Grab a cup of tea and get comfortable – because this is lengthy ! During my last year of university (or college as my American friends would say), I was stressed. It was crunch time, the fourth quarter. I experienced breakdowns, a broken MacBook, essays, exams in addition to being the Maid of Honour for my friend’s wedding. I was mourning the loss of my friend who was getting married and in the midst of chaos I was lonely. One day, at a bus stop near home, I struck conversation with a lovely tall woman. We were both en – route to school. She had a final exam, I believe I had one too. Lucia was her name and she was from Rio, Brazil on exchange in Canada. I started sharing my love of Latin American culture, and asking about Samba, the movie Rio and other items. Lucia eventually got off the stop, but I never asked for her contact info ! I don’t know why I was hesitant. I didn’t think about it too much but I proceeded to carry on with life.
A couple of weeks passed and I was arranging some matters for my friend’s wedding. After running these errands, I began my journey home. After I got off the subway platform, in the distance, I saw Lucia ! I immediately approached her and made sure to get her contact info. After adding each other on Facebook and realizing that we’re both Christians,we made plans to hang out. A love fest ensued. We laughed hours upon end and we learned that we shared many things in common. I showed her Toronto fixtures and took her to my school’s graduating gala. It was a friendship ordained by God. The sad part of the story is that I met Lucia a couple of weeks before her exchange program ended in Canada. The time came for Lucia to go back to Brazil. To this day, I don’t know why I met Lucia so late in the school year. This is coupled with the fact that Lucia lived minutes away from my home for the duration of her four month exchange program. Now Lucia is in France pursuing her Masters in Linguistics at Paris – Sorbonne University (the late Jackie Kennedy did an exchange program there). Lucia is a beautiful single and I reached out to her to share tips for those bitten by the “travel bug”.
Habiba Abudu (HA) : How did you come to the Lord ?
Lucia Claro (LC) : I grew up Catholic and God always had a role in my life even though I could not understand Him. I was always the religious person in my family. My grandmother was the the one who encouraged me to go to church and receive the first Holy Communion and Confirmation. My siblings, just like my parents, did not care much about going to church. My sister used to say that she was an atheist. However, my sister changed drastically when I was fifteen. Out of nowhere, my sister started going to a Protestant church with her boyfriend. My sister literally – ok, not literally, but you know what I mean – was born again. My sister started preaching to me which, I need to confess, was very awkward, since I was the religious one in the family. In a few weeks, my sister knew more about the Bible than I had in my entire life. My sister invited me to her church. I went to church since I wanted to know what had made my sister change so much. It did not take long to realize that it was the Almighty God who was working on her. This new church encouraged me to read the Bible, which the Catholic churches I attended did not do. I could not stop reading the Bible. Jesus became my best buddy, just like the main characters in my favorite books usually do. I realized that my friendship with Jesus would never end. My relationship with Jesus was the most realest and purest thing I could ever have.
HA : You never had a boyfriend, did you ever struggle with that ? What has helped in moments of weakness ?
LC : I have to admit that I struggled a lot with it. Nevertheless, I understand it is a season I consciously decided to go through. I don’t regret it, It was a choice I made when I was very young. Although I am mad at myself at times, I understand that I need it. God has taught me that it is better to wait then to rush and give my heart to someone who does not deserve me. That makes me strong when I feel bad about not having someone by my side, I know that I actually do. I’m not talking about friends who help a lot during tough times, but God, the one who promises to never leave me.
HA : You are in France pursuing your Masters ! Can you discuss how that came to be ?
LC : I cannot believe it is true, but, yes, I am in France. I’m going to tell you a love story. I started studying French one semester before starting college. In my first French class I completely fell in love with the language. At university, I studied English and English Literature and I loved English as well. However, there was something about French I couldn’t explain. Having this in mind, I dreamed about going to Canada since I figured I could improve both my English and French (English and French are the national languages of Canada). I went on an exchange program in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and I got the opportunity to take some advanced courses in French. Studying French in Canada opened many doors for me. When I came back to Brazil, I was trying to get a job as a English teacher at a language school but ended up being hired as a French teacher. At the time, the language school needed French teachers, so my knowledge of French came in handy ! I was also going through a period in my life in which I was asking God for direction so that I could know where He wanted me to go next. I asked Him specifically where in the world He would like me to pursue my Masters. I started getting many signs that I should go to France. Examples of signs included the job as a French teacher or the time a French teacher of mine told me and my classmates that France was a nice and cheap place to take our masters. All of that happened when I started to seek direction from God. God was answering me and it made me very happy and motivated. I started applying through Campus France to as many Masters programs as I could in France. I ended up being accepted at Sorbonne. I did not believe attending Sorbonne was possible because they required a high level of French. One thing I know for sure, God knows what He is doing. I will honor this opportunity He has given me.
HA : What has God shown you through travelling ?
LC : He showed me people. Really nice people I would have never met if I had not left my country. Through people, He showed me new ways of thinking, understanding, sharing, cooking and studying. In short, He showed me that there are many different ways to do the same basic thing. This amazed me.
HA : What advice would you give to those aspiring to travel ?
LC: Open yourself to new experiences. Judge as little as you can. Be humble to learn everything again. Once you know both sides of a coin, you learn to admire both of them and you are able to identify which side suits you better in each situation. Be open to learn, to sound stupid and to face challenges. Be careful, because you may get addicted to traveling !