Sitting in a big lecture hall, only a couple days after Getting Started Weekend in 2019, was when I learned more about the international studies major’s core requirement of an “immersion experience.” I knew that somewhere between then and graduation, I would have to spend a minimum of six weeks in another culture, in a far-away country.
As the semesters progressed, I wrestled through a canceled internship opportunity in southeast Asia, the possibility of going to two different countries, and having my dream internship turned down because of various issues. I started feeling hopeless. The “immersion experience” requirement became more of a burden than something exciting to dream about in the future.
The clock was ticking, and my getter-doner mindset was frustrated and feeling stuck; yet the Lord was working. In March 2022, my mentor, Deidre Sizer, the Tutoring and Office Coordinator in the Cove, and I were talking about my summer plans. She knew how I was feeling and had been praying for me. As we were talking, I watched as a light bulb went off in her mind.
Over 30 years ago, Deidre had visited a place called Taking Christ to Millions International Institute (TCM) outside of Vienna, Austria, in the Vienna Woods. She remembered her sweet experience and sent an email to a man on staff. She connected us, and we quickly began email communication.
“Though I was clueless, the Lord knew what He was doing.”
After prayer, several interviews, more prayer, and a final email, I had an internship secure as a guest services volunteer at TCM for the summer. Though I was clueless, the Lord knew what He was doing.
On May 25, I left Dulles Airport with a non-stop flight to Vienna. On the plane, I started to feel dread … mixed with loneliness … mixed with doubt. What was I doing? I had briefly talked with one person and exchanged a couple emails with another person in Austria. I knew no one. Who was picking me up? Where would I live? What would life look like? Close to seven weeks is a long time. What will I do at work? I started talking to the Lord and telling Him how I was feeling. As I was praying, I fell asleep. Midway across the Atlantic, I woke up and felt a sweet sense of peace. The Lord revealed to me that even though I was physically by myself, I was never truly alone. He was with me.
It seems like such a simple truth, but it felt like a revelation. The next two weeks, as I transitioned into life in Austria, I wrestled with loneliness, because I have never truly been by myself. Growing up the oldest of four siblings and being a college student means that there’s always someone around.
I arrived on a national holiday, where the entire country was shut down. It was a few days before I had officially met the entire TCM staff. At the beginning, in the still and quiet moments when I was feeling alone, that is when I felt the Lord’s presence like I never have before. He reminded me that although I came to Austria by myself, I was not alone. By myself, but not alone. That was the truth I kept telling myself. As time progressed, so did the growth. This lesson in “loneliness” was only the humbling beginning of what the Lord was going to do in His refining process of me.
I jumped into work, which included interning under the Director of Guest Services. I worked from 9 a.m.-4:30 or 5 p.m. We cleaned, organized, and maintained the campus facilities. Along with this, I assisted the Registrar with a few office administrative tasks, and I babysat the staff children when their parents needed to have a little more undistracted time to complete some more work. With the job, the Lord was teaching me the importance of worshiping Him with even the simplest and smallest of actions. Shredding papers, playing with children, cooking food for a staff member’s birthday party, throwing a campuswide Fourth of July party, scrubbing balconies, shopping for cleaning supplies — all were actions I was challenged to do for the glory of God. Every task completed was an opportunity for me to reflect my Lord and Savior. It was humbling, especially coming from a culture that is very individualistic, promoting the good of the individual and glorifying big accomplishments. At least once a day, I had to check my heart posture before the Lord and ask Him to help me find joy in the job, and to seek to do it for His glory. With every prayer, I felt God slowly conforming me more into His image.
“The TCM campus is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, traditions …”
One of the biggest joys of my summer was getting to do life with the staff members at TCM. One couple was from the United States, two couples and their families were from Moldova, another family was from Ukraine, and the final family was from Austria. Along with the staff, I connected with another “long-term worker” from Australia, and three other workers from the United States. Also, my next-door neighbors were a father and daughter from Ukraine. They had escaped their country only a month before I arrived. The TCM campus is a melting pot of cultures, ideas, traditions, but we all shared something in common — our faith in Jesus. Interacting with these families and individuals not only challenged how I work, lead, delegate, respond to leaders, but also grew my faith.
Throughout the summer, I had many theological conversations that pushed me to seek answers for what I believe in. At Cedarville, I took “Bible and the Gospel” and “Theology I” with a professor that helped me seek those theological answers. He was a professor rooted in the Word with a huge background in apologetics. During my time in Austria, I could not help but think of him and how he stressed the importance of having answers to what you believe and why you believe it. The campus pastor was the one who asked me, “Why do you believe in six-day creation?” He and his wife were the ones who challenged me with questions to help me put words to my beliefs. These conversations only continued to build off what I have been learning at Cedarville. I’m so thankful for Cedarville, as the faculty and staff have been training me to think with a biblical worldview, and I look forward to using this training when I graduate in a few months.
My summer in Austria included six Sundays. Each Sunday, I had the privilege of going to church with a staff family. The first two Sundays, I worshiped at an international church in Vienna that had a bilingual service. That was my first time hearing a sermon translated a couple sentences at a time. We sang songs in both German and English. It was so beautiful to experience the global Church.
“I saw differences in method, but one thing was the same — the message.”
The final four Sundays, I worshiped with a different staff family at another church. This church also had bilingual services, where I had to wear something like a stethoscope in my ears to hear the German sermon translated into English. We sang more songs in German than English, yet it was sweet to recognize the tunes of frequently sung worship songs, even with the German lyrics. I was able to witness church leadership, and how it differs, as well as the different churches’ stances on communion, and how often you take it. I saw differences in the method, but one thing was the same — the message. The Gospel was the motivation for these churches, and that was the joy I experienced in worshiping with the global Church.
When I was not working, I explored the area! Weekends meant day trips to surrounding cities with friends. We went to Vienna, Hallstatt (truly a town from a storybook), and the Austrian Alps, and we were able to cross into a few countries. We spent a day in Bratislava, Slovakia, and we went to Sopron, Hungary. Crossing country borders in Europe is as easy as crossing state lines in the United States!
As I write this story, I look back fondly on my time in Austria. The Lord challenged me, refined me, and presented me with many humbling opportunities to grow. I am so thankful to have a major that requires the student to spend at least six weeks abroad. I encourage any Cedarville student to consider a study abroad opportunity that also allows them to serve, share the Gospel, experience missions, and do ministry in a foreign country. The Lord richly blessed me by not only fulfilling my major requirement but allowing me to do ministry with other believers. I am so excited to see how this season will be used by the Lord in my future. When I graduate, I hope to use what I have been equipped with to honor and glorify God here and throughout the world.
- Majoring in International Studies
- Hometown: Raleigh, NC
- Coffee Order: Lavender Cold Brew with Cream
- Favorite Study Place: LL of Library