on I found out that there was cake on my shirt, but no matter! It’s just chocolate cake!

We took pictures with their family and they gave us each a little gift. We all got ready to walk over to the Kartause to see the end of the semester video, and then we all meandered over. It was such a fun evening and a perfect way to end Ministry to Moms. 


Finals. That is all.

But seriously, the weekend of December 6-8th was our last weekend in Gaming. It actually started on December 5th because it was a reading day. We had “breakfast under the stars” on Thursday where the professors made breakfast for us at 8pm. They made the best potatoes EVER and they also had sausage, eggs, waffles, real milk, and real maple syrup…all served by the friars, the professors, and the Kartause families. It was so much fun!
Friday was an entire day of just studying for tests.
Saturday morning I studied and went to Mass and then in the afternoon, I had my History test. I felt like I nailed it except for two questions.
Sunday I studied, went to Mass, and studied.
Yep. Welcome to the life of a college student during finals.

Sleep? Non-existent. 

Adventures with the Pipps - Week 3

This week, Betaile and I went to the Pipps for the last time. They all came running down the stairs to greet us. It was so sweet. I spent some time reading to Gianna and Damien for as long as he would sit still while I simultaneously talked to Mrs. Pipp. Then I read to Daniel for a while…all the same books I had just read to Gianna and Damien. The older boys went out to play and Gianna and I did some puzzles and played a board game. Damien sat on my lap for about 45 minutes and just kept sliding pieces into a game (similar to connect four). I have never seen a little boy sit still for so long. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

The weekend of November 29-December 1 started off on November 28 – Thanksgiving day. I spent the day in History class, working for Mr. Wolter, and doing homework. Around 3pm, I started helping people get ready for the Thanksgiving dinner and Austria ball by sewing up people’s dresses and braiding hair. Marissa, Shannon, and I headed over to the Mensa at 5:15 because we had volunteered to serve the dinner. The Mensa was decorated for Thanksgiving and everyone was dressed in Dirndls and Lederhosens (traditional Austrian clothing that we can rent from the school). Marissa and I and a few others ended up serving Franciscan students in the Keller. There was some sort of soup served first, followed by turkey with gravy, a dumpling,  mashed potatoes, and carrots. For dessert there was a slice of apple tart with a scoop of ice cream and a dolip of whipped cream. The dessert was the best part…and not just because dessert always is.
After the dinner, I went back and freshened up to go to the ball. After a little bit of meandering around talking to people, the dance got started. I danced with Joseph for the first dance and it was so much fun and confusing because we had no idea what we were doing. They took a break and they had some Slap Dancers come out and dance for us. It was super cool! For the second dance we learned, I danced with Becca because, as is typical of Franciscan, girls end up dancing with girls because there are way more girls than guys. It was tons of fun. We danced together for the next dance, and then I switched Becca out and danced with Ashley. There was some more slap dancing for us to watch, and then Matt and I danced while we slammed into the other fifty people who were also dancing. I took a break and ended up taking my shift as bouncer (it was really Hana’s shift, but she went to Switzerland and I volunteered to do it for her) at the door to make sure people didn’t bring any beverages into the ballroom. The slap dancers came out one more time and lit this thing on fire in the middle of the room and it lit up the whole room. It was super cool. After they left, there was a ten minute break, and then the AMDG guys DJ-ed for the rest of the night. I stayed until about midnight when Jennifer and I got bored because the music was really lame. It all had the same beat and was the type of music you would mindlessly listed to while doing homework…not great dancing music. It was still a ton of fun though and I’m so glad I went.
Friday morning I did some homework, and then work for Mr. Wolter hanging up the Durndels and Leaderhosens that were a mess in the storage room. I did homework for the rest of the day. During the afternoon, Ashley and I walked into town and got coffee, chocolate, a poster board, and a kebob for her. In the evening, I worked on the poster asking for donations for the people in the Philippines. I didn’t have any glue to glue the pictures and typed paragraphs onto the poster board, so I went down to the RA office to see if they had any. Dan looked around and found this bottle of stuff in the RD office. Of course it was in German so we couldn’t read what it was, so he squirted some of it onto a piece of paper and felt it and tried to see if it would make the paper stick together. We looked it up on the internet and didn’t find anything, but we were pretty sure it was glue. I started using it to put the pictures on the poster and we were kinda just hoping it was gonna make the paper stick. After I had put the last piece on, Scott, the RD, walked into the office and asked what I was doing. I told him I was making a poster about the Philippines and Dan chimed in to say that he found this bottle of stuff in the RD office and we thought it was glue so we used it. Scott was like, “Uh, yeah, that’s super glue.” Those pictures are definitely not coming off!
Saturday morning I decided to sleep in (8am! Yeah!) and then went to Mass. Fr. Ron helped me set up a spot in the back of church to put the poster up and we found a basked to use for donations. After that, I did homework until lunch and then Cheris and I walked around the Advent Market. There were so many cute little Christmas things that we were glad we had left our wallets in our rooms. I did homework all afternoon and then took a nap until dinner. After dinner, Ann and I went to the Christmas Carol play that the LCI students and Kartause kids performed. We sat up in the window so that we could see and it was so cute to watch! After that, Cheris combed my hair for lice (still lice free!) and then Becca, Cheris, and I hung out in a tea kitchen while I cut Nazzar’s hair.

Sunday morning was nice and slow. I went to Mass and nearly killed my feet in the process. I had to borrow someone else’s dress shoes but both the girls I’ve been borrowing shoes from were wearing their black dress shoes so I went and asked someone else and she gave me her 3” high black heels. I took them and put them on because I was about to be late for Mass, but as soon as Mass was over, I went straight back to my room and changed because my feet hurt so bad! I mean, they fit, but my feet aren’t used to heels. After Mass I went to Sunday brunch and then joked around with Marissa and did homework all afternoon. And I threw snowballs at Ashley’s room when I needed something to do. I combed people for lice and then went to bed early around 10:30. 

Two-day Weekend

The weekend of November 23-24 was only a two day weekend because we had a Recovery day on Monday after Rome and Assisi so there was class on Friday. I stayed back to catch up on homework that I hadn’t done because I had been sleeping while I was sick, and to get some more rest because I was still exhausted. After classes on Friday, Ashley and I walked down to Spar and got coffee and then we went to the Bakery to get a treat. I bought this little cake that had layers of cake and cream and was topped with fruit. It was just the right amount of sweet and tangy.
            On Saturday, Ashley and I spent most of the day in Kolbe studying PHP together, procrastinating, and working on other assignments. I had to study for my PHP quiz, prep from my CMP debate about the medical use of marijuana, prep for my nurse theorist presentation, and write a 5 page paper about Divine Inspiration and Human Genius. It was a busy day, but Ashley and I had a ton of fun hanging out together.

            Sunday morning I went to Mass for the feast of Christ the King. I spent the rest of the day doing homework and then took a shift in the RA office in the evening to be available to check or comb people for lice. All in all it was a very productive weekend.