It’s been a week since I hopped on a plane heading to Amsterdam, and from there caught a train to Leiden, the city where I will be studying for a semester. It still feels unreal being here.
This time last year I had no idea I would be here, or even that I would study abroad. But after the study abroad advisor visited one of my courses, a seed was planted in my mind. A seed of faith. Faith that I could be accepted for such an opportunity. Faith that I could put two feet on a plane in the country where I was born, and have lived all my life, and place two feet down in a country where I have never been and make a life there.
When I stepped onto the plane in Philadelphia, my heart plummeted. Everything for months had built up to that moment, and its importance suddenly hit me. My nervousness almost overcame me, and my brain told me to turn around and walk the other way. But my faith spurred me onward, calmed my nerves, and let me take the next step.
God works in subtle ways. You may think leading me to take a journey across the world is anything but subtle, but my nervousness isn’t one huge emotion, but thousands of “what if” questions that keep me awake at night. My faith has taught me to let “what if” become “God can.” He can take an introverted girl halfway around the world and give her the courage to make it there.
Do I have moments of doubt? Oh, yes. When I first arrived, my heat was broken, my apartment was small, very cold, and I knew no one. I doubted myself and my faith. But after managing to call a mechanic despite language differences, and hearing his assurance that my heat would be fine, I began to warm up inside and out. God gave me the strength to make it through the first scary steps into a new way of life. And I have never felt stronger or more connected to him before now.
As I cycled to the city from my apartment today, with the wind at my back, I felt like a new person. Ready to face new challenges, ready to renew myself. Hearing Dutch spoken around me no longer frightened me, it encouraged me. There is a word in Dutch, gezellig, which is hard to translate into English, but connotes a sense of belonging and togetherness. It is the feeling of sitting down to dinner with good friends and good food. It is seeing a close friend after a long time. It is visiting family and being welcomed with open arms.
Being here is gezellig. It is right, and I feel welcome and at peace. For me, the love of God is gezellig, because with His presence and support I know I am in the place I belong—no matter how far I may be from my hometown and the friends and family I left behind. And even as I cycled back to my apartment, fighting the cold wind as it blew in my face, I had the faith to know I could make it. I had faith in the fact that I would open the door to my apartment and feel gezellig despite the odds. My advice to you? Find your gezellig. Because you don’t need to travel the world searching for it—it is within you.
Megan Mericle is a Professional Writing student at Western Carolina University from Leaksville Moravian Church. She is currently studying abroad at Leiden University in the Netherlands.