Authored by:
Lauren S.

Y'all. My heart is SO full, and let me tell you why.

This weekend, I was supposed to go to Dublin, Ireland. I had originally planned it as a solo trip, and was only going to spend about a day there, in addition to a lengthy flight back and forth. But last week, I decided I didn't want to. I've traveled so much, my heart is tired, and I didn't really want to be alone in a brand new place. Just the idea of packing, waiting at the airport, and trying to figure everything out by myself made me anxious. So I didn't go. I decided to spend the weekend in Budapest, and do whatever I wanted. And it was probably the best decision I've made abroad.

Budapest has the Citadella, an ancient fortress atop Gellert Hill overlooking the entire city. Friday morning, I climbed Gellert Hill to the top and reveled in the beautiful views that my city had to offer. I just sat on a bench and reflected for a long while, and that was great. After awhile, I headed over towards the Castle District to tour the Hospital in the Rock, which is a hospital that was built and operated in the natural caves occurring underneath Buda Castle during WWII, and then converted into a nuclear bunker underneath the Communist regime. Then I went home and watched Netflix. It was the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation and self-reflection. Wonderful. That evening, I got to do another new thing for me: an escape room!

I've heard some rumors that the escape room, an hour long adventure where you're locked in a room or series of rooms and solve puzzles to try to escape, was invented in Budapest. Which makes sense because it seems like there's millions of them. But I got to do one with a few other people in my program, and it was a blast! The success rate for the room we did is 30% with no hints, and 45% with one hint. We escaped in 45 minutes using no hints! I would love to do another one before I leave Budapest because they're so much fun.

But y'all. Saturday was the day. I got to go to breakfast with friends, I got to wander through the Jewish quarter and Christmas markets, and my favorite, I got to ride a boat on the Danube with INCREDIBLE views of Parliament and a warm cup of mulled wine. Throughout this study abroad adventure, I have felt so many emotions: joy, happiness, excitement, exhaustion, anxiety, etc., but as I sat on the bench on that boat, I felt true contentment, which is something I haven't yet felt while here. I was so content being there, which is a feeling I've been yearning and wishing for since I got here. That was probably also the happiest I've been thus far abroad. I got to top off the boat ride with another visit to the Christmas markets (can't keep me away) and even a jazz concert at a jazz club nearby where I live! I didn't think that my weekend could get better in any way.

And then Sunday came. Last weekend when I dropped Maddy off at the bus to the airport, I saw a sign for Hillsong Connect Budapest, which is a branch of Hillsong Church here in Budapest, and I knew I needed to go. My soul has been missing a little bit of something, and that something is worship. As soon as I got there, everyone was SO incredibly kind and welcoming to me, and all throughout that service, as I sat sandwiched between a girl from Brazil also studying abroad and a girl visiting for the weekend from Germany, I felt an overwhelming joy and that same sense of contentment with where I was in that moment. Wow. Like I wrote in my journal, I don't think I can accurately portray how I felt with words. And that's a great feeling.

I may have missed out on visiting Ireland, but the feeling of contentment that I had in my soul was much needed on this journey. I know this week is going to be hard for me, and the homesickness will be real as I miss out on one of my favorite holidays. It's weird that for the first time in 20 years, I won't be at my grandma's eating turkey, watching football, and snuggling my cousins. FaceTime will help to fill that void a little bit, but man oh man is it still hard.

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