As I mentioned before I left, I spent my half term week in Lourdes in the South of France with a group of ten students from a school.
It was my third time in Lourdes, and although I adored the other two times I went, this time was definitely my favourite. Seeing the students I was leading grow and experience the place for the first time was absolutely priceless, and like I was the first time I ever went, I can see that they'll be changed for life.
For anyone unfamiliar with Lourdes, it's a small picturesque town that is always absolutely heaving with Catholic pilgrims. In 1858 a young girl called Bernadette experienced 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary who told her to dig underneath the ground she was standing on. Underneath the ground, Bernadette found a stream of water that still, to this day, people find a great amount of peace of healing in. There have been 57 recognised miracles since the stream was discovered.
I was brought up Catholic, went to a Catholic school, and spent a gap year volunteering at a Catholic Youth Retreat Centre so the story of Lourdes and what it does to people is a total norm for me. Since going to uni I've made a lot of friends who aren't religious and they (understandably!) find the whole thing a bit crazy, as it's so hard to describe to people that haven't been.
Even if you aren't a person of faith, some of the things you see in Lourdes will change you and humble you forever - a lot of pilgrims that flock there know they will never get better, but the amount of strength they gain from the place and each other is incredible. Last time I went I helped in the Baths and a hospital, and met some truly inspirational people that are never without a smile on their face - it's amazing how much a humble and solid faith can bring to a person who, without that faith, might have almost nothing.
I feel so deflated to be home and it'll take a while to adjust to normality again, but I really did have an amazing week and it was incredible to be able to experience it through the eyes of the students (we all cried a lot) and to spend it with two of my best friends too! We laughed so much and some of the in-jokes that were created this week will live on forever (OOOH YEAAAHHHH/ Je M'appelle Bernadette/ Who wants a coffee??)
On the last day we all said a prayer in front of the Crown Mary statue in the hope that we'll be brought back there soon. I'd live there if I could.
I feel like life has been put into perspective after the most perfect half term I could ask for!!