Happy Birthday, Erskine!

This Saturday, Erskine hosted its 175th birthday party. There were events such as ghost tours, a silent auction, a fire performance, the Erskine homecoming soccer game, and so much more. I wish I could write about everything that was going on that day, but unfortunately, I only did about half of the activities.

I began my day as an Erskine Student Ambassador. The Admissions Office hosted an event for prospective students and all of the Student Ambassadors were paired off and were put in charge of a tour group. My tour partner was my sophomore friend, Kasey.

My sweet friend Kasey

My sweet friend Kasey

We gave a tour to a group of 5 families and I felt so lucky to have Kasey be in charge. Since I’m a freshman, I’m still learning what I need to say on tours and how I need to say it. Kasey glossed over whatever I missed in an easy and informative manner. Basically, I’m saying that we rocked our tour.

After the tour, I headed to Erskinefest with my friend Grace. We were both starving, so we rushed to be one of the first people in line for lunch. At lunch, we met up with our friends John and Ives.

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John and Ives

After we finished eating, we went to pick up passports that had the schedule of events on one side, and fifteen different opportunities to get stamps on the other side. Erskine students with five stamps could get Convo credit for the day, and anybody with 5, 10, or 15 stamps could be a part of a drawing for a prize that would take place at the end of the day. I had the small job of giving out one of three special stamps during the early afternoon. My stamping improved so much by the end of the day.

Anyway, my first activities after lunch were to play corn hole and to jump on the bouncy castles. I wasn’t able to get Convo credit for the bouncy castle, but it was totally worth it.

We love bouncy castles!

We love bouncy castles!

After we left the bouncy castles, Grace, John, and Ives left to go do more activities while I spent time with my family. My parents and my older brother came to Erskinefest in the middle of the afternoon. We spent a little time at Subway, but then looked at the Archives in Reid Hall, climbed the towers in the Erskine Building, attended the Erskine men’s soccer game, and watched the parade of floats go down Main Street. Erskinefest was already a lot of fun, but it was even more fun to experience it with my family.

My wonderful parents and me in the Erskine Tower

My wonderful parents and me in the Erskine Tower

Finally, to conclude my day, I got to see a fire performance and then I danced with my friends to the music by The Fantastic Shakers. Let me just say that THE FIRE PERFORMANCE WAS SO COOL AND I WANTED TO CRY. IT WAS SO AWESOME. Seriously. My friends told me that when one performer was doing acts with a flaming hula hoop, my eyes were huge and my mouth was hung open the entire time. I totally believe them because IT WAS SO AWESOMELY AMAZING. Then one performer BREATHED FIRE. Ahhhh, I had been looking forward to that all day and that surpassed all of my expectations.

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FIRE-EATING

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FIRE-BREATHING

The music was really good too. Throughout the day, there were various bands and singers performing, including Erskine’s own Choraleers and Gospel Choir. In my opinion, the last band, The Fantastic Shakers, was the best. The musicians alternated between old, jazzy songs and more current, popular songs. It was a lot of fun to dance to, but I got so tired out!

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The Fantastic Shakers

Most birthday parties just have cake, a few friends, and gifts. This birthday party blew all other parties out of the window. Way to go, Erskine! I can’t wait until your 200th birthday!

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The sophomore float

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The inside of the Erskine Tower was covered in student signatures dating back to the early 1900s.

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2014 Erskine Homecoming lineup

Rock Climbing: An Unknown Wonder of Erskine College

For those of you who are opposed to attending Erskine because you’ll be bored out of your mind, let me just tell you something. There is always something to do here, as long as you have the motivation to find it. Now, if you have been dutifully reading my previous blogs, you know that I rarely have free time to do anything. One thing I do try to make time for every day is exercise, because I’m terrified of that freshman 15. Free, unlimited vanilla ice cream definitely threatens my resolution to weigh the same at the end of the year as I did when I started school. Thus, every day, Grace (see God’s Gift of Grace) and I drag (sometimes we literally drag) our friend Daria to a fitness room in the women’s dorm adjacent to ours, and we exercise for an hour. We use weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals, a funny looking ab doodad, dumbbells, and even some kind of foam yoga mat. We’re basically female versions of Chuck Norris.

Get on our level

Get on our level.

Back to the point, along with exercising with my friends, I also joined a rock climbing club here. Membership only cost $10, which was my main motivation to join. I’m definitely not super strong or flexible, but I can scale up some of the easier walls without too much trouble. Tonight, I actually conquered one of the routes that was one of my projects. I think I’m at a disadvantage because I’m super short and I can’t reach the rocks that other people with normal heights can reach. But I do have a friend who’s super amazing at climbing! Her name is Darby and I look up to her so much because she is so intensely amazing! She’s tiny, but she’s so strong and tough.  I secretly think of her whenever I need the motivation to not give up when I get tired or frustrated.

