Now there was one huge advantage that I took while I was single - I had the time and the energy to concentrate on what I was doing with my studies! I loved my occupational therapy course, I was discovering new stuff everyday, I was being given new opportunities. One of these was to go to Ghent in Belgium for 4 months at the beginning of my second year. There was just a handful of us that went on an exchange. The first 4 weeks were spent learning Flemish (a mixture of french/dutch and german!) and familiarising ourselves with local customs, ie. beer and frites met mayo.
This was my first excursion in life as a Christian without any Christian friends around me - now that was a bit daunting. I took myself off to the local Anglican church which had a bar in the hall - now that was new! It was very traditional but the folks were nice, one older lady in particular took me home for a meal and out one weekend to see her 'country retreat'. She also lent me a portable TV. After the first couple of weeks with lots of socialising with the others and spending far too much money, and drinking far to much, a tv gave me a good excuse to stay home by myself. I also made friends with one of the Belgium Occupational Therapy (OT) students who lived in the same building as me, we got on well and I went home with her one weekend, and got to experience some lovely family life and a Flemish Catholic service. I did get lonely and home sick but never regretted going. My parents came out to see me for a weekend as well, which was the first time ever that we had spent time together just the three of us.
After 'mastering' some language basics we went into the OT college for a couple of weeks, before being sent out on a work placement. I was very fortunate to get a placement literally 5 minutes walk from my flat with children who had speech and communication problems along with learning difficulties. The amazing thing about this was that their language was at about the same level as my Flemish (or even less!) so communicating with them was fine - it was a little more of a challenge with my supervisors (though they spoke brilliant English).
My desire to be with children which I had had from as young as I can remember was totally rekindled. I had already started to get involved with the children's work at my church in West London and when I returned my involvement increased.
I also returned with a new found confidence and independence, I think I was moving in my spiritual walk towards teenagedom! Thankfully my teenage spirtual walk was far easier and painfree than my original teenage years.