Just a Matie in Stellie

I made it to Stellenbosch, South Africa!

Here’s a quick background of why I’m here:
So last fall semester I knew I wanted to study abroad my senior year but had no specific country in mind. After talking to the study abroad advisor at my school I had narrowed it down to Italy, India, and (his recommendation) South Africa. I’ve learned that the majority of my best decisions are the ones I make on a whim. With that being said, I had already mentally chosen South Africa by the end of my first meeting meeting with my advisor. From there I spent the next semester filling out a mile high stack of paperwork and applying for every possible scholarship. After convincing/informing my parents about the trip, going through hoops to get my visa, and traveling two days I’m finally here!

Last goodbye with part of the fam!


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My 11 hour flight from Amsterdam to Capetown

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Flying over the Swiss Alps.
Flying over the Sahara Desert.

As my family, and anyone else who has been around me when writing an essay can attest, I do not enjoy writing. Especially writing in complete and coherent thoughts. So I’ve decided to make this more of an outline where I’ll just list random thoughts or information I think I should share. Maybe I’ll elaborate on the list… and maybe I won’t. 🙂

~I’m here with a group of 14 other American’s from all over the States through the American International Foreign Study (AIFS) program.

~We’re five days in and we’ve finished our orientation with the other 400 international students attending Stellenbosch University this semester.

~At SU this is their 2nd semester.

~I live in a flat with three other girls (all extremely cool) and we each have our own room and bathroom and share a kitchen/living room space. We have a lady who not only cleans our kitchen and bathrooms, but sweeps all of our floors and… get this… washes our dishes! Don’t worry, I still have to make my own bed.

 -Amber: I obviously stalked everyone coming with AIFS and learned through social media that Amber went to the same University as my cousin in San Diego. After some more intense creeping I realized she was also a Christian and had been to ZA before. So of course I slid into her DM’s (for Dad – “sent her a personal message through the internet”). I learned that she was going to ZA a month early through her church to help start up a church in Stellenbosch.
-Madison: I’m ashamed to admit that my internet investigative skills failed me. I did not know as much about Madison before I came and soon learned that she is extremely passionate about self-sustainability and has the ability to make anyone feel included. For sure the life of a party.
-Natasha: She was the “mystery flatmate.” Natasha moved in two days after we arrived and wasn’t apart of the AIFS program so we were anxious to meet her. Tasha lives on an island in Western Canada and goes to an art university on the East coast of Canada. Her focus in art is print making. She is at Stellenbosch to help with a professor’s research by teaching an art class at a nearby high school.

~I’ve met lots of friends from all over the world (mostly Europe) and just yesterday got to celebrate Erhan’s (a friend I made from Switzerland) birthday with lots of new friends!

~I’ve run into multiple people while walking on the right side of the sidewalk.

~Mopeds delivering McDonald’s take-out is a common site.

~It’s very rare to find a building with AC or heating.

~It’s currently winter in South Africa, which means it’s around 40 degrees at night and can get up to 60 degrees during the day when the sun is out, which doesn’t sound bad coming from Kentucky, right? Well that’s what I thought before I came… I failed to consider that no heating means no heating, which means if it’s 40 degrees at night it’s going to be 40 degrees when I try to fall asleep. Lesson learned.

~Most shops close around 5 or 6 (sunset) and the streets are mostly empty due to the highly unsafe night life.

~I can get coffee that would put Starbucks to shame for $2.

~When in doubt, just say “lekker.” It’s the Afrikaans go-to word for anything awesome, cool, tasty, nice, etc. Lekker.

~Afrikaans apparently is one of the easiest languages to learn so I’m going to give it a go this semester. Luckily I only need a C or above for my credits to transfer!

~My other classes include; Jewellery making (their spelling, not mine), Africa & South Africa Colonization and the Rearrangement of Societies, Small Business Management, and Social Issues in South Africa. However, I don’t have to finalize any of these classes until the first week of lectures is over. So in the meantime I can sit in on as many classes as I want and then decide from there.

~I’m currently 6 hours ahead of those back home, which makes my bedtime ritual consist of catching up with friends and family. It also makes my news feed very empty during the day, which I’m not mad about.

~Wifi is hard to come by and isn’t super reliable since the internet comes through underground channels across the ocean.

~Stellenbosch students are called “Maties” (Mawh-Tees). They adopted the nickname other Universities gave them by calling them “tomatoes” (Toe-Mawh-Toes) or “maties” because of the University’s maroon color.

