A Spring-Break Reset

This past week I was on spring break, which just so happened to line up with Hope College’s spring break. Because of this lucky timing, my sister, who is a freshman at Hope, and my mom came to Prague and I was able to show them around the city I am calling my temporary home. 

At first, I was a little disappointed that I was going to stay in Prague for spring break when people from my program are everywhere from Morocco to Sicily. I was jealous of everyone who would be sitting on a beach soaking up some sun. 

But when I first saw my mom and my sister in the hotel lobby, all those feelings melted away. It was so good to see familiar faces. While I’ve made great friends this semester and I love seeing these new relationships develop, it was refreshing to be in the company of people who know me. 

At Prague Castle, in front of the St. Vitus Cathedral!

We had a great week together. I got to show them my apartment, my school, and my neighborhood. We took a day trip to a Czech town called Český Krumlov, which is situated on a bend of the Vltava River and is home to a 13th-century castle. We also traveled to Terezin, the only concentration camp on Czech soil, for a sobering but necessary dive into history. We ate the most delicious meals on a food tour, explored Old Town and Prague Castle, soaked up art at the Mucha Museum, and took in the blooming trees on Petrin Hill. 

My mom left her mark on the John Lennon Wall- in lipstick.

The best part of the week, however, was catching up with my mom and my sister. Even though technology has made keeping in touch with my family so easy, FaceTime doesn’t replace the ease and magic of face-to-face conversation. Having them here this weekend made me realize how much I’ve missed the familiarity of family and friends, even as I am so grateful for all my new experiences. 

This week was a much-needed reset. It was nice to take time and be a tourist in Prague. During the week, I get bogged down in class and internship responsibilities, and many of my weekends are spent in other places. This week, I got to slow down and delve deeper into the city. I also was grateful for the break from the busyness of travel and school and friends. Even though I want to take advantage of every minute while I am in Prague, I know that I cannot go-go-go. I need time to recharge. I need time with people I’ve known my whole life. 

Pretty Prague: a view of the Castle and Cathedral from the base of the Charles Bridge.

This week emphasized these facts. For me, it was an opportunity to reset before taking on the rest of my time abroad (I cannot believe I am already halfway through!). I am grateful that my mom and my sister visited me and that I spent a week in Prague, seeing all the sites. 

Now, I am ready to take the second half of my semester head-on!

A Day at The Zoo

Since coming back from being up North, I have had some time to rest before preparing to head off to Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka for a couple of days (a jam-packed couple of days!). However, that doesn’t mean I have been without some soft adventures.


I recently went to the zoo with a friend. Despite the view being mostly animal butts and closed for the season exhibit signs, I learned that Japan has a love for the Ueno Zoo pandas.

Just about all the animals we saw

My friend and I decided to get in line to see the pandas as well, and this line was probably the longest line I’ve ever seen in my life. It was over a 70 minute wait time, but the time passed pretty quickly since my friend and I got to talking. When I finally got inside to see the pandas, there were people wearing panda merchandise and carrying cameras that looked like they should be on movie sets.

The pandas were pretty cute

The people working at the zoo were moving people from section to section, making sure everyone had a chance to see different angles of the panda’s in their living space. When the pandas walked to another end, everyone RAN to the edge of the section they were allowed in while trying to snap photos. The pandas seem to find themselves in the Japanese news often as well. I guess the rarer an animal, the more popular they’ll be.

A bird I don’t know the name of

The Cherry blossoms were just about getting ready to start blooming around Ueno, and probably should be blooming now (there will be a post about that too!). Since there were no cherry blossoms yet to enjoy, my friend and I decided to get dessert at Nana’s green tea, one of my favorite places to treat myself to something sweet. They have all kinds of tea based desserts, but I especially enjoy their parfaits (Japanese parfaits are very different than the American idea of a parfait).

Namachoco Matcha Parfait

Sometimes more relaxed adventures like these while you’re abroad are good for the soul!

Wait, a month already?!

End of the first week trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar!

February 19, 2023 was the day that I embarked on a new journey to study abroad in Santiago, Chile. Excited, anxious, nervous; I really can’t describe the ball of emotions I felt leading up to that day. It wasn’t my first time leaving the country but it was my first time leaving the country for more than a month. 

