Far from home, close to God

By  Carine Lee, Youth Speak News
  • February 4, 2008

Coming from a society where we live with our parents till the day we wed, I never had to worry about paying the bills or making sure that the pantry was well-stocked. Those were the concerns of “grown-ups” while all I had to do was pay attention in school and stay out of trouble. For 19 years, I lived in an environment where “things just got done” for me. However, two years ago, I left Singapore to further my education at Simon Fraser University. This is where the real adventure in life began.

Fixing the first light bulb and paying off the first bill were like transitions into the world of “grown-ups.” I was excited about what lay ahead, like a child who just got promoted from writing in pencil to using a pen. Suddenly, I was as much a grown-up as I was a child. On top of juggling the demands of school there is a house to keep up, cooking and cleaning to be done. It was time to grow up and relocating to Canada expedited the process.

With my parents thousands of kilometres away, the comfort of home I took for granted was over. I had to make new friends and seek new avenues of security.

I found it extremely difficult to make friends with the people at university. Despite the multicultural student population of Simon Fraser, I found it hard to fit in. Most of the people knew each other from high school, while I was the alien who had suddenly entered their sphere. I began having doubts about myself. What was wrong with me? Did people not like me? Why did they not like me?

In the face of alienation, I remembered Jesus’ promise, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you” (Hebrew 13:5). I began holding conversations with Him throughout the day, sharing with Him the experiences of school and complaining to Him about having to mow the grass or shovel the driveway. I started building a prayer life and found myself growing closer to my friend, Jesus.

I began spending time in the adoration chapel of my parish and reading Scripture. I stopped doubting the person God has made me and focused on what He wants to do with me. Although far from home, Jesus opened my eyes to the blessing that is the universal home of God.

“The church, in her maternal concern, looks at (international students) with affection and tries to put specific pastoral and social interventions into action that will take the great resources of their youth into consideration,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. I receive this as a personal assurance that no matter where I am in this world, I will always feel at home where the church is.

I found a community of Catholics at the Catholic Society on campus and met regularly with the chaplain for counsel and confession. It was not only time for me to grow up and become independent, but also to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Moving away is a scary experience, but it is also a thrilling ride as I find myself and figure out what’s important in life. With my gaze fixed on Jesus and a healthy combination of prayer, spiritual direction and Catholic community, moving has been an uplifting and fruitful adventure.

(Lee, 21, studies communications at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.)

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