During one of my last weekends in Europe, I went to London with my buddy Caleb to meet up with our friend Collin who was doing a London study abroad program. We ate pies and pasties, saw Wicked on West End, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and ambled through the Kensington gardens at sunset. After the perfect London weekend, we settled down in an authentic British pub. The conversation quickly turned to our different study-abroad programs. Collin asked Caleb and I what the group dynamics had been like in Maastricht. We paused for a long while, searching our brains for a less cliché version of what we knew we were going to have to say.
“We’re a family.”
When I signed up for this study abroad trip, I knew practically no one who would be in Maastricht with me this summer. Two and a half months later, I came back with a family. I know, I know, save the sappy stuff for Jon Green novels and Hallmark cards, but I can’t help it.
We were a family.
The highlight of these college study abroad trips is supposed to be a destination or an excursion, paragliding in Switzerland or touring the Vatican in Rome. The highlight is supposed to be something unique to the place you went to, something you paid for, a brief opportunity in your life to do something unique or daring or adventurous. But as I look back on a summer in Europe, I realize that the highlight of this trip was so much more than a picture on a postcard. The highlight of this trip was family—the absurd, entertaining, and loving community that happened here amongst a bunch of strangers during eleven short weeks.
If my last post about Europe was about a destination, I’d be doing a disservice to this trip and what it’s really been about. This trip was about a new family, so this post is going to tell you about mine. I could assign a familial role to everybody on this trip and tell you what I love about them, but class starts tomorrow and I don’t have time. Here’s just a sampler of a few members of my Maastricht family— people who mean the world to me.
Patrick—the angsty younger brother
I don’t know what this trip would have been like without my best buddy Patty Ice on it, but I know it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or enlightening. Patrick is one of the most fun, genuine and hilarious people I’ve ever met, and rooming with him over here has been unreal. He’s pretty mediocre at doing the dishes, his hipster music hurts my eardrums, and his hip street-wear makes me feel self-conscious, but I love this dude and I wouldn’t trade traveling Europe with him for anything.
Caleb—the responsible older brother
Caleb was my closest friend coming into the trip, so I knew we’d have fun together. I didn’t, however, realize that we’d jump into canals and hike up mountains and float down rivers together. Caleb was more clutch than Michael Jordan on this trip. His responsible self kept me from getting on approximately 27 wrong trains. He also was always there with a verse or word of encouragement whenever I was feeling down.
Joy—the loud younger sister
Never, ever, in all my life, have I met anyone with a name that so perfectly describes their personality. Joy radiates joy, all the time and everywhere. It bounces off the Teikyo walls and echoes around wherever she is. But that’s not the only thing that echoed. Joy skipped the grade where everybody else learned what an inside voice was, so whether she’s on a table making an impromptu speech or winning a dance-off in a nightclub, you’re gonna hear this girl coming.
Lainey—that mom that nobody messes with
Lainey has this story she likes to tell about this neighborhood gang that she told off with a pocket knife at age 6. That story goes a long way in describing Lainey—she’s incredibly caring, she won’t stand for injustice, she’s the most loyal person you’ll ever meet, and she’s a teeny bit crazy. She’s also a double black belt, so don’t mess with her.
Caroline—the older sister you always want to be around
The routine became pretty scheduled near the end of our time in Maastricht. Ask Caroline if I can do homework in her room, and then sit at the center table together with our laptops accomplishing nothing school-related. Homework was code for excellent conversation, travel plans, and a few cups of mint tea. Caroline never wants the spotlight, but I’m gonna shine it on her for a second just because she deserves it—She radiates Jesus, joy, and compassion really, really well.
Allie—the crazy cousin
Allie is that cousin who you’re always excited to see during the holidays because their life is much more cool than yours is. At any given moment, Allie is doing one of five things—laughing, climbing trees, falling off her bike, or asking deep and really cool questions. She’s also a pioneer. Not only did she start our Maastricht Bible study, but she became, to my knowledge, the first Baylor in Maastricht student to get shocked by an electric fence while over here in Europe(note: if it’s making a buzzing sound, don’t touch it.)
Tim—crazy uncle #1
Tim is not your ordinary Baylor student—he’s about 45 years old and he has a gray beard. He fits the crazy uncle label to a T. Every component of the person is there: the rock ‘n roll obsession, the bizarre hobby(he’s studying the history of medieval monasteries), and the occasional comment that makes your parents blush. Tim showed me a lot on this trip about growing up, rock ‘n roll history, and how old churches and old people have a lot they can teach us about the way things are and the way things ought to be.
Connor—crazy uncle #2
Connor Hook is a living legend. Whether he is getting concussed in the Paris subway, offering literary critiques in class using his colorful, questionable vocabulary, or frequenting his favorite Maastricht café nightly, Connor goes for it. He’s a younger, slightly more turnt-up version of crazy uncle #1. Connor made Maastricht more enjoyable and a whole lot more ridiculous.
Hayley—the “chill” cousin
You know the chaos of the Thanksgiving meal at noon that makes you want to duck under the table like there’s a bombing raid going on above your heads? Hayley is that chill cousin you gravitate towards during those moments because she’s just. so. chill. But what does chill even mean? It means people are at home around you, feel heard by you, and want to be more like you. And that describes Hayley to a T. Except for that time at the nightclub in Prague when ABBA came on. That Hayley was less chill.
We couldn’t have asked for a better program director. Dr. Rust was there for us whenever we needed anything. He gave us a long leash but was firm when he needed to be. More than anything, Dr. Rust wanted us to have an incredible summer in Europe and did whatever it took to make that happen. His midterms might have been cruel, but I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a more caring, loving person who would literally do anything for any of us.
If there’s been one overarching narrative to this summer abroad, it’s been that who you’re with is way more important than where you are. My Maastricht family made my Maastricht trip incredible, and I can’t thank everybody on this trip enough for being so fun, welcoming, and loving during this summer abroad.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16