“I don’t deserve any of this”. I said as tears ran down my face, my head on my mother’s shoulder at church on the last Sunday before I took off for Australia.

I couldn’t stop crying as I sat in the pew with nearly $1,000 in my hands, collected that day, from my church family to help with my trip.

Nothing I’ve done seems adequate enough to add up to all the opportunities I have. Not going to a wonderful college such as Skidmore for free. Not going to Australia with a check. Not the love offering from my church family. Not the amount of care and love I receive. It is all entirely beyond me. Love and gratitude poured out of my eyes for at least an hour that day.

My going to college and choosing to study abroad is not something I can take credit for. My family has done so much work and sacrificed a great deal for me to be able to be where I am. They have done the work that must be done before the leisure of college life. They raised me to be the type of human who has the desire to grab the baton and keep going. Their constant prayers keep me as much as their sacrifices set me up.

Such a grateful, appreciative, and capable young woman would surely keep a budget and retain advice akin to, “don’t spend all your money; don’t trust nobody”.

One might think a bright being like myself would obey. One would be wrong.

The start of my budget falling apart happened during my first days in Sydney – going out every night. I soon realized that although going out makes for a great instagram post, it’s an expensive happening for a broke girl like myself. After I retired from my party days upon arriving in Melbourne, budgeting wasn’t so bad. I was well on track – until I started trusting.

On a brisk walk one fine Melbourne day, I ran into a man who would put a large dent in what money I had. Funnily enough, one of the first things this man said to me was “you trust people too much”. You would think I’d take that as a sign. I didn’t, however. He told me of churches and schools that needed support. He showed me pictures of said churches and schools. I gave him what money he asked for, to send back to India. I figured though I might be getting played, I may also be helping some children who are in need. I’ve been as gullible as I am concerned for the state of our world. Let’s just say that after he’d taken full advantage of my trusting ways, I had only a little over half of the amount of money I came with. I am just as trusting as I was when I was conned, but after this trip – my trusting will be 100% more selective and will require a 3-5 business day thinking process.

((Don’t be like me on your study abroad trip. Save all your good deeds and charity giving for when you’re back home. Trust me. Stick to your budget!!))

I refused to ask for money from home (until my very last month), because the predictions about my inability to keep my money had become reality.

Nevertheless, the prayers I mentioned really do keep me. They say Australia is a Godless city. I have never experienced God’s presence more. Though I had less money to work with than I had planned, I have never been hungry. I have never been in lack. I have never missed a meal or an experience that I wanted to have.

God has been so faithful.

I have received money and love offerings from my church family in Melbourne. I have been given food randomly – I have been invited to food full events. I have been taken out for lunches and coffees. I was the runner up for the Community Engagement award which came with a monetary prize. I have this wonderful job as a blogger.

To tell you in detail how blessed I have been on my study abroad trip (with basic needs alone) would be to write you a novella. I don’t deserve any of it.

God’s grace and mercy has been shown to me time and again during my time in Australia. Grace is unmerited, unearned, undeserved love and kindness from God. I know exactly what that means. My entire study abroad experience has been light and love and God and His grace. From the moment of my choosing this place, to my being sent off with such kindness and love, to developing such a dependence and trust on and in Jesus throughout my time here.

I know that when they say having no expectations are the best expectations, they are right (whoever ‘they’ are). I came to Australia with no expectations and with goals to know myself better and to engage with people more. I have achieved each goal I set for myself. As a bonus, my faith has been sharpened and my trust has been more wisely shaped.

I don’t know what your goals or expectations are for your study abroad experience. All I know is that there will be nothing you can do to prepare for what’s to come. All I know to tell you is to jump, go for it wholeheartedly and wide open, and don’t give away your money to strangers in parks (no matter how many lives they claim you can better, including your own)!