So, sentimentality can be a bit of a turn off. But I’m going to do it anyways.
My Valentine’s Day last year was the most bewildering day of my life thus far, arriving in a new country at 10 in the morning when I felt like it was the middle of the night. My airport buddy, Daniela picked me up and whisked me around town, trying to keep me awake and get me settled into my new life.
At the end of the day, she dropped me off at my apartment, where I sat in my room and wondered what it would be like to live with three Austrians I didn’t know. Magda, when we met and she found out I was headed to Ikea shortly, asked me to buy a new shower curtain while I was there, so there I was, sitting in my room and wondering if I should go give it to her or put it up myself or just keep sitting there.
I eventually knocked on the kitchen door, a strange thing to do in a place where you are now a resident, and if what came next hadn’t happened, I don’t know what my five months there would have been like.
Magda was cooking with another girl, who introduced herself as Rebekka and immediately understood my position. Yes, bewildered. I was still holding the shower curtain at this point, but I sat down at the table with her while Magda cooked and she told me she’d studied at Syracuse, so she knew that the first few days were the hardest.
Then she asked me if it was hard to say goodbye to my family.
At that point, I realized that I hadn’t cried at the airport – because I hadn’t felt like I was leaving. The finality and the reality of going to another country to live for a semester hadn’t settled in. So the waterworks came, and I just kept saying, “I don’t know why I’m crying. I never cry in front of people.”
Rebekka handed me a pack of tissues, which made me cry harder, both at the kindness and the realization that I’d forgotten to bring tissues.
It was the start of one of the most significant friendships during my time abroad. Rebekka let me keep the pack of tissues, and a couple days later, she took me up to the Altstadt (up until that point, I was pretty disappointed with Graz, feeling like it wasn’t as beautiful as the pictures had been) and to the Schloßberg, where I could see out over the whole city.
You can relive it all there.
I’m so thankful for all that time. I’m thankful for the jet lag, for the amazing coffee, the countless cafes, the krapfen, new friends, misunderstandings between German and English and in-between, for all the euros I spent, the train journeys, the tram passes, ice creams from Eis Geissler, pastries, johannesbeere juice, messing up German words and getting laughed at (Rebekka laughed pretty hard at my pronunciation of Zwiebel), homesickness, longing for familiarity, finding new homes, old buildings, all the time walking.
I’ll be honest, I miss it.
But there’s so much to be said for living in the present, for being grateful for the incredible things God is doing in my life right now (like multiplying my $21 and birthday pledge into $3,193).
I’ll be nostalgic, but I’ll still be here.