This week is international student week here on campus, so to start it off, we had a special chapel this morning to commemorate all the international students here on campus. We first had a song by Deaconess Kim speaking of being one under the same name of Christ, then we got a great message from Dr. David Birner speaking about how all of us have been given a heart of travel. more “Heart to Travel”
Spring break mission trips are often life-changing for students, and for the people they serve. But for John Karolus, it was only the beginning of a journey that would take him across the globe.
While serving during spring break alongside “Casas por Cristo”, a home building organization in South America, John learned of a summer internship where he could be a home build site leader in Guatemala. At the time, John was focused on graduating (he earned his degree in Philosophy and Biblical Languages) and getting ready to attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis this fall, but he decided to apply anyways. That decision to apply not only changed John’s life, but the lives of countless people through his service.
The experience has changed John in many ways, and opened his eyes to the struggles of others. “I certainly have grown in my appreciation for the blessings we as Americans have in our country and culture, but have also been strongly impacted by the dramatic and raw faith I see in the people here. To us, church and faith often become secondary to our practical lives, but down here a person’s faith in God is often the highest priority to him or her. I am beginning to see also how one can live out love for his neighbor through more than just house building, but in attitude and behavior and how you interact with people in all situations.”
In John’s three months in Guatemala, he is leading a home build every week, and the team will complete 39 homes by summer’s end. “I am so thankful for this opportunity, because as Christians, especially American Christians, we have so much to give. Often a father of a family will make in a week what we spend on a fast food meal. In these conditions, even the smallest help makes a huge difference, and to simply ignore that isn’t possible after seeing firsthand how much of an impact Christian service has.”
You can follow along with John’s journey on Instagram with #JohnInGuat. Learn more about Casas por Christo and get involved today! Don’t forget to share your acts of Christian Service with us by using #CUServe!
Ciao from Roma for the last time!
4 months…4 classes… 7 countries… 4 Italian cities… food…friends… and most importantly… memories that’ll last a lifetime. That is how I describe my study abroad experience. I got to see so many different places and learn so many different cultures in the last 4 months and I am honestly so thankful. But, before I get all sappy about this experience, let’s start from where I last left off.
I traveled to Tuscany on a day trip for a long day of wine tasting and pairing with Bus-2-Alps, which is a weekend travel company that students use when they are too lazy to plan their own trips. Haha, not really, but sort of. It was a beautiful day. I got to see the Tuscan countryside (again) and taste and learn about many traditional wines from the vineyards in Tuscany.
A week later, I traveled to Paris (round 1) for the weekend with my roommates and needless to say, Paris is beautiful. I went to my favorite macaroon store (Laduree) and got 6 of the most mouthwatering, tasty, AND EXPENSIVE macaroons of my life. Worth every step and Euro. We visited the Eiffel Tower of course, the Louvre, and the catacombs, which we stood in line for 2 and a half hours in 40 degree weather to see, but it was worth it. We ate street crepes and saw the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a fabulous weekend.
For spring break this year, we traveled to Greece. We spent one day/night in Athens and then 5 days in Santorini. Greece had the best food and the most beautiful scenery. We rode ATV’s around Santorini and saw the red and black beaches. We rode donkeys up the side of the mountain (which was soooo cool for only 5 Euros). We lounged and enjoyed the stress free environment that Greece had to offer.
I was fortunate enough to have my boyfriend fly across the world to see me for 11 days in the beginning of April. We traveled to Florence and Venice and Paris (round 2). I am beyond thankful to have someone care about me that much to take time away from work to see Italy and experience Europe with me for 11 days; we made memories that we will never forget. I think the best part about his time in Europe was when we visited Disneyland Paris and he was basically jumping and running to the front gates yelling “I’M SO PUMPED!” It was so cute, he was like a little kid in a candy store. Although it rained the entire day that we spent in Disney, it was worth it and he was definitely excited about getting a meal at Planet Hollywood and riding on Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror!
Shortly after his departure back to the US, we traveled to London, England for my best friend (and roommate’s) 21st birthday! There’s something about London that screams rain, real broke college student and Chipotle. London was by far the most expensive city that we visited so far. They really aren’t scared to make you pay 25 pounds for a train ticket 30 min to the airport. However, Sierra had a nice birthday and we were happy to get back to Rome where we paid 8 Euros for a train ticket all the way across Rome to where we lived J.
This last weekend was our last trip in Europe. We visited Barcelona, Spain for 3 days. Barcelona is beautiful and I did not want to leave!!!! We ate Churros and Tapas and loved every second of that. We visited Park Guell where the mosaics were breathtaking. The colors and details that were put into the tiles in that park were gorgeous. We stayed in a nearby town called Sitges, where they have the most beautiful beaches. We were beach bums the entire last day we were there and loved every second of that also. I am so sunburned and not wearing sunscreen was probably not my smartest idea. But, when you study abroad you learn that you 1. Don’t want to buy sunscreen in a different country because they will just take it away from you at security if it’s more than 3 oz. and 2. Because you are too poor to afford it at this point in the semester anyways!