~I think I’m supposed to live in Denmark. At the international student’s dinner I sat with a few Danish guys who informed me that almost all of their communication is through sarcasm. Let’s just say that there was never a lull in the conversation and by the end of the night I believe I even almost impressed them with my sarcastic abilities. Thanks, Dad.

~Classes start on Monday, which is when all the local students will finally be arriving on campus. I’m ready to meet some “stellies”!

~Just about every shop in Stellie is a hipster’s dream. Lot’s of succulents, great coffee, and a very clean look.

~Cheap food and even cheaper wine. Stellenbosch takes a lot of pride in their wine because of the multiple vineyards in the area. I believe our program is taking us on a wine tasting tour soon, so I’ll keep ya posted.

Well, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully these photos will do a better job at portraying my time here than my words can:

Our first impromptu tour of campus led by an exchange student, Gudrun, from Germany who studied here last semester.
The view from our building.
International orientation meeting.
Waiting to get our student cards made.
Making food and friends.
40 degree weather at night in a dorm that has no heating = purchasing an indoor heater.
The center of campus.
Good Mexican food is hard to come by in South Africa.
I’m loving the trees here!
My flatmate is also an art major so we decided to combine our skills and make door tags
Ruby and Natasha
Some of the best croissants I’ve tasted since Paris.
Proteas – my new favorite flower.
I’m in heaven.


They gave us blankets so we could still eat outside and stay warm.
Basic Bistro was so good that we went again the next day!


My morning tea and rusk.


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I found crepes!

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One of my flatmates Amber.
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The start of our hike up Coetzenburg Mountains, right behind the rugby fields.

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My other flatmate, Natasha.

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Our fearless tour guide, Gudrun.
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The gang that made it to the halfway point (the whole hike would have taken 4-5 hours to get to the top).
Capetown and the ocean in the distance.


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Meraki, a new favorite cafe.
The bathrooms here are SO cute! This is the outdoor walkway and washing station of Meraki.
The drive to Franchhoek for the Bastille festival.


When celebrating France…
one must get a croissant.

South Africa

I’m officially going to South Africa! I will be spending July to November this year in Stellenbosch, South Africa with a study abroad program through my school.

Since I’ve been writing so many scholarship essays to help me pay for studying abroad, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I might learn and bring back with me from ZA (South Africa). I thought I would go ahead and share what I’m most excited about since this is my next upcoming adventure (besides our family roadtrip to NYC this week to get my study permit)!

It’s hard to imagine what this upcoming adventure might teach me without looking back at my other trips throughout the US and abroad. So… I’ve compiled a few photos so we can take a trip down memory lane and relive how these trips impacted me most.

First up: Paris, France.

This was quite the embarrassing stage for me because not only did I think this pink hat was wildly stylish, but I also thought it would be the coolest idea to purchase a pair of “heelys” so I could roll through the streets of Paris. Clearly this was my first time being immersed in a different culture. However touristy our trip may have been, this is where I believe my desire to travel to new places really began.

Next up: the many cross-country road trips I’ve enjoyed with my family.


Whether trekking to California or circling Lake Superior, I’ve learned that the journey is the destination. Some of the most impactful moments I’ve had on these trips have been when things haven’t gone as planned.

Like that one time our hippy-painted, 12-passenger van broke down in New Mexico with a student driver behind the wheel. But without that bump in the road, we would have completely missed discovering the Blue Hole—a 100-foot deep body of water that is one of the most popular destinations for Scuba divers in the US.

Lastly, my most recent trip: Iceland.


Besides being blown away by the magnificent landscape, what I enjoyed most about this trip was the community. I loved learning about the unique Icelandic culture from our AirBNB hosts, but in a country where puffins outnumber humans, I most enjoyed the camaraderie I built between the 15 other adventurers that went to Iceland with me. Because it was such a short amount of time we learned how to squeeze the most out of every moment. On the car rides back to our AirBNB’s we would debrief about our favorite moments of that day, which I would journal before bed each night.

Although all of these experiences have been impactful, none of them have been long enough or out of my comfort zone enough to really change the way I see the world. Spending my whole life thus far in one culture can tempt me to believe that this is the right way to live, the only way to live, or the best way to live. When in fact my culture is one of thousands that all have found their own way of answering the same questions.