A bit of a backstory, I had heard about the IES Chile Health Studies program since my freshman year at Hope and decided to plan for a semester abroad in order to do this program. However, COVID happened and I just assumed that studying abroad in college probably wouldn’t happen. Then, I had the pleasant surprise that the program was back up and accepting students. I knew that it was the perfect opportunity and something I had always wanted to do, but it meant missing out on my last semester at Hope. It was difficult to decide between participating in a program that would benefit me academically and professionally and leaving my friends and all the “lasts at Hope” behind. 

Now, it’s been a month in Santiago, Chile. Trust me, I questioned whether I made the right decision when I was at the airport saying goodbye to my dad on February 19th, but now being here for a month, I can confidently say that I made the right decision, I mean look at that smile from the picture above! I don’t even see myself wanting to leave! I’ve been able to explore Santiago and go sightseeing. I have enjoyed my host family and the hours of conversations we have engaged in. I’m extremely excited for my clinical observations, while wearing a white lab coat and learning more about the health system in Chile.

Importantly, the group of students and staff that are a part of IES Santiago have played a huge role in my adjustment away from home and Hope. I have been welcomed, validated, accepted, cared for and loved by them which has given me the sense of community that I have felt while at Hope even within the first month of being here. Before leaving for Chile, I felt like the only emotion I should be feeling is excitement because I was going to travel to a new place but I want to say that it is very valid to experience a mix of emotions before and during studying abroad. 

This is just the beginning and I really can’t wait to continue on this journey and share the joy that I have felt in this past month! 

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Regret. -Zig Ziglar

Learning within Internships

“You may not be able to see what is around the corner. But, if you don’t keep going you will never know what is there.”


If you have ever been on a spring break, or really any kind of break in the middle of a semester, you know the feeling of getting back into your normal rhythm of life. You also probably know that feeling of realizing that there is only so much time left – whether that be in a semester, a vacation, friendship, or even just life in general. Life is short and it is really important to enjoy each moment of it. Live like there is no tomorrow and love like you are the only one who will ever be a positive light in someone’s world. In American culture we are constantly on the go. If you did not know this, take a moment and learn more about other cultures and you will realize it. People do not always take the time to genuinely take care of their physical, mental, or spiritual needs. I have to admit I am just as bad sometimes, but I’m constantly working towards the next goal in life as a student or working to achieve a personal goal that betters me as a person.

Internship Balcony View

This past week I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a couple people who are on the development team at my internship site. The development team consists of public relations, marketing (both digital and print), graphic designers, content specialists, events staff, donor relations, volunteer coordinators, and probably a few more that I am missing. The two that I talked to specifically are digital marketing specialists. They do a lot with the ads that pop up on Instagram feeds, Facebook, and the website. I wanted to learn more about the way organizations can track interactions, the ways that people actually donate, and let’s be real, the amount of tracking that happens. My mind was blown away at how much can change on a website simply because of things like the type of phone you have or your home zip code. One of the examples I was given was this: if someone who has an iPhone clicks on a donation link that has automated choices of what you can donate, their options are going to be higher than if someone with an Android clicked on the exact same link. This is just one example of how much the internet really knows about who you are, where you go, and the things you like to do. And it does not stop there. It just keeps going. They can track which website you have clicked on and if you have opened a link from an email and then gone back to the website a different way later and donated. It is honestly a little bit scary.

When the digital marketing team is tracking money donations, they are keeping track of our monthly givers, those who are giving one-time gifts, the good heart association, and the legacy donors, which are people who put the Mission in their will. The goal is to learn how much is coming in and from what types of donors. Eventually if someone signs up to donate a certain amount each month, they are assigned to a Donor Relations Associate. These people (which by the way are all incredible people) keep in contact with our donors to make sure they stay interested in donating to the Mission. That could be through bi-monthly newsletter-type letters that get sent out both digitally or physically, or through hosting events for donors to attend. Depending on the amount the donor gives, they host dinners, events, and sometimes event go to a Denver Nuggets or a Rockies game. Their whole goal is to create a relationship with each donor to ensure that they keep coming back and giving to the Mission. 

