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I made it! After a seven hour flight, seven hour time difference, two hour bus ride, and less than two hours of sleep, I am finally at the castle in Holland!

I am blown away by the countryside here—the canals, the beautiful green grass that goes on for miles, the houses that look like they’ve popped out of a story book—it’s amazing. Even the cows have a certain glow about them that distinguish them from the cows that live across the street from me at home. Never have I seen such picturesque views, and the people are every bit as nice as I was told they’d be.

I must admit, however, that I am having extreme homesickness. Whenever we have down time I only think about how much I miss my family and how much I want to be home. It takes everything I have, even as I write this now, to keep myself from breaking down into sobs. I know this is normal and something that will ease with time, but it’s just so difficult for me right now. My mom told me that if the only problem I had was that I missed home, then I didn’t really have any problems at all. I know this is true, but right now I feel like I won’t ever get over it. It’s the dramatic 19-year-old in me.

One of the big talks I had with my parents before I left was about “leaving home.” Everyone asked what it felt like for me to leave and how my parents were feeling. I actually got a bit upset because I don’t feel that I’ve left home at all. I’m coming back in three months. When I think of leaving home I think of moving off to some faraway land and never returning—something I would never be capable of doing. I’m just exploring right now and know that home is there for me when I come back. I was also worried that I might change too much while I’m abroad. Mom said it wasn’t so much changing as it was “blossoming.” “Everything is already in you,” she said. “Now you’re just letting it grow.”

I am on a huge adventure. I’m scared to death, miss home in a way that is almost unbearable, and sometimes wonder what I was thinking. Despite it all, this is how people grow. We have to do things that scare us. We have to go out on the limbs that might stretch a little further from the house. This is how we discover how much courage we have, how brave we are, and just how much appreciation we have for the word “home” and everything that comes with it.

I know my family and my home will always be there. I know I’ll come home at Christmas time and the three months I was gone will have seemed like no time at all. That’s the beauty of family, of home—it’s always there, waiting for you to return, as if you had never left.