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When things don’t go to plan

“I can plan, but I’m not in control.”

Springtime means the beginning of the new university semester in many European cities. Regardless of the area of study, every student faces challenges. Chrissi, an Austrian student of languages in Salzburg, had lots of ups and downs last year. She shares how God opened doors when others closed.

In early 2013 I had finished my second year at university and was planning a year abroad in the USA. I was looking forward to speaking fluent English after just two semesters. However, my top choice school only had openings for 5 new students. The competition made the application process very difficult. I was also looking for unique courses in American Studies and special events for international and Christian students on campus.

During the last semester before I was scheduled to leave for the US I started volunteering with CAMPUSlive at their weekly "Set on Fire" meetings at the University of Salzburg. I thought it would certainly be easier to meet other Christian students in the USA than in Austria.

Although my chances were quite good, I was not accepted at any of my preferred schools. Not being able to buy a plane ticket to any of the places I had planned to go was a real shock. But I still had some options, and I ended up getting into a liberal arts women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia! I shared the news with my friend and mentor Mary from the "Set on Fire" group. Mary is an American girl who works with Agape in Salzburg. She was excited to hear about my opportunity. She comes from the southern United States and said that I would be able to visit her. She offered to help me prepare for my time in Atlanta. This news was the silver lining I needed after feeling disappointed.

When I arrived in Atlanta, I realized that I was at a very liberal university and that Christians were in the minority. I found the Pinky Promise Movement, a close-knit group of university women who pledge to live their faith in God through lives of moral purity. This group turned out to be exactly what I needed as a new student on a new campus in a new country. This new group of friends helped me learn more about Atlanta too. One of the girls, Taylor, even took me with her to volunteer at a daycare center in a poor neighbourhood, where we spent quality time with children.

Most students go home at the holidays, and foreign students are left alone in the dorms or choose to tour around the country. I was lucky to be invited to go home with Taylor for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her family made me feel at home. Compared to the typical daily routine at university, my visits with Taylor’s family were very special. Spending time with her and with her family strengthened our friendship. Those meetings reminded me of my own family.

Looking back over the past year I have so many good memories of Christian conferences and concerts that I attended with Mary and Taylor. I felt like I was part of a small but strong Christian community – pretty much like our group in Salzburg. The many gatherings with prayer, worship and Christian teaching in the company of thousands of young Believers gives me hope that we can also experience something similar in Austria and on my campus in Salzburg.

I have also learned that I can plan in advance, but I do not have everything under control. Still, I am glad to realize that even when things don’t go to plan, I can be sure that God knows what He’s doing. I can hopefully understand His ways later on. Today I can say that I reached my goal and God sent the right people into my life so that I was not on the journey alone.

 

Christina is studying Spanish and English with German as a Second Language in Salzburg with the goal of becoming a GSL teacher. She continues to volunteer with CAMPUSlive.

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