One of the things that I have truly enjoyed about my internship is the amount of areas that I get to learn about – both within the communications side of things and also with every other team within the overarching development team. At this point in the semester, I have talked with someone from each smaller department to learn what their specific role entails and the ways that they use it to further their calling as well as the Mission. This comes from everyone being genuine people, as well as ways in which they simply work to further the kingdom of God by showing love and care to everyone around them. There are multiple people who treat me like a coworker, and also as one of their own children in some ways – checking in on me to see how I am doing, making sure I am taking care of myself, and giving suggestions as to how to make my experience better. I do not think I would be making it through the semester without them and the conversations we have had both about work to learn about what they do, and also about their life journeys and the things they have gone through to get to where they are today. It shows me that I might start doing one thing when I graduate college, but that does not mean that I will be doing that the rest of my life. So while it is important to have a plan coming out of school, that is simply the original plan and there will be so many more opportunities than I ever would have planned for. It is important to be open to doing whatever the next thing you are called to. While right now it is stressful to think about my plan for graduation next year, I know that I have a lot of people backing me up both in my family and out here in Denver that are willing to help me think things through in order to determine where my life is leading me.  

The last few weeks have been busy with my internship and classes, but there is always time to do at least one fun thing over the weekend. This past week we went to the Denver Art Museum. There are 10 different floors spread across the two buildings, and each one focuses on different art from around the world. I was blown away by how much there was to look at. And on top of that, one of the buildings looks more like a sculpture than a building! Highly recommend going if you ever get the chance to!

And lastly on Sunday afternoon, we went to hike the Dinosaur Ridge trail, which was a huge disappointment. This is something that a lot of people talk a lot about, but in my opinion, it is really not worth it. So, we drove over to Red Rocks and hiked one of the trails there which was gorgeous as always!

Red Rocks

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Aurora Franzon 2024

Quick Trip to Paris

Traveling while abroad


After my culinary and cuisine course I dashed from my classroom to the Cadorna Train station to hop on the Malpensa Express to take me to the airport. Fighting the clock, we quickly navigated our way to the Gate and even had some time to spare. Soon we were off to Paris! After landing we Ubered to our hotel and called it a night to prepare for our big day on Friday.


We woke up on Friday and headed down to breakfast to get fueled for the day ahead.

At this point most the food was gone but it was delicious. So much fruit, pastries, and the cutest little jams. Oh and there was a coffee and omelet bar.

After breakfast we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was so much bigger then I thought! And very beautiful.

We then headed to the Louvre and killed some time until our entry. During this time we walked around the garden and went to the Golden Arches (McDonalds) for a snack. Then we got in line and attended the museum.

Once entering the museum we realized quickly how huge it is! There are many floors all full of different styles and regions of artwork. Below are some of my favorites!

The Mona Lisa was a surreal moment. Never did I think I would be able to see this piece in person!
These paintings were in the red room, which could have easily been my favorite room! Full of color and life.
We continued from paintings to sculptures. One of my favorites being Venus de Milo.

After the sculptures, we progressed down beautiful hallways full of more artwork varying from royalty to ancient Egyptian art.

After the Louvre, we went back to the Hotel to charge up for the night. We were planning on seeing the Eiffel sparkling but unfortunately we got there too late and missed it. However, I did get a delicious Carmel and Banana crepe, took a silly picture of Jo on the metro seats, and got to navigate the streets of Paris at night.


We woke up bright and early enjoying yet another hotel breakfast and headed across the Seine River to Notre Dame!

After admiring the beautiful Notre Dame we went to Saint Chapelle, a flower market, Shakespeare and Company, and a delicious Macaroon cafe.

After macaroons we hit the Paris thrifting scene and along the way we spoted the Olympic Games symbol possibly for Paris 2024 hosting.

We then explored the city of Paris a little more until the sun set. Then we went back to the Eiffel Tower and saw it sparkle! We also saw a marathon going on! After the Eiffel Tower, we took a bit of a scenic route back walking past the Arc De Triomphe concluding our day and trip to Paris!!

Honorable mentions: the cool metro signs and thumb statue outside our hotel.

Horse Girl Goes Abroad

A special thing about studying abroad is getting to experience old rhythms in new ways. Something that has been an important part of my life since I was little has been horseback riding. Whether it’s riding almost daily, competing on equestrian team, involvement with 4-H, teaching riding lessons, volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, or working in the barn, I’ve spent countless hours around horses over the past ten years. I knew moving to a city wasn’t particularly conducive to equestrian activity, but nevertheless, I packed my riding breeches, just in case. 

I learned that as a part of our program at LHU students were encouraged to volunteer with a local charity. Because of my horse experience, I started to look for a stable where I could volunteer. I was happily surprised to discover Park Palace Ponies, a stable less than a thirty minute walk from my flat! 

