Before the study abroad students departed Northwestern, the staff encouraged us to write a letter to ourselves that they would send to us months later. I, of course, loved this idea, and recently received my letter scanned via email:
Dear Sally (Well, future),
How are you liking Ireland? Is it everything you thought it would be? Don’t forget to take lots and lots of pictures. I know you’re probably thinking about Grandma – she’s proud of you. Thank God every day that you this opportunity. Spread His love to everyone you meet. I pray you’ve found some amazing friends there; show them Jesus.
Make memories, Sally. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Make the most of it. Go on adventures, tell stories, stay up late, laugh a lot; and finally, thank God in the midst of it all.
I LOVE Ireland. Nothing is as I thought it would be. I’ve taken lots of pictures. I feel closer to my Grandma being here. I have amazing friends. But most importantly, God has used me here. He’s given me more opportunities to speak about Him than I have ever had. He gave me joy on days that were really hard. In the midst of it all, the heartache, love, and new experiences – He was there. In the middle of the mess, He was there. And I can’t thank Him enough for that.
|National museum of Ireland|
As I read this now, my last days in this country quickly approaching, I remember sitting in that room, long after my friends had left, and thinking about the words I was writing. The lessons I’ve learned, the opportunities, the stories I’ve heard and told, are too many to count. The lessons I’ve learned I will carry with me forever. Places I’ve been are imprinted in my brain. I know that I’ll go home and the smell of tulips will make me think of Holland, a really warm sweater will make me think of the Aran Islands, the smell of bread will make me think of Causey Farm, Galway Girl will make me think of singing and dancing with the friends that quickly became my family here – all the smells, sights, sounds will cause these memories to resurface, and I’m so thankful for that.
I want to end by writing a letter to you, yes – you. Whoever is reading this. Whether you are a students considering CEA’s study abroad program, a family member, or friend, I want to end my time here talking to you.
To whom it may concern,
Life is short. This may one of the cheesiest saying to ever be written. But there is more truth in those three words than in most other sentences. I was here for four months. Those months passed by like minutes. I experienced a lot and learned a lot. I learned to love better.
I wouldn’t trade my time in Ireland for anything and if you are a student I encourage you to study abroad. You learn to be independent and you find a confidence in yourself that you never knew you had. The skills you learn while you’re abroad will surely give you the upper hand for the rest of your life. You see things differently and you realize that life goes on with or without you at home. There are hard times and good times. It’s a roller coaster; from the minute we start breathing, life is a roller coaster.
My time in Ireland was definitely full of ups and downs. There was stress from school, family, money. My rock just happened to be a God that loved me immeasurably more than anyone on earth ever could and I’ll tell you that the greatest peace came from knowing that He was at work in me whether I knew it not. And you can’t put a price tag on that realization.
Know this, whether you study abroad or not, life is full of lessons, and each day is an adventure. Don’t wait to live. Do things that excite you and scare you. Step out of the box that you deem “safe.” Find things that thrill you. And thank God in the midst of it all, that may just be the most important part.
With love one last time,
Sending love across oceans one last time.
Sally Keckeisen is the Spring 2015 MOJO Blogger in Dublin, Ireland. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
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