Okay, enough babbling about my great life in Europe. As my experience comes to an end (12 official days left), I am beyond anxious to see my friends and family and to graduate, but I am also sad about leaving all the friends I have made abroad and the experiences I have endured. I want to thank all my friends and family, especially my parents, for giving me this amazing opportunity. I could not have done it without you all.
Cheers to 4 months in Europe and see you soon, Wisco!
One of the best ways to describe my time in Spain is with the word tranquilidad. Tranquilidad is a state of being. It is an ideology. It is a way of life. Almost every part of Spanish culture exudes this attitude. Why do something today when you can put it off until tomorrow? Meetings happen if God wills it. Time passes rapidly, but you do not have to pass rapidly.
Time is flexible. It is not uncommon for class to officially start at 11AM and the professor does not arrive until 11:30. No one is expected to be “on time.” There is no rule that if someone does not show up within five minutes, you leave. No, you stay and wait for an hour. “Leave no person behind” is life rule that is actually practiced. The only exception to this rule is public transportation.
Meals do not happen at a specific time. Breakfast can be at 9AM or it can be at noon. Lunch happens when someone has enough hunger to do something about it, usually around two, three, or four in the afternoon. The same rules apply to dinner. There is an expectation to spend at least half an hour or an hour at the meal table. Food is a reason to socialize, and one must never rush socializing.
For my own part, relaxing and spending days where you lie around and do nothing are not a thing. However, when in Spain, take advantage of the culture every chance you can. People who are over-analytical or who are generally type A will have a problem with this. If you want to spend three hours looking into space, you can. If you need a nap, go ahead and take one. If you have homework due the next day, it’s not really due, but merely a suggestion. You can do it the next day or the day after that. Procrastination is not a bad habit; it is culture. Yes, it is expected that you spend time with people, but if you want a day alone with your thoughts – or without any thoughts – you can have as many days as you need.
Work is a part of life; it is not life itself. This concept is especially difficult for Western US culture to understand. It is more important that a worker is well rested and satisfied with the personal life than that the same worker be punctual or work overtime. Work is not a burden that you must bear and count the hours until you can leave. Work is a portion of your life that takes time, but its value is not measured by the time it takes.
It is very easy to leave worrying to someone else. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t “no pasa nada.” It is also easy to forget to do things. It is easy to simply not think about things. We do not rush. We do not walk fast. We are leisurely. We take our time. We are tranquillo.
Now please excuse me while I take my siesta.
It is March 7th and I have reached my second month here in the city of Santiago, Dominican Republic! The Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. To the west of the island is Haiti with whom relations stemming from racist perceptions and a bloody massacre in 1937 still to this day are not quite cordial. My host parents are very warm and inviting and have taken very good care of my roommate and I.
Some of the excursions I’ve gone on have included a beautiful museum, a dance class, a breathtaking waterfall at Salto Baiguate in a city named Jarabacoa, and waterfall jumping at 27 Charcos! That was truly a challenge for me because I can’t swim! The water wasn’t too deep and with the support of the guides and the other students, I made it out alive! This is a beautiful country with its numerous beaches plenteous in sand, sunshine and beach vendors that will stop at nothing.
The palm trees and gorgeous Spanish-style architecture captured my attention as well as the beautiful mix of people of Indigenous, African, and Spanish ancestry.
Upon arrival one student in my group who had studied here before mentioned to the rest of us about the car honking and how much we’d get sick of it. Boy, was she right! The Dominican people are quite impatient on the road and they don’t follow the rules of the road 100% of the time! The public transportation here known as “conchos” are small taxis with fixed routes and only cost 20 pesos which is equal to 50 cents!! I’ve ridden in a few so far and they’re pretty interesting. Four people can fit somewhat comfortably in the back and three in the front, and yes I was squished in between strangers at times! Nobody really talks to each other in the conchos; you just get in, pay, and get out where you need to.
The danger to these conchos though is that many of them are not legit. Some are not affiliated with any company and we had to watch out for those that did not have their route letter properly fixed on their vehicle. Not only this, but we were warned about pick pocketing and being targets because we are American. We could not be out past ten at night, and if we are, we have to take taxis and not the conchos.
Now to the food! The staple dish here is called “la bandera” the flag, which is rice, beans, and meat. It is served with plantains at times and a salad. I have eaten this for lunch just about every day here and it is delicious, but honestly, I can’t eat it anymore! I have never craved french fries so much in my life! Thankfully, there is a restaurant nearby that has American food and I can always rely on a delicious empanada. There is also a dish called sancocho which is like a stew and it is so good!