Park Palace Ponies

The stable is located in the midst of a residential area near the River Mersey. On my second trip, one of the staff members gave myself and another new student volunteer, Jill, a tour. She explained that the building was a heritage building constructed in the 1890s as a music hall and theater. In the 1950s, it became a cinema after which it had various purposes including a storage facility, a chemist factory, and then storage again. Park Palace procured the property in 2017 on a 6 month pilot process to bring horses to kids in the city. It was so successful that it became a full time operation! Currently, Park Palace is in the process of building a riding school a mile or so down the road which will offer more advanced riding lessons to students and adults.


The area that was once the auditorium is now the riding arena. The balcony has long been destroyed, but the holes in the wall from the supporting joints are still visible. What was once the stage is flanked by pillars, now decaying, and the intricate floral designs and woodwork on the ceiling are now cracked and crumbling. Following a visit from Edward the VII, a royal coat of arms was installed. The circular opening in the roof once housed a massive candle chandelier whose light reflected off two mirrors on the side walls (one of which still remains) to provide light to the auditorium. Above what is now the tack room served as the wings for the stage. The roof is leaking and in certain areas at the front of the building has collapsed, but because it is a Heritage Building, repairs are extremely expensive. If the funds could be procured to restore the building to its original splendour, it would be magnificent.

The Yard + Herd

The yard is at the back of the building. It has a small paddock and stalls enough for the nine ponies that are housed there, including DeeJay, Magic, Will, Millie, Jessie, and Moses.

The yard offers lessons in the evening, birthday parties on the weekends, and hosts school groups in the afternoons. Consistent with all the Scousers I’ve met, all the staff and volunteers were friendly and welcoming. They wanted to know why in the world I came to Liverpool and what I was doing at the stables. For some reason, they said they loved American accents. Maybe they were just being nice…

Volunteer Experience

Over the last 2.5 months, Jill and I volunteered at Park Palace on a weekly basis during our Wednesdays off from classes. It’s been interesting to observe the stable practices here compared with what I’m familiar with in the various barns I’ve worked at back in the states, including differences with horse care, stable management, and turnout. My volunteer tasks have ranged from mucking stalls, to pony care, to helping with lessons, to walking the ponies to the turnout paddock down the road, to loading plastic bags of manure into a van to be delivered to various allotments around the city. In case my horse friends back home had any doubt, I much prefer mucking into a wheelbarrow and spreading behind the tractor than the whole plastic bag set-up, although it works excellently for the limited space and city regulations here.

Even though I miss riding and afternoons at the stable tend to make me miss the barn at home even more, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be around horses and fellow horse-lovers. Rather than go on and on about why I love horses and could spend endless hours in the barn, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes, which seems especially fitting in England:

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

~Winston Churchhill

New Scouse/UK Word/Phrase: Ok, I’m so excited about this one! It’s an iconic phrase that I heard for the first time this morning at church lunch: “Rough as toast.” Used my one of my friends to describe how she looks on a Saturday morning train.

Kodak Moment: The double rainbow over Crosby beach during my first time ever swimming in salt water last week. The water was freezing so it was more of a quick dunk and a sprint back across the beach than a proper swim. Regardless, the rainbow was spectacular and a timely reminder of God’s faithfulness to close out my time in Liverpool, just like the rainbow I saw during my first day here.

It was so big I couldn’t even fit the double arch in my camera!

Someone new I met this week: There were more goodbyes than new hellos this week. 🙁

Word of the week: Winding-down.

A Week in Istanbul

When I was learning about Constantinople in my tenth-grade world history class, I never in a million years thought that I would actually step foot in this incredibly historic city.

And yet somehow I ended up there last week! I think it was only slightly less shocking than if I had landed in an actual fairy tale.

SIT doesn’t give students an official spring break, but our excursion took the place of a normal break. Let me walk you through what made it so amazing!

Day 1

Our flight landed in the afternoon, and almost as soon as we arrived at the hotel we ventured out and about! Our first visit was to Suleymaniye Mosque, a historical site located a five-minute walk away from the hotel. Throughout the rest of the week I came back here whenever I had a spare minute. The architecture is stunning, and the interior of the mosque is very peaceful.

Day 2

Lots of sightseeing! In the morning we visited Topkapi Palace.

After Topkapi we stood in line for what felt like years—without any lunch—but it was worth it, because we ended up at the Hagia Sophia!!!

