I’m Katie Hamilton, I’m twenty years old and in my third year at Queen’s University where I (attempt to) study French and Spanish. It is compulsory for everyone who studies languages to spend their third year in abroad, and that’s why I am currently sitting in the 35 degree heat, in a park that has way too many birds for me to be okay with it and writing this blog. For anyone who knows me, knows that I like being around people, I like company, I’m not independent and I don’t like making decisions. So when I found out I was placed in Murcia, a ‘small city’ (with only half a million less people than our whole country, I’m still reluctant to call it small) that not many people have heard of in Spain, I was terrified. I was going completely alone, after only studying Spanish for two years and to a place that not only people had seemed to have forgotten, but God too. But God has got me this far, I’m in Spain and not completely hating it, and I’m honestly amazed at that alone. Spain has a very different culture to what I'm used to and it’s taking some time to get used to. Everything in Spain runs so slowly; shops close at 2pm usually, everyone has a siesta in the afternoon and I was meant to start work a week ago but because it takes so long to acquire and sign all the needed paperwork, I haven’t been able to and although that seems very stressful to me, it’s not an issue here. Murcia itself is again different to Spain in general, the accent and dialect here is the most difficult to understand in the country, even for native Spanish speakers, never mind me only having two years of Spanish and since coming here I have realised how basic that is. Murcia also does not seem to have church, even with Spain being a country deeply rooted in it’s catholic origins, it is mainly secular nowadays. I have met so many people this past week and a half, yet not one other Christian, which is daunting but also shows that while we might not want to be where God has placed us, God needs us there and He will sustain us. With meeting so many people has been both good and bad, I love that there are so many students here due to Murcia being a university city, and it has allowed me to meet people from all over the world and I seem to have little friendship groups which is such a blessing, yet I don’t have any close friends yet who I can go to when this small city in Spain gets lonely. I’m part of a group of Irish people, the nationality I have just accepted here as no one understands the different between the two countries and when I say I’m British, I only get asked about Brexit and i know nothing about politics so that doesn’t usually end in a good conversation.
I have also found a group of Americans who I’ve become part of, two of whom come from Seattle just like Grey’s Anatomy(the best TV show ever to be made), and if this wasn’t comforting enough for me, God decided to go that little bit further; for anyone who knows me and probably even if you don’t, you will know that I go to Spruce Hill camp in Philadelphia every year and it is by far my favourite place in the world with some of my favourite people in the world , it’s where I have grown the most in my faith and God decided to use the simple feeling of comfort and home that I feel in there to remind me that I’m not alone here either. One of the girls told me she was from near Philadelphia, to which I became overly excited, telling her about my love for Spruce Hill and the city, after this we got talking, bonded over our love for Wawa, particularly it’s mac and cheese and I found out she lives actually New Jersey, but works etc in Philly.
The last three years I have stayed with host families at the weekends in NJ, for two years in Cherry Hill and then this year in Palmyra, and not only does she live one block over in Palmyra from my host family but she moved there last year from Cherry Hill. This simple coincidence, that is in no way a coincidence but the hand of God made me feel so comforted just by the reminder of what those places are to me. It’s hard being here, without a church, without Christian friends but I still have God and He reminding me of that daily, while I might not see God in the most obvious ways here, He is in the details, Murcia isn’t always the picturesque city that you imagine Spain to be, but little glimpses of beauty show through in unexpected places, just in the way God has been doing for me.
“Him and His love is evident through our broken and sinful world, as much as we have failed Him, His beauty still shines through.”