The university here is set on a beautiful green campus laden with palm trees, but being a non-traditional student, I struggle to connect with the students because of my age gap, but I am excelling in my courses.
The Dominican Republic is a heavily Catholic country. There are Evangelicals, but they are clearly outnumbered. There is also a presence of racism here that overshadows the beauty of this country. Many Dominicans deny their African heritage even though it can clearly be seen in the food, heard through the music and found in their DNA! All of this stems from the Spanish influence during colonization, the arrival of African slaves, and the past dictator, Raphael Trujillo who ruled the country with an iron fist and forced his “blanquieamiento” or “whitening” regime on the Dominican people. More value is placed on white skin and straight hair, especially the females. Many of the girls in my group who are of European descent receive unwanted “piropos” or “cat calls” with hissing, honking, and whistling from the men. It is a very unpleasant experience, but we understand that while disturbing, it is a part of the culture here.
There is also a very strong division between the social classes here and of course with the Haitians living here. I have gone through a whirlwind of emotions during my stay here, but all is well! During my last month and a half here I am hoping to really connect with the Dominicans on a deeper level that will leave a lasting impact on me for years to come.
Although it feels like forever since the last time I wrote, the time has flown by for me! This is the beginning of week 8 here in Rome. You know when you are about to leave for 4 months and you are saying goodbye to friends and family and everyone says “the time will fly and you will be back before you know it!” and at that time you obviously don’t believe them because it feels like a lifetime. Crazy to say, but they are right. As I sit in my bed and write this 8-page paper and study for 2 big midterms all I can think about is that I am halfway done!!
Lets travel back a few weeks. Right after I last wrote, we went to Dublin, Ireland that weekend. We had a great time despite the rain, hail, wind, and cold weather. We took a tour of the Guinness factory and a day trip to see the Cliffs of Moehr, which were breathtaking! We enjoyed fish and chips and great company. On the first day of being in the city, we took a bus to the Guinness factory. While standing on the bus to the factory, we met the cutest old Irish man. He proceeded to ask us where we were from, what we were doing in Dublin, and where we attended school. After telling him that we study in Rome, and that we have noticed the Irish people are much friendlier he said something that will forever stick with me. ‘It doesn’t cost a penny to be nice.’ To follow up this true statement- a few Irish people stuck true to this saying. On that same day, we got lost coming home to our Airbnb that night, we found a small pizzeria shop where we walked in and asked for directions. The lady says to her pizza delivery guy: ‘Hey, take these ladies home! They shouldn’t be wandering around the streets of Dublin alone at this time of night!’ The pizza delivery guy drove us up the street and dropped us at the doorstep of our Airbnb. He refused to take any money and said to us: ‘Enjoy your stay in Dublin ladies! Cheers!’ And drove away. It doesn’t cost a penny to be nice! This was an experience and story that I will never forget.
I took a Gelato making class at an amazing Gelateria. We made a base kind and a chocolate kind. We got to taste test about 10 different flavors, and needless to say.. they were all so good that I couldn’t pick a favorite! They taught us what REAL gelato was and how to detect what real gelato was verse the fake, tourist stuff. I guess you could say I am a pro now ;).
We took a day trip to Naples, Italy. We ate at the BEST pizzeria in Italy, no doubt. Michele’s, was the name of the pizzeria. This was the same place that Julia Roberts visited while filming the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Her picture was up inside and it was awesome. I think one factor that made it so unique was that they only offered two different kinds (marinara and margherita), and they were both so good.. 10/10 would recommend! We walked up many flights of stairs of this abandon castle to have the coolest view of the ocean and it was beautiful.
Two weeks ago, one of my roommates and I visited Malta. Malta, is a very small island below Sicily had the most beautiful scenery that I have seen so far. It was a very spur-of-the-moment trip and let me tell you.. VERY worth it. We took a small boat through the Blue Grotto for 8 Euro and it was no doubt gorgeous and probably the best 8 Euro that I have every spent. We toured the city and I got to stay in my first hostel. Which, was quite the experience and I met some cool people from other countries and even a guy from Wisconsin!
This passed weekend my program took everyone to Tuscany, which was beautiful also. We stayed in a resort and got to go horseback riding and visit some beautiful cities. I think everyone came to the consensus that the thermal baths were awesome, and that eating 3 full-fledged, 5 course meals each day almost made us all get sick! No no, don’t get me wrong, the food was amazing.. but if you had to sit down every night and have bread, tons of appetizers, 1-2 courses of pasta, 1-2 courses of meat, AND dessert, you would almost get sick too!
Despite all of these fantastic trips that I have already done, I know that I still have many more to look forward to! Thanks again to everyone who has been contacting me to see how I’m doing and to those who have supported me on this 4-month journey! I am missing my family more and more each day but I know that soon I will be seeing them again!
Ciao for now!