I want to immerse myself in another culture so I can experience the beauty of learning another way of life. The Inuit language has 53 different words for 53 different types of snow. Studies have shown that Inuit men and women actually see snow differently than those who speak languages that only have a few words for snow, simply because of their native language and culture. This linguistic relativity is perhaps just a small example of how a cultural immersion can alter someone’s mind. By immersing yourself in the Inuit culture, perhaps you would begin to see 53 different types of snow like an Inuit does. And if that is possible, maybe by immersing myself in the South African culture I can begin to see like a South African, think like a South African, and dream like a South African. The mind is fluid but as such, can develop ruts very easily. I’m worried that by having spent my entire life in one culture I am at risk of creating a deeper and deeper rut that is harder and harder to change. So by opening up this new space in my mind from my experience in South Africa, I believe that I will learn how to love others with less judgment. I believe that I will be able to try new things with less fear. I believe that I will be able to approach problems with more possible solutions. When I return from this experience of a lifetime, I truly believe that I will be a different person, and so much better for it. But don’t worry, not too different of a person… I will still be sure to come on here and bore you with all of the new exciting things I’m learning. So please, stay tuned 🙂

Word for the New Year

Why did God choose to save me when my perfection only comes from Jesus? The one thing that makes it possible for me to be with God is what Jesus is and offers to be for me. If my identity is founded in Jesus then why did He have him put through torture and death in my place when He already had Jesus? God, you are in need of nothing. If you saved us because you were lonely, then wouldn’t that mean you needed company to feel/be whole? But maybe that’s not true. You created Adam and while he was perfect he still longed for a companion. But you have the Holy Trinity and the angels. So why did you do it?

Lord, is this all truly out of love for me?

If this is true, this changes everything. It changes every word in the Bible, every scenario in my life. The Creator is in love with me. He loves me. His words are filled with love, even the commands. He can be trusted. Hasn’t He already proven Himself worthy? He can be trusted with everything, even my heart. I can fall in love with the Creator without fear, because He holds my heart with strong hands. He doesn’t promise safety. He doesn’t promise sunshine and daisies daily. He promises to love us. And who could love us better than the creator of love Himself? God is love. Love is God. Who are we to question the way He loves?

As this year starts this is the question I want to ask: What is love? It seems like a silly question, but does anyone really comprehend its full meaning or potential? I’m not talking about the sin-stained love we give and take from each other, but the pure and holy love that drove God to sacrifice His Son. What does that look like? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling this year will be a time of not only learning more about love, but about trusting and depending on God, having deeper and more valuable relationships with others, experiencing joy and humble confidence, and enjoying complete contentment and rest. In these first few days I have already been blown away by the depth and consistency of this wildly passionate Creator’s love. I can’t use enough adjectives to express the revelations I have been having this month, but that won’t stop me from trying ;). I can’t wait to continue to be wowed by this awesome God we serve…

And then of course share these “wows” with you. 🙂

Freedom to Celebrate


The message this morning at Southland was on a topic that I have been made very aware of in my life this summer and is an area that I will have to continually work on to become more like Christ (quick apology for my grammar and sentence structure. I still suck at writing but when something hits me in the face, like this message did today, I have to at least try to write it down). It was about comparison and the effect social media can have on this area in our lives. Social media fuels comparison, but only if we let it. It’s easy to use social media as a platform to promote our “perfect”-selves. And I’m not saying that you should post all the disappointing and depressing things in your life on social media. I think it’s good to focus and highlight on the areas in your life that give you joy instead of dwelling on the negative things, but we have to be careful about our motives. In the message this morning, the pastor also talked about how comparison fuels competition. And this competition can affect our posts. We make posts about our lives that we think “one-up” the lives of those who we are following. But as Christians we are not better or worse than those around us, we are just different. The difference we have is contentment. And this contentment fuels celebration. Since we are free from comparison and competition we are free to celebrate others and their lives. We have the freedom to scroll through our social media and truly rejoice with those we are following and the lives they are living. They played this song at the service today and these lyrics about the freedom Christ gave us really stood out to me:


Nothing’s gonna hold me back


My chains fell off

My heart was free

I’m alive to live for you

I’m alive to live for you

Amazing Love, how can it be?

You give everything for me

You give everything for me


I’m free to live

Free to give

Free to be

I’m free to love you


Jesus Culture, Holding Nothing Back


I want to take this freedom with me into this next semester. The freedom to choose celebration over competition. The freedom to selflessly serve and love those around me. To rejoice in their successes. The freedom to live out the life God carefully and creatively planned for me because of the loving sacrifice His Son made on the cross.

