I have now been in los estados for a month and a day. It feels a little like a whirlwind that keeps spinning faster - my first two days of grad school have been a little overwhelming! We're taking 2 1/2 courses in 5 weeks, which means in a week I will (on average): read 2 novels and 20 scholarly articles, write 2-3 paragraph reflections on each of them, write a paper (or two), give a 10 minute presentation in one of my classes, spend one afternoon working at a local arts camp, and spend two mornings working at a local summer school program. Whew! Scheduling all that and figuring out what I need to read and write which day is hard enough, not to mention actually doing it!
There are good things happening in my life, though - it's not all reading and studying. Yet. I am enjoying living in Philadelphia, exploring and taking advantage of all city life has to offer. Coffee shops, libraries, microwaves, free water at restaurants, pretty paths to run on without getting whistled at, constant power and hot pressurized water, HUGE grocery stores... Although I walked into a grocery store the other day and left empty-handed because I only wanted a cup of lettuce - totally achievable in the DR - but had to buy at minimum a whole giant head of it! So there are still overwhelming moments as I transition back to life in the US. I'm usually able to laugh at them, thankfully.
In addition to the "cosas" of life here, the people are turning out to be pretty great, too! I live in a house with 5 other girls in their mid-20's and have gotten to know 3 of them pretty well. My program at Penn is a cohort program, so there are 40 of us who take all our classes together and do our field work together. I am getting to know lots of them - a wonderful group of friendly, fun people from varied backgrounds - and am becoming good friends with a handful. Another HUGE PRAISE is that I found a church! It was the first church I went to, and I felt so welcomed by the people. They preach the Gospel every Sunday, eat dinner together as a congregation after church, have small groups, and have already recruited me to join the worship team! Praise God - I had prayed that finding a church would be easy (maybe not the least selfish prayer I have every prayed...) and he made it so easy! I am thankful for God's provision, faithfulness, and grace as I build relationships and ground myself here for the year.
In the midst of all this, I do have moments when I miss home - my bed in Montellano, the beach, New Life Church, and of course the people - my kids, who sort of don't understand yet that I'm really gone, my wonderful Bible study groups, and Dustin. We've decided that long-distance dating is not fun, but we are confident that God will continue to sustain us, guide us, and grow our relationship through this time apart.
I still need your prayers, absolutely! Here are some specific prayer points:
- Pray for clarity of mind and a quick transition back into the academic world - reading, writing, time management, study skills, etc
- Pray for me as I sort through how my time in the DR has shaped my philosophy of education. This has come up numerous times in class already as I realize how differently I would answer a question than my classmates who approach the subject from a purely US-based mindset.
- Pray that as I get busier with school, I would be intentional about making time first for God, and also for relationships and life-giving/stress-relieving activities (I'm trying to become a runner...)
- Pray for Dustin and me as we work through long-distance, that we would continue to support each other well in our separate adventures (check out his blog to read about his Central America trip this summer!). We celebrated a year together this weekend, and I can absolutely see God's hand in our relationship. Pray for consistency and intentionality through the ups and downs and the crazy busyness of life.
THANK YOU for your prayers, encouraging words, support, and love as I moved back to the States and began grad school. I have been blessed by so many of you - welcoming me excitedly, sending quick emails or texts, asking me how I am doing... thank you.