Darby likes to come down Spidey-style. :)

Darby likes to come down Spidey-style. :)

I have really enjoyed the rock climbing club because it has pushed me to make a bunch of friends that I probably wouldn’t normally even talk to. The leaders of the club were so inviting and encouraging, that I was ready to become a member regardless of whether I could actually make it up a wall or not. I have really loved getting to know them and I have also loved improving my climbing skills. I like to think that rock climbing is a practical, hands-on application of the muscles that I build when I work out in the exercise room. I can tell that I’m able to push myself a little bit more on the walls, each time that I go.

Here’s how this blog relates to you: whether you’re in high school, in college, or in whatever prime of life that you think you are, GET INVOLVED! Find things that you enjoy and make awesome memories by doing them! Don’t make the excuse that you never have time… because you might just be doing something that you hate or you’re just too lazy to start something. If the former is true, then you should just stop doing it. Obviously, you can’t skip out on important things like working or cleaning. But if you’re in a knitting club, but you hate knitting, then leave the club! Find something else that will make you happy. If the latter is true, then I feel bad for you. Because if you’re going to let your laziness get in the way of your happiness, then.. you’re just worthy of pity. Get off your potato-chip-covered couch, smooth out the 10-inch, potato-shaped indent, and cross something off your bucket list!

Want to see some pictures of my cool rock climbing pals?

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RUF Fall Conference: A Spiritual Shower

This past weekend, I went to the RUF Fall Conference at Camp Greystone in North Carolina. At first, I thought I would be overwhelmed with the awkwardness that comes from being a freshman surrounded by upperclassmen. However, I soon got over my discomfort as I bonded with students that I hadn’t known super well and I’m so thankful for that blessing! Don’t get me wrong. I still awkwardly shot a strawberry from my plate to the floor with my fork and I may or may not have called an RUF intern’s face fat, but at least no one rubbed honey or shaving cream all over my face while I was sleeping.

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My friends and I woke up early to watch the sunrise on the dock. Even though the sky was cloudy, the scenery was beautiful.

Let me just say that the sleeping arrangements and the food were amazing. For $55 (the prodigious Paul Patrick managed to raise donations to give scholarships to the Erskine students), I got to sleep in a semi-bug-free cabin with all of my friends, running hot water, a scarily loud toilet, and cool wooden bunk beds. Oh, and the food was delicious! There was fresh fruit, steaming plates of yummy dishes like grits, meat, bread, taco salad, etc. I thought the camp food would be nasty, but I’m pretty sure I gained three pounds this weekend.

Every morning and evening, there were sessions where all of the RUF groups from different schools would congregate and worship God together in an outdoor pavilion. That was my absolute favorite part of the trip. There’s something magical about being outside and singing praises to God with a body of believers that gives me more joy than anything I’ve ever experienced.

Saturday's evening session as we stood united in worship.

Saturday’s evening session as we stood united in worship.

The speaker at the sessions was the previous campus minister at Western Carolina, Dave Osborne. I really enjoyed his style of teaching because he would save his main point of the lesson until the end and I would never expect the point to be what it was. He focused on the book of Mark and the four things that we can’t exist without: the Father’s voice, knowing our place in the world, understanding the progress of waiting, and being beautiful only through Jesus.

I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about his lessons, but I will share the biggest lesson I got from his teaching:

I need to be thankful for my circumstances and situations, because God has put me exactly where He wants me. Lately I’ve been griping to my friends about how obnoxious people are or how much work I have to do or how annoying it is when people take my clothes out of the dryer without my permission. This weekend, I realized that I had lost focus on what really matters. Instead of making my life about furthering God’s kingdom, my heart was set on expanding my kingdom. I just want to say that my kingdom is a miserable, dark place and the deeper I go, the more miserable and dark I become. When we turn to God, He gives us a refreshing light to cling on to in a dark tunnel. We don’t get happiness from God because He takes away our trouble. God gives us joy by giving us something to depend on and hope in as we deal with every day’s struggles.

I absolutely love singing hymns because their words are so powerful and the melodies are so beautiful. This morning, we sang one of my all time favorite songs, “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder.” The third verse literally made my heart feel like it was being filled to the brim with joy.

Let us sing though fierce temptation

Threatens hard to bear us down

For the Lord, our strong salvation,

Holds in view the conqueror’s crown

He, Who washed us with His blood,

He, Who washed us with His blood,

He, Who washed us with His blood,

Soon will bring us home to God 

Praising God despite all of the temptation and the guilt and the hopelessness that stem from temptation… That’s so powerful. I think that if I walked through life, always keeping “the conqueror’s crown” in mind, I would always be so joyful and I would be so much better at “pressing on toward the goal… for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). That’s honestly something I desire more than anything else in life and I’m so thankful that God used the RUF Fall Conference to wash away my distractions and to refocus me back on Him.

