From Italy to the USA to Haiti to Wales

After two amazing months at Atlantic College, school has been let out for an October break! I am currently in Italy where I am staying with a friend from AC. We are in Vicenza, a city near Venice. I was able to go to her house and experience what it’s like in a real Italian family. We toured around Venice and Vicenza, went shopping, went to her old school, and relaxed. I had such an amazing time! And I ate the best pizza of my life: pumpkin pizza. Two things that you wouldn’t think would go together, but they DEFINITELY do.

One thing didn’t really hit me until I got to Italy: I know absolutely no Italian. You might think that’s something that I would have realized before I went, but for some reason it slipped my mind. It was quite hard at first to adjust to hearing people talk in a language I don’t know at all and being completely lost in conversations. Apparently lots of people tried to speak to me in Italian and I didn’t even realize! But after a day or two I started to recognize some words that were similar in French or English but I am no where close to being able to understand conversations.

This experience gave me new perspective on what some people have to go through at AC. There are people there who have little knowledge of English and are in classes taught exclusively in English. But my experience only lasted a week and theirs lasts for 2 years. The good news is there are plenty of wonderful people at AC to help the students that are struggling and your peers will always try to be supportive when you struggle with the language.

Tonight, I am staying up until 3:30 AM when I will take a taxi to the Venice airport. After flying through Venice, Amsterdam, Detroit, and Raleigh, I will be back in Chapel Hill, my old hometown. While I will only be there for a little more than 24 hours, it’s still nice to see family and friends again before I leave again, this time for Haiti.

Thanks to some really hard work by my old teacher from Carrboro, Mr. Cone, he was able to get a proposal accepted to bring 5 students to Haiti to speak at the Haitian Studies Association’s (HSA) 25th Annual Conference. We are going to speaking among professors from all over the world to talk about reconstruction of Haiti post-earthquake. I am beyond excited to have this opportunity and so grateful for all the hard work Mr. Cone and the other students have put in to make this trip possible. The other bonus of the trip is I get to extend my October break by a week! Everyone else has to return by November 3rd but I won’t be back at the college until November 11th. Internet access is likely to be spotty at best in Haiti but I will try to give updates when I get back.

I am very excited for the rest of my extended October break and hope my friends in Wales enjoy school next week 🙂 I miss you guys like crazy and can’t wait to get home to my second family!

Where Are You From?

The other day me, Eileen, and Eliza (two of my roommates) were shopping in Llantwit Major. Eileen and Eliza had just come out of the co-op and I had just come out of another little store. We came out at exactly the same time, so I remarked to them “Perfect timing! You guys ready to go?” Nearby there was a little Welsh boy who asked, “Where are you from?” with his eyes wide and his mouth gaping. Eileen replied, “The Netherlands”, Liza, “Hungary”, and me “The US”. The boy continued to stare, unmoving with his mouth still open in a large comical O. After a few seconds of silence Liza asked him where he was from. He simply replied “No.” but continued to stand there. We laughed, stared for a minute, then walked away still laughing. Where else in the world would this happen?! Teenagers coming together from so many different nations and being recognized as foreign with just a few words. If I wasn’t at UWC-AC, I don’t think this would have ever happened to me. There aren’t many people who get the opportunity to go grocery shopping with people from the Netherlands and Hungary regularly, let alone live with them for two years. My other roommate is from Iran and it isn’t very often that people from Iran and the US get along but we are a great exception to this. We were both thrilled to hear that our countries had high up officials talk with each other for the first time in over 30 years! This just reminded me how lucky I am to be here and how it is important to take every opportunity possible and make the most of my time here.

Religion at AC

Sometimes life can be quite hard to be a Christian. Your views can be challenged and people can cause you to doubt your convictions. Occasionally this can happen at Atlantic College. I guess that’s what you get when you go to a liberal international school in the UK. There are lots of times that I have found my faith tested while I have been here. But the other side of AC is that there is always a group or place for you to go with people who are similar to you. I have just returned home from Christian Fellowship, an activity run by second years where people on campus can come together and worship. There, we can all talk openly about our struggles with being Christian at AC and have a safe place to worship together.

Leaving home was definitely a test of my faith. I no longer had parents to remind me about going to church in the mornings or youth group to go to on Sunday nights. It was up to me to continue to attend these functions. My first Sunday here I went to a very traditional church on campus. It was quite nice, but a lot more traditional then I was used to. The next week I went to a Baptist church in Llantwit with other students from AC. I immediately knew that this was a church that I wanted to come back to. The pastor is engaging and the songs remind me a lot of home. I now wake up every Sunday looking forward to church!!

In the short time I have been here, I think I have talked more about my religion to people than I ever had with people back home. I have talked to a Muslim girl in my house who was just curious about Christianity for her World Religions class. I have talked with lots of other people in my house who noticed my bible quotes on my wall. With the Muslim girl, we talked about how Muslims get a bad reputation because a small amount who call themselves ‘Muslim’ are doing bad things in the world. Such a small minority represents the entire religion. Christianity has a similar situation. Right now, there are very conservative Christians and people like the Westboro Baptist Church that are making Christians become disliked. Christians are called ‘close-minded’ and religion is painted to be a bad thing. The greatest compliment that I have received at AC so far was ‘open-minded’. Already, stereotypes are being broken and people are starting to see that there is more to people then is on the surface.

Coming to AC has helped me be a lot more vocal about my beliefs and opinions. Back home I tended to keep my views to myself except around certain people, and often those people had the same views. But now, I am not afraid to express my opinion even when it’s an unpopular one. The important thing that I have come to find out is that it’s okay to change your opinion and it’s okay if you don’t convince the person you are talking to about your views. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. But you can at least say your opinion and get it out there for people to decide themselves. Be open to what other people are saying and if you feel like they are making valid points and they sway your opinion, that’s fine!

The bottom line is that new experiences are often a test of your faith. And I know my test is far from over. I have two years to go! But I know that there are both people here at AC and back home to help me through and I am so blessed and thankful for them.