There’s something so wonderful about sustaining life, which I have found out as a plant mom (not pictured: my two dying herbs and succulent). But what is even more wonderful is giving life. I’m not talking about giving birth, although I’m sure that’s wonderful in an extremely painful, mysterious sort of way. I’m thinking more on the lines of giving life to others, through encouraging words or thoughtful gestures. Lifting others up in what you say and do. This is something that, although I think is wonderful, I struggle with a lot. Especially when it comes to other women. Why is it so easy to look at other women as competition, as something to measure ourselves up against? I do this all the time, I look at other women’s strengths and weaknesses and see how mine compare. I’m jealous of their gifts and talents and see those things as something my gifts and talents have to compete with. Although “the culture” (movies, social media, songs, etc.) is promoting this idea that women have to be in constant competition against each other, God has a whole different view on the subject. He created us all unique for a purpose. God gifted each woman (and man) with different attributes/characteristics of himself and because of that we are able to compliment each other with our unique gifts. We are able to best represent God when we work together and use our gifts to lift one another up. But when we are constantly tearing each other down (whether out loud or in our minds) we are, essentially, doing the exact opposite.

So I just wanted to encourage myself and all of you to put an end to this popular world view that women are at war with one another. It is so destructive. And that is why I am making this post, mainly as a reminder for me, but also as an apology to all of you I have been comparing myself to and viewing as competition. This may not be something that everyone struggles with (in fact-sometimes I feel like I’m the only one because I have such wonderful friends that love on me & others so well), but it is something that I have been convicted of and want to change. So first I want to apologize to all of you. Second, to encourage all of us to start looking at one another as teammates and viewing each other’s strengths as assets. And to then go a step further; highlight and showcase these strengths. Encourage and uplift one another. Be a life giver. 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Romans 12.3-6

Photograph to Painting


On family road trips I’ve always been assigned the job of “documenting” (or photographing) the experience. From this comes a road trip scrapbook, Facebook photos, and possible photos hung up in college dorm rooms. The rest of the photos get stored in my hard drive and resurface to inspire different craft or art projects. This would be one of those times. I had extra paint from a college painting class drying up in a drawer and some ‘used’ canvases to repaint.

I picked a few photographs and attempted to capture the feelings (rather than replicate) the image into a painting. Trying to use heavy paint strokes, something I’m not too comfortable with (but love when others do it!), and texture. I’ve never tried oil paint but I tried to channel my imaginary “oil painter-self” for these. 🙂

Below are the painting by themselves. (I’m more of a ‘show’ than ‘tell’ kind of person) 🙂


And now side by side comparison with both the photograph and painting:



Stealer of Joy

Fear is a stealer of joy.

This was very evident last night when we were watching our neighbor light off fireworks in our cul-de-sac. Expecting these to be little sparklers, we sat right at the edge of the cul-de-sac only to find out they were legit fireworks. After two or three our neighbor lit another one, and as she was running for safety we saw a firework shoot off sideways a few feet from her head and then another one, still horizontal, but in a different direction, and then another one. At this point Jordan is no where to be seen and Mom is running away with her lawn chair. One more goes off in a different direction and at that point I finally realize I should run for the trees because if there is another one it should be shooting in our direction next. Praise the Lamb that there were only four fireworks in the packet and that we all made it out alive, though some of us with PTSD. All that to say, the rest of the firework show was spent in a crouched, ready-to-runaway-from-any-danger position. And when your brain is running through all the possibilities of disaster and escape routes it makes it near impossible to enjoy anything, including fireworks.

That, my friends, is the power of fear. It takes away any real joy. That is why I love today’s verse for #30daysofbiblelettering. God is able to demolish any traces of fear. He is the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, what can possibly stand up to Him? Not man, that’s for sure. The only one we should be fearing is the one who protects and loves us more than we can ever know. I hope this is as big of a comfort to you today as it was for me!

quello che sto imparando in italia (what i am learning in italy)

Since I am in the beautiful country of Italy for the next 8 weeks (and have lived here a month already), I’ve decided to impart some of my ever-increasing knowledge with the world via this blog. And where better to start than learning a little bit of the Italian language? Today (and hopefully frequently) I will be sharing some new vocab words for all you folks back home so that if one day you visit Italy, you will have a leg up on all the other tourists (which I did NOT have, btw). And with that, here’s your first word:

cinghiale (noun): a medium-sized, dark to rusty-brown haired subspecies of wild boar with long and relatively narrow lacrimal bones that is native to central Europe

The way to adequately say the word of today is to pronounce it like CHEEN-GYAH-LAY, but with a heavy Italian accent. The lower, more gravely-sounding and foreboding your voice is, the better. I swear one day I’m going to tell my grandkids scary stories at night about the cinghiale, Jabberwocky style. And yet I doubt it will create the same level of fear in them as it will in me.