Erskine RUF takes Camp Greystone

Erskine takes Camp Greystone

Van Taylor ’75 talks about his decision to stay at Erskine

VanTaylorSoccerStadium-2Many Erskine alumni share the same story: they aren’t sure whether Erskine is the right fit for them … until they experience it for themselves.

Erskine alumnus Van Taylor ’75 has coached soccer at Lander University for 30 years after a career in pro soccer. In an interview with a local paper, he recounts his first encounter with Erskine College:

Taylor was, at first, signed to play for Davis & Elkins, in West Virginia. But while on a soccer tour in Germany, Taylor found out Davis & Elkins’ then-coach left. So, Taylor’s father — who had been in touch with then-Erskine coach Darrell Saunders — visited Erskine for Taylor.

The father liked it. The son? He had no clue, but that’s where it was decided he would try.

“My dad said, ‘Oh, you’ll love it,'” Taylor recalled.

Taylor, who earned All-American honors at West Essex (New Jersey) High School — the same school one-time USA men’s soccer coach Bob Bradley later attended — was not as excited about Erskine.

Taylor remembers calling home and saying, “Dad, I’m not staying.”

“There’s no way,” Taylor added. “I grew up outside New York City and New Jersey. No way I was going to stay there for four years.”

But Taylor’s father suggested he at least give it one semester.

Taylor decided to not only stay at Erskine, but also flourish there. He graduated from Erskine in 1975.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” said Taylor, an Erskine Hall of Fame member. “Not only did I get my degree here, but I got a great education. I met my wife (Beth, Greenwood District 50 director of secondary education) here. So, [Erskine] is a special place to me.”

Longtime Bearcats coach Taylor honored by stadium dedicationl.

via Index-Journal.

Confessions of a Former Erskine Hater

Here’s a little secret about me: I used to hate Erskine and I would have rather licked a hobo’s foot than attend the college. AHHHHH. TRUTH BUBBLE. But there it is. I can never un-confess it. Before I get attacked for posting this on the Erskine student blog, let me try to explain myself. I’m guessing that a few questions are coming to mind. How could I ever hate Erskine? Why am I now at Erskine? Do I ever regret going to Erskine?

  1. Why did I hate Erskine? It all began 7 years ago when I first moved to South Carolina. Since I was a bratty 10 year old, I made up my mind to hate everything in South Carolina because it was never going to be my home. Over time, my intention to hate everything weakened as I met awesome friends, went to an awesome school, attended an awesome church, and had many awesome experiences. Although I started to enjoy everything around me, I never stopped disliking Erskine. I distanced myself so that I didn’t have to learn anything about the college. I didn’t want anything to do with Erskine because that’s where my dad works and I could never go somewhere where my dad works. That’s too close. That’s too dependent. I used to want to go to a college where I was completely on my own and where I completely left my friends and family for a new life. I wanted to go to a school that people would recognize whenever I told them about my life. Thus, Erskine was out of the picture of my life. Or so I thought…
  1. What could have happened to change my mind? Honestly, I can only say that God changed my mind, just as he changed my heart. I used to want to go to a different Christian college. That college had been my dream school for years; but as I visited people and classes there, I began to realize that I didn’t enjoy being there. For the sake of being polite, I won’t name the college, but I do want to say that it is a great college and I’m not trying to bash it. It just wasn’t the college for me. While I was still considering that college, I decided to apply to Erskine as a backup, in case I wasn’t able to go to any other college ever. Once I was accepted at Erskine, I decided to apply for the Presidential Scholarship. The fall of my senior year really opened my heart to choosing Erskine. My experience at the Semi-Finals helped me to envision spending four years of my life at Erskine and growing both mentally and spiritually there. I enrolled at Erskine in December and I got a free Ipad because I enrolled so early.
  1. My Erskine acceptance letter

    My Erskine acceptance letter

  1. This change of heart seems sudden, so now that I’m at Erskine, do I regret my decision? Has Erskine let me down? I’m gonna be honest: it really hasn’t. Sure, there have been times when I’ve been discouraged, stressed, lonely, etc. But those times are bound to happen at any school and there are so many good things about Erskine that outweigh the good. Studying is definitely not my favorite thing to do on Friday nights, but some of my favorite memories so far have been the times that my friends and I have goofed off while studying together. Also, I have absolutely loved living only thirty minutes away. This past weekend I was able to attend my high school’s homecoming football game and catch up with some old friends. I think that Erskine is a good place for me, because I can be as far away from my old life as I want. If I don’t want to see my parents on weekends, I totally don’t have to! But if