South Bend to Uganda to London

Date: January 13, 2015
Location: London, UK

Well, here we are. My very first week in London.

I will be "studying" abroad here until early May (just kidding about the quotes Mom; I promise I'll actually study).

So far the trip has been a blur. We landed in London early in the morning on Thursday, January 8th, around 5am. Thursday and Friday were the classic orientation days that every jet-lagged student dreads. Saturday we took a class trip to the Museum of London and explored the city a bit, and Sunday I spent some time at a few markets with my new friends I've made here. The markets were so cool. They had food from every corner of the world and so many clothes, posters, souvenirs, etc. We ended Sunday with an opening Mass (classic Notre Dame) and dinner for everyone in the London Undergraduate Program.
*****

It's always weird being in a new place. It feels different. It looks different. Heck, it even smells different.

It's like seeing the color yellow for the very first time in a world of black and white. You notice its bright color, wondering where its cheer has been for so long.

Seeing London for the very first time is just the same.

London is so beautiful, so fascinating, leaving me wondering where it's been all my life.

The walk from our dorm to our school (the University of Notre Dame in London) is about 15-20 minutes. On the way there, we walk right over the River Thames. Our school is LITERALLY right next to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. It's unreal.

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Yet, like anything in life, going to a brand new place can be pretty tough.

You walk around streets you've never walked before. You see unfamiliar faces, hear unfamiliar voices, and see unfamiliar sights.

It's scary at first, isn't it?

But then I realize that in the midst of all this change, one thing remains the same.

No matter where I am or what I am doing, one thing will always be the same.

My Jesus, You are unchanging. You are unfailing. You are the one constant in a world of endless change.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

*****

I'm not afraid to roam the city and explore new places because my Jesus is right there with me.

I'm not afraid to take on new classes separate from my major because my Jesus is right there with me.

I'm not afraid to travel to random countries I've never been to before, not really knowing where I'm going, because after all, my Jesus is still right there with me.

I am so ready for this adventure of a lifetime.

I've "adventured" to South Bend, about a thousand miles away from my home in Dallas, TX, to go to the University of Notre Dame for four years. I've adventured to Nkozi, Uganda, in the summer of 2014 to complete an eight-week microfinance research project. And now, here is my newest adventure, four months living and studying in London and hopefully traveling all over Europe.

Adventure is out there. And I couldn't be more excited.

*****

This week we had our first week of classes and a lot of time to explore the city. Today, I went on a little adventure. I was missing my comfort foods from back home (ALREADY, I know), so I found the nearest Chipotle (I'm so lame I know).

I had been praying earlier today that God would help me make the most of my time in London and help me have the courage needed to do what no Notre Dame student has done before, whatever that means. Whatever God wants for me, that's what I want for myself.

So there I was, sitting in Chipotle, people-watching outside the window of course. After a few minutes I noticed the store next to Chipotle. It had posters for the Ballet and a few ballet shoes in the window. Of course, a dance store, I thought.

I've been dancing since I was 3 years old. Dancing, for me, has always been an escape. More than that, it's been my own personal way of celebrating this wonderful thing called life. I love to dance. Needless to say when I realized that there was a dance store within walking distance of my dorm/school here in London, I got pretty pumped.

After finishing my Chipotle, I walked over to the dance store and asked for names of local dance studios. I'll be taking some dance classes here and there throughout the semester, so I'm pretty excited about that!

On my walk home from the dance store, I passed through Trafalgar Square and noticed a beautiful Anglican church. I stopped in to say a prayer, continuing to request that God would help me make the most of my time here, learning to trust Him fully, surrendering to whatever it is He wants me to do.
*****

The church I came across is called St. Martin's. I read a few pamphlets that were in the pews and learned about St. Martin's dedication to the homeless population in London. The homeless people living on the streets of London were some of the very first people I noticed when I arrived last week.

As many of you already know, two summers ago I spent two months living and working in a homeless shelter in Aurora, Illinois. Needless to say, the homeless are very close to my heart. My heart aches for them.

As I was walking around St. Martin's and learning about the church's mission, I felt that God was calling me to get involved in the church's efforts with the homeless of London. I did some exploring, talked to a few people in the office area of the church, and soon learned that the building to the left of the church (called "The Connection at St. Martin's") is entirely devoted to the homeless of London.

I'm in the process of working with the volunteer coordinators at St. Martin's to figure out where I'm needed and how I can help. I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity.
It's so beautiful to see what happens and how things begin to change the moment I surrender all control to my Jesus.

You just have to begin by trusting Him; after that, it's all in His hands.

"'For I know well the plans I have in mind for you,' says the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9

All my love!
Haley

Comments

  1. Hi, Haley! Happy studies in London! Definitely check out the National Gallery in your spare time. It's wonderful! Also, take a double decker bus tour around the city for a great introduction. Enjoy a Pimms and authentic fish and chips when the weather gets a little warmer. Tyburn Convent is Catholic monastery in London you may wish to visit. Also, the Indian cuisine is divine if you enjoy ethnic food. Stay safe and best of luck in your studies and volunteer efforts. God Bless You! :)

    -Jennifer


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    Replies
    1. Jennifer, thanks so much for your comment. My university is actually directly next to the National Gallery, so I've been there once already, and we get to go a lot for our classes. I'm really excited about that! Last weekend I went to Brussels and this weekend I'm spending some time in Scotland. I've had the fish and chips here and it is INCREDIBLE. Thanks for letting me know about the Catholic monastery - I'll definitely try to make it there soon. Also, there's an Indian restaurant down the street from my dorm, so I'll be trying that soon as well. Thanks again! I'll try to blog more this semester and keep you updated!

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    2. Just want to let you know that I visited the Tyburn Convent today for a school field trip. Very interesting - hoping to write a blog about it soon!

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