Happy Friday!

After the full week of travel during Reflective week, it has been refreshing to be back in Liverpool this week! To echo the words of another friend studying abroad, I hadn’t realized how much Liverpool had started to feel like home until I returned from Italy. On Sunday, I left the city center of Rome around 5:00pm and after one train, two buses, and one flight, I was finally back in Aigburth Park close to midnight. Fumbling to unlock the door of my flat, I was filled with a rush of warmth at the familiarity my little room whose uneven whitewashed walls are adorned with pictures, quotes, and letters from friends back home.

Familiar Rhythms

Morning runs along the River Mersey and through Sefton Park, having the comfortability of actually knowing the public transport system, reuniting with fellow study abroad students, making a homemade dinner rather than eating a deliciously soggy PB&J at the airport, finding a private study nook in the library, bowling with the politics society at LHU, taking the time to WhatsApp video call my family, and going out with friends from church for Valentine’s Day are just some of the little moments that brought me joy this week. 

Returning to the rhythms of Liverpool this week has left me reflecting on the pace of my study abroad experience. The conversations with other international students at LHU are often peppered with travel plans for our next weekend trip. I’ve found it easy to get drawn into this culture of constantly going. When one of my British classmates commented on how much I’ve been gone, I replied, “I don’t know when I’ll be back in Europe, and I want to see it while I can!” After all, everything is accessible and flights are cheap. I almost went to Belgium next weekend because I found a round trip flight for $18!

I love the adventure of traveling and visiting new places, but I found myself more conscious of how quickly time is passing: I only have 4 weeks of classes left in Liverpool plus a week of final assessments. Not only does this mean I need to “get cracking” on my final papers (as the Brits would say) but my travels during Reflective week have made me consider how I want to intentionally spend the rest of my time in Europe.

Reflections on Italy

I’ve realized it was the experiences with people in Italy that made that visit so memorable. Whether it was the random student at the airport who helped me find the correct bus to Vatican City when he realized I couldn’t speak Italian, the rich conversations on faith and philosophy with Megan, Andrew, and Julia over a delicious Italian dinner, the lady at 5:00am at the bus stop who led me out of a potentially hazardous situation on my way to Florence, or laughing over the most amazing gelato with Megan before we said goodbye, the moments I shared with others shine the strongest in my memory. Don’t get me wrong, I marveled at all the touristy things in Rome (the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Palatine Hill, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Castel Sant’ Angels, Capuchin Crypt, Spanish Stairs, Altar of the Fatherland, Mass at a Cathedral in the Vatican…) but as magnificent as those historical monuments may be, perhaps they don’t have lasting significance.

I’m reminded of what Trygve always says in Friday chapel on Anchor Days: “Pick your people.” So, instead of showing you a selection of the 500+ pictures I took in Italy the impressive architecture where history came alive, here’s a snapshot of my trip, focusing on the people that made it special.

Pondering and Planning

My friends would probably tell you that sometimes I’m a little late to realizing the most obvious things. Like for example, spending every weekend exploring a new big city is exhausting. In Rome, there were so. many. people. As the bus took me out to the airport, I was captivated by the vineyards and the mountains. My spirit was quieted as we left the chaos of the city for the quiet of the countryside. No matter how much I may want to pretend otherwise, my tolerance for cities isn’t extensive. Four days was plenty of time. This “revelation” was helpful as I continue to plan my weeks of traveling at the end of the semester. Rather than hopping from one big tourist city to another, I want to explore more national parks and small towns.

It’s tempting to make choices based on where I think I should travel rather than visiting places that fill my soul with peace and joy. I don’t want to be so swept up with the desire to explore that I miss what God has prepared for me in each moment. Practicing this thinking may might mean going back to some ordinary place that was special to me or staying in Liverpool for the weekend and making “American” pancakes with Romane or helping out at my volunteer placement on a Saturday instead of crossing one more thing off my ever-growing bucket list.

Navigating the balance between being present in Liverpool and taking advantage of the opportunity to travel can be difficult to discern. During these next four weeks, I want to spend more time investing in the friendships that I’ve formed, not always running off to the next big adventure and missing the moments to be a blessing.

Perhaps Trygve’s reminder to “pick your people” will encourage or convict you in some way this week as it has for me. 🙂


Published by Noel Vanderbilt

Class of 2025 English and Political Science Major Liverpool Hope University in England

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