We were all tired, cranky, and hungry, but stepping inside this beautiful building put all of our frustrations to rest for a few minutes.

The Hagia Sophia was initially constructed as a church in the first century. It was converted to a mosque in the fifteenth century when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. In modern times it has been a museum, although in 2020 Turkey made the decision to convert it back into a mosque.

This means that visiting the Hagia Sophia now requires the same rules of respect as visiting any mosque. Visitors should dress modestly and remove their shoes before stepping inside the building. Women should cover their hair. Since people are praying inside, it is very hushed and not a lot of conversations are going on.

Turkey’s move to turn the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque was very controversial, but apart from the politics of the decision, I appreciated the sacredness of this space. In the silence, barefoot, with the ornate dome stretching high above, I contemplated the different ways in which we strive to reach God. So much conflict has taken place over such a beautiful, peaceful space.

Day 3

After attending a lecture about refugees and migration in Turkey in the morning, in the afternoon we explored the Asian side of Istanbul!

Istanbul stretches between the continents of Asia and Europe, so it has elements of both cultures. To me it felt very European in comparison with Amman (though, granted, I’ve never actually been anywhere else in Europe).

The most interesting part of this day for me was visiting Çamlıca Mosque. This is a brand-new mosque, which opened in 2019. It is the largest mosque in Turkey and the thirteenth largest mosque in the world. And it was designed by two women! Girl power!

Interior of the mosque

Day 4

In the morning we met with staff at the Syrian media organization Enab Baladi. It was super interesting to hear their stories of survival and resistance. It was also surprisingly comforting to hear people speaking Arabic again! Just like Jordan (and unlike Turkey), Syria is an Arab state, so the two countries share cultural similarities.

In the afternoon we visited Taksim Square, a destination central to the European side of Istanbul. We had a few hours to wander around, so my friends and I went souvenir shopping, played with the makeup at Sephora, and petted every stray cat we could find.

Later we visited a beautiful Orthodox church.

Day 5

This is the day when we went to the Princes’ Islands. They got their name because this is where the Sultan’s brothers were put in exile if they became too threatening. Nowadays they are lovely, nature-filled islands with no gasoline-powered vehicles allowed. I was having so much fun that I took no pictures on this day, so just imagine Mackinac Island but with Turkish ice cream instead of fudge and you’ll get the vibe.

Day 6

We went to the archeological museum! It was absolutely amazing! Old art is so cool!

Day 7

Our last day in Istanbul was a free day. In the morning I visited the Jewish Museum of Turkey, which tells the story of Jewish communities in Turkey from ancient times to the present. It also houses a synagogue, which meant that during my time in Istanbul I was able to visit places of worship for all three of the Abrahamic faiths.

In the afternoon, I visited a small neighborhood called Balat. This neighborhood was historically inhabited by Istanbul’s Greek population. It was a great place to poke around and explore; we also got to talk to a friendly Kurdish shop owner about her experience growing up when it was illegal to speak Kurdish. To this day Kurds in Turkey face discrimination and human rights violations.

And just like that, it was time to fly back to Amman. Thanks for journeying with me.

Fun Things for Spring Break!

Quote of the Week: “With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” – Thomas Fowell Buxton

This week was technically spring break. Although I did not get the entire week off, it has been one of the most fun, adventure-filled weeks here! From watching the sunrise and hiking to going skiing again, it has been full of a lot of fun things! 

I worked Monday and Tuesday to make sure I got all of my required internship hours completed in the semester and got to do some fun research for the marketing team. I never knew how much thought goes into the advertisements on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. 

Tuesday night we tried a new Pho restaurant called Pho 555. While it was not as good as New Saigon from earlier in the semester, it was still delicious! Also, their portion sizes were huge! We got mediums, but it lasted three meals and was good every single time! I am blown away by the number of places in Denver that are authentic and have given me insight into other cultures and traditions, because that is something I really enjoy exploring and learning more about. 

On Thursday we attempted to watch the sunrise at Red Rocks again only to be slightly disappointed. When you look up pictures the sky is bright with color and is simply stunning. But that is not what it looked like when we went. But it was worth getting up at 4:30 am, hiking a mile, and going up the hundreds of stairs to see the clouds and the decent colors. 

