Since arriving in Münster I’ve been faced with many challenges, many of which are hard to articulate, but nonetheless are important and have shaped my experience.These challenges have come from a variety of places and some of these challenges have come from being far away when important changes were happening at home. From all of the challenges I’ve learned a lot about myself, the others in the group, the German culture, and the truly important things and people in my life. We’ve now been here for a little over two months of the allotted four months and we all just have returned from our Spring Break adventures that sent our group of 11 all across Europe. Two classmates and I were invited to spend our spring break/Easter break in the area around Stavanger, Norway with my distant relatives. I spent the January term of 2014 with them at their home and was more than happy to return. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to further explore Norway and my family history that stems from this area. We were able to celebrate Easter in the fjords of Norway on a remote island and we spent the remainder of our time there exploring the area around Stavanger (pictured below). The thing I loved the most about our trip to Norway was that it was very simple and did not have a specific plan except to enjoy the company of my Norwegian family and the time that we all had together. Upon returning to Münster I came to a major personal realization that I’ve learned during my time across the pond. I’ve learned about what it means to be family with both familiar and unfamiliar people.
Our program is lucky enough to have host families, in which we are able to practice speaking German and learn how to be family with total strangers. My host parents are very different from my biological parents and initially that was a difficult transition, but after I realized that they are accepting me as a part of their family I was able to appreciate the differences. Family does not always mean the biological family you were given, it also includes the random host family you were given even if it is not what you expected, it was what you got!
I also learned a lot about family while in Norway. My relatives in Norway are the descendants of my grandfather’s cousins (pictured on the right). When my great-grandma was sent to America on the Lusitania she left the familiar behind, but the love that she had for her family persisted and was passed down the generations and is still very present! I feel so lucky to have connections with my distant family and they often feel like my real cousins or siblings! Distant family can be just as important as immediate family and to me it is!
While traveling without the group I’ve spent time with family friends that I’ve learned to consider family as well. My parent’s college friends took a small group of us in for a weekend near Zürich, Switzerland. Most of my parent’s friends I am able to consider family because of their generosity and love towards both my parents and me!
Münster is a wonderful town that is very full of history and people of many backgrounds. The 11 of us Luther students are lucky enough to call this place home for four months. We’re lucky enough to have host parents who care about us and who we are able to consider our family away from our family. Not only have I stretched my definition of family, I’ve learned what I appreciate about my family at home. I feel so lucky to have a loving family all over the world, but most importantly supporting me across the ocean. A song by Jack Johnson that my family has listened to since I was young has helped me define how I’m feeling and this is it: “love is the answer at least for most of the questions in my heart. Like: ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘where do we go?’, ‘and how come it's so hard?’. It's not always easy, and sometimes life can be deceiving, I'll tell you one thing: it's always better when we're together”. Life is always better when you’re with your family, whether biological or not. I’m not sure what I’d do without any of my family, but I’d really be lost without my parents. Thanks Mom, Dad, and Luther for giving me the world!