Liberation and justice for all

You can’t expect a person to miss America when they’re left worn out, bitter, and ready for a change, especially when what they were about to experience was a life-altering semester of meeting new people, new cultures, and traveling as much of Europe as their bank account allowed. And miss home, I did not.

Leaving home has always been easy for me, and going back has always been hard. I don’t get homesick, and I don’t frequently miss people. I don’t get mad, and I am not easily offended, but if one thing rubs me the wrong way it’s this: narrow-minded, proud, arrogant, hypocrites. As an American, I got a lot of beef (figuratively, not literally-meat’s expensive overseas) for being an American. When asking northern Europeans what they think about Americans, the same answers kept coming up: loud, fat, and dumb. Some may argue that’s because they met this loud, curvy American in the wrong settings, but I would argue that they are fairly accurate.

I’m not going to sit here and lecture you all about how much better Europe is than America. If you want that, you can add me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, or visit my spectacular apartment with a great view of the soccer boys playing leap frog from time to time. Don’t get me wrong; I love the way I was raised and the community I am a part of, but there are some things I don’t love. Coming back from a semester abroad, my grandma told me that I had been “liberated.” At first, I was offended, but then I realized what a compliment it was. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, but here’s how I chose to take it. Being abroad liberated me from the sheltered, conservative clique I have been a part of for far too long, and allowed me the opportunity to gain life experiences most people only dream of; to exercise my freedom and practice my dignity in a safe environment, where making mistakes is a part of the learning process, and a reason for people to seek change, not comparisons and harsh judgments on others.

Being a foreigner in a country with liberal morals and lifestyles seemed like a fun experience to me, but I know to many—probably even some of you reading this—this experience sent me off the deep end, and I’m here to share with you the experiences I endured and lessons I learned that give me every reason to believe that if my “liberation” is reason to condemn my lifestyle, I’m ashamed to consider myself a member and a representative of this community. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made my fair share of poor decisions, but I will also be the first to admit that there is no point in time in my life that I was not where I was needed, doing what I needed, learning what I needed, and growing as a person and as a Christian. Had I stuck around in the same, sheltered community forever, I wouldn’t have learned half the things I learned overseas. While I thank the Reformed community for giving me the standards, support, and encouragement I have needed, they would mean nothing if I couldn’t have shaped them and shared them in the community and environment I was given last semester, those of which I will be sharing with you throughout this column.

Jennifer Van Der Hoek, Columnist


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