In case you’re wondering, two of the three images above were taken from inside our cottage. As in, we have cinghiale outside our FRONT DOOR.  The best part is, we have counted 21 different cinghiale that come out – squealing and grunting horrifically – each night around our cottage, 12 of which are piglets (cinghialettes?). They are terrifying. Especially when you don’t realize they even exist, and suddenly find yourself a mere 6 feet away from a whole family of them as you walk back from dinner one night. Or when you accidentally take a step closer to one and it grunts at you menacingly and takes a few steps toward you too. (The proper response to either scenario is, of course, to run screaming into your house, which is exactly what I did.)

They are apparently illegal to hunt here in Italy, and yet they are offered on most menus throughout Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, the two regions closest to us. Our coworkers laugh when we recount the terror of our cinghiale sightings, saying that they’re only dangerous when they have babies. Um, HELLO. Babies everywhere.

Thankfully, we’ve remained safe thus far. But every other night you can find us whisper-screaming to each other that the cinghiale are out, running around the house toward the source of the sounds, and all three of us leaning out one of the windows and squinting into the darkness for those beady eyes, straining to hear the hoofbeats and squeals of the cinghiale as they run past our little cottage in the woods before disappearing again into the Tuscan night.

Take Heart

I’ve been dreaming of creating a blog with all of the sisters for a few months now because I think they all have really cool lives that should be documented somewhere and now it’s finally happening!  Yay!  Unfortunately, I have not been gifted with writing (like my sisters) nor do I really enjoy it (ask my parents who’ve had to deal with my emotional meltdowns when attempting to write an essay–bless you, mom and dad).  The only time I am motivated to write is when it’s about something I’m interested in or something I’ve learned that I feel like sharing with the whole world (and I guess that whole world gets to be you, so sorry).  This post is going to be closer to the latter and is one I wrote last semester during one of my few free moments. Enjoy:

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Sometimes I get so frustrated because I know that there is a perfect, beautiful heaven waiting for me where I can spend every moment in the presence of my Savior and yet I am stuck here on earth.  Why can’t God just zap me into heaven right now?  Doesn’t He love me and want to spend eternity with me as well?  Why do I have to be stuck in this “almost” stage?  (I apologize, sometimes I get a little dramatic and wallow in self-pity).

My friend, Sarabeth, read me a portion of a book she was reading, Dug Down Deep, a few weeks ago and it basically says this; that we live in an in-between stage of the “already” and “not yet”.  Jesus has already given us salvation but has not yet fully freed us of the presence of sin and death.  This was comforting to her because it meant that she didn’t need to be frustrated by ongoing struggles with sin because God hasn’t completely demolished sin.  But for me, it was frustrating.  Why can’t we skip this whole “not yet” deal and move on to the partying with Jesus?  There are many answers to this question but one that hit me in the face a few minutes ago was that I was complaining about a completely free (yet extremely pricey), unimaginable, beautiful gift that was given to me because I wanted the whole gift right now (what a brat, I know).  But not only has Jesus given us salvation and the promise of eternal life, He has also given us yet another beautiful gift while we are still on earth:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

-Acts 1.4-8

Though I complain, I forget the wonderful gift God has given me now, the Holy Spirit.  It’s nothing I can comprehend.  It equips me to be a witness to those around me and gives me strength to live this life God has planned for me, a life in which I will get to participate in the sufferings of Christ.

I know that whatever happens life will be hard and I will undergo persecutions just as Christ did, but there is a joy that is to come that will outshine all the hurt and pain.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

-Philippians 3.8-11

And one last passage for you all and then I’ll end my monologue.  This passage seemed appropriate for today because in my last class we were discussing pregnancy/birthing and I thought I was going to throw up or faint from sympathy pains.  After the wonderfully detailed depiction of child birth from my professor, I wondered why any woman would willingly choose to put her body through that torture.  Then I remembered this passage:

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy… I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

-John 16.20-33

Although life is no heaven right now, I can go into “battle” knowing that God has already won the war.  What a great way to live!  I don’t need to worry about what my future holds because God is already there and He has already claimed the victory.  He has my life in His hands and He has already created a beautiful plan for it.  I can’t wait to see what happens next 🙂