Red Rocks Sunrise

Later, my roommate Jolie and I went on a hike at Elk Meadow Park. When I was researching places to hike that were close to Denver this one came up highly recommended. I was slightly worried because most of the reviews talked about the wildflowers, and greenery because a lot of people go there in the summer. But we were very pleased with the scenery that we saw. The coolest part about it was getting to see wild Elk! The trail went right through a gang (apparently this is the technical term for a group of elk). Just by walking on the trail we got within ten feet of them. And they did not think twice about all the people walking past, instead they continued eating and wandering around. Personally, I think it is really cool to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Seeing how gentle animals are even when they are much bigger than we are is important. So many people see wild animals as dangerous, but the likelihood of them doing anything to you is so slim. It is much more productive and fun to watch them and take way too many pictures! 

And to wrap the week up on Friday, we went skiing again at Loveland! It is crazy to me to see the improvements that I have made just within the two times I have skied. There were no lines at all, which meant we got to go down more runs (well, more like we got to go down the runs more). A few weeks ago when we went I stuck with the small green runs that are not that much bigger than the bunny hills, but I wanted to challenge myself because those have gotten easy. So, I went to the bigger lift thinking I was going down a green, but in reality went down a blue. This lift specifically has a stop halfway up the mountain which is the one I got off at when I went by myself because I was not about to go to the top of the mountain and do a blue run. Let’s just say both times I did half of the blue I fell really hard. But it is okay, everyone falls and you just get back up and keep going. Later in the day I went with Jolie and did the actual half green that I thought I was doing earlier, which by the way was actually doable and I did not die. And then I decided to do the green from the top of the mountain which I did not know originally existed. That was super fun to get to go all the way up and feel like I was really skiing. The whole way down I only fell once although it was pretty rough. There was a woman stopped not far away from where I fell, and she looked at me like I had just died or something. I definitely slid probably ten feet down the mountain after rolling a few times. At least that is what I have been told by the people who saw it. I also managed to go down the rainbow run twice without falling which was a literal nightmare last time. 

I am definitely really sore today but getting “good” at something is so much fun, and the time and effort is worth it. Downhill skiing is something I have always wanted to do. Watching it in the Olympics is mind blowing and it is incredible what people can do. But no one can do things perfectly the first time, and the progress that you make is what makes the whole thing worth it! When you fall down you just have to get up, brush the snow off, and keep going. Otherwise, you are never going to learn! 

Thanks for reading, until next time,

Aurora Franzon 2024

A Month in Tanohata

The last month has changed me to my very core. Life in the countryside of Japan is completely different than life in Tokyo.

My program (Japan Study through Earlham) requires that year-long students go on a “cultural internship” to a more rural setting in Japan for a month. I decided to go to Tanohata, a tiny town of about 3000 residents in Northern Japan. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting to change so much in such a short period of time.

Some casual scenery

I “worked” at various locations (rather than work, it was more like they let me experience things): An elementary school, a middle school, a daycare, a bakery, a mushroom factory, a lumber company, and a couple other places that to be honest I don’t know the English translation for (haha!). However, outside of the work, it was really the people I met and the experiences with those people that changed everything.

I lived with a host family that was much different than my Tokyo host family (I love them both of course!). They are a multi-generational family, so there were so many people coming in and out, and my host family ran this huge branched out NPO where they are all leaders of something, so you can imagine it was quite chaotic. On our free days we were always traveling somewhere or doing something, no matter the weather. However, it was so much different than the Tokyo busyness, and to be honest, it taught me so much about life.

Eating a grape parfait at a bathhouse

The things we are chasing after most of the time really aren’t all that special. I think there are truly special things in this world that we tend to devalue. The town I went to was hit pretty hard by the Tsunami (which today 3/11 is actually the anniversary for), but nobody was complaining. The kids essays at the middle school were about cherishing time with their families and friends, or how their talents were thanks to others. When it snowed everyone shoveled it together, and then made snow lanterns and grilled yakitori. When plans fell through, everyone laughed and we found the fun in where we were.

Snow lanterns and yakitori

The connections I made have changed me for the rest of my life. I didn’t think you could love people so much that after a month, it would be so hard to say goodbye to them. I’m now thinking about how I can make my days special everyday, cherish the people in my life better, cherish the time on this earth better, and the root of why I want to work hard has changed completely.

Coming back to Tokyo feels like I’m coming back from abroad. I can’t imagine what going back to America is going to feel like. There is so much change that happens to you when you’re abroad if you let it. It is actually horrifying how dramatic the internal change is, but I think it is worth it and necessary.

Wishing for a good fortune

Liverpool Hope University: Snapshots of Campus Life

I woke up this morning, surprised to see snowflakes tumbling down from the grey canopy of clouds. Although I’ll be in Liverpool for two more weeks, today was my last day of classes. It’s a melancholy feeling I can’t describe: the inevitable passing of time, hours melting away like a snowflake in my palm. 

As the morning bus careened through the snow-laced streets, honking only once at the cars that crawled like frozen beetles, I thought back to my first week in Liverpool. Back when everything was new and unknown. When every face was unfamiliar and I google-mapped my runs and didn’t understand the Scouse accent of the campus security guards. Now, I smile at my classmates in the hallways, recognize the names of the streets along the bus route, know the difference between a Birmingham and a Sussex accent, and have learned why you should never mention to a Scouser that you’re visiting London. 

Campus too has become familiar as I’ve settled into the rhythm of the weeks. I’ve found my favourite study places (library study room, second floor, the one with the windows overlooking the garden courtyard), decided on the best pastry from the canteen (the chocolate twist), joined the Christian Union, memorized the shuttle bus schedule, visited the special collections in the library and set off the alarm for accidentally taking a book, learned how to save money by using my catering card to buy groceries at the supermarket on campus, played football in the weekly friendly matches, and attended office hours with each of my tutors.

Just as this place was beginning to feel like home, just when friendships were beginning to deepen, it’s time to think about packing up, and moving out. As I reflect back over these past few months, I’m grateful for the everyday moments. It’s those day-to-day experiences that time turns to golden memories. So, here’s a glimpse into my ordinary days.

University Life Snapshots

Mornings always start with quiet time before a quick breakfast washed down by gulps of earl grey tea, speed-walking from my Aigburth Flat to the bus stop, waiting for 2-20 minutes for the free university shuttle to arrive, hoping there will be room on the bus and maybe even an open seat, and occasionally finding alternative modes of transit (i.e. Uber, city bus, or walking) when there isn’t room. Days that I have a late morning start time, I get to enjoy a sunrise run along the river or through Sefton Park.

Academic Snapshots

Once on campus, I usually head to the library, the cafe on campus, (incase I didn’t have time for tea), or attend one of my four courses, depending on the day:

  • British Life – an international student requirement, 10/10 for intention, 0/10 for execution. Mondays.
  • Theology: Christianity Encounters the Enlightenment – 10/10 fascinating lectures and 10/10 for traditional students being welcoming. Mondays.
  • British Literature – 10/10 I love books and English profs are some of the coolest people. Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Challenges of Democracy – 10/10 British humor and 10/10 fun classmate debates, plus the UK perspective on US politics is intriguing. Thursdays.
  • Creative Writing Workshop, Poetry – 10/10 workshop feedback and 10/10 faculty who care. Mondays. (Math is not my thing but even I know I just listed five courses). This one doesn’t count because there was a kerfuffle with the international department at LHU so I couldn’t take this course for credit, but the tutor graciously allowed me to join last minute. YAY.

The international system is structured very differently from the traditional student course load since only select courses are “approved” each semester to be available for international students depending on how the modules are scheduled. Because my British peers only specialize in one or two courses (majors), they attend lectures, seminars, and tutorials within that topic area. They often have long days with multiple lectures, seminars, and tutorials as they study different modules within their degree. Because international students are jumping around between departments, we are only assigned one module per course. Therefore, most days, I only have 3 hours of class, Mondays being the exception with 5 hours.

Campus Life Snapshots

Each afternoon and evening look a little bit different. Sometimes I catch the bus back my flat right after class, somedays I stay on campus for Christian Union or football, sometimes I FaceTime my family or call friends, on Mondays I go to Calisa’s Coffee Shop for lunch with friends from theology, this week there was a silent disco on campus, some afternoons I spend in the library, sometimes I run in one of the parks near campus, sometimes I go to the city centre, and on Thursdays I walk down to Halfway House with my politics classmates.

I’ll miss this place but more than this place I’ll miss the people that have welcomed me, a total stranger, with such warmth and kindness.

New British Word/Phrase: “Rizz” charisma or charm.

Kodak Moment: Enjoying live music at the Albert, a local British pub on Lark Lane with fellow international students.

Someone new I met this week: I didn’t actually meet anyone new this week (unless the random person in my flat kitchen that I’d never seen before counts?).

Word of the week: Presence.