Never in a million years would I have ever thought that i’d be traveling to Europe without my family while I was in high school. I am so grateful to God, generous donors, and my family and friends. It’s hard to believe that this much anticipated trip is really all over, it seems like just yesterday I was selling raffle tickets outside various churches almost every weekend just so I could raise enough funds. Although at the time it seemed like a drag, it was definitely all worth it. My experiences in France, Spain, and Italy will forever stay in my heart. All of the memories i’ve made, the people i’ve met, the places i’ve been to have left such a big imprint on my being.
France was filled with excitement and fulfillment. I already miss all of the sisters there and their hospitality, their kindness, and their devotion to serving God through everything they do. They have taught me so many things, about the rich history Saint Jeanne and her legacy, yes, but also important life lessons that I will forever remember and live out. Walking the streets of Bordeaux was surreal, Saint Jeanne’s spirit was everywhere. Little me who was starting school here in the first grade never would have thought that she would be visiting her foundress’ hometown. Bordeaux is a special place that I will always hold near and dear to my heart.
Spain was an adventure that I definitely will never forget. The beautiful views and culture made it so authentic and loveable. Visiting our sister school in Barcelona was surreal because it was the oldest school visiting the newest school. Although we didn’t all speak the same language, we bonded through playing basketball, volleyball, and music together. The students were so welcoming and I cannot ever forget their energy.
Italy was an absolute dream. I’ve always wanted to travel there and it was more beautiful than I could have ever anticipated. Getting to see the many religious sites and the ruins was breathtaking. There is so much rich history there and I definitely hope to come back someday.
I feel that my relationship with God has been strengthened this whole trip. I found myself in times of deep prayer and reflection, and I only hope that it continues to strengthen even if I am back home. God has spoken to me in different ways, and I am doing my best to live out his word, and to achieve the plans he has for me.
My classmates, who i’ve gotten much closer to during this trip, has made life interesting. Being inseparable for two weeks has made me realize that we are all family, whether we like it or not. We are all brought together by the same means, and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. From the early mornings to the late nights, we were together and although we were all so drained, we were strengthened by each other and by God. The many laughs we’ve shared, the tears we’ve cried, and the memories we’ve made have been replaying over and over in my mind. The chaperones have all been so patient and kind, even on the days which seemed like would never end, and I cannot express my gratitude enough. They have held us together, supporting us in everything we do, and I don’t know how I could ever repay them. They accept us even in our mistakes and in our faults, much like the parable of the prodical son, which coincidentally was the gospel for our last liturgy of the word together. They have all been a part of my faith journey and continue to leave a mark as long as i’m here. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing individuals who inspire me to grow as a person.
This pilgrimage is an experience that contains memories to last a lifetime. There were memories made, people met, experiences shared, minor mishaps, and I would never trade it for the world. I have grown so much as a person, and a follower of God. Although I miss the different lifestyle, I know not to dwell on the fact that it’s over, but to be thankful that I got to experience what I did. I will miss the early mornings, the late nights and everything in between. From the unknown excitement of not knowing what’s next, the smell of food cooking, the exposure of languages, the overall energy of the city around us, and so much more. This trip is forever going to live in my memories and will never fade because of how much it has enriched my life and my faith. I started off a different person at the beginning, but feel I have turned into a much better person who is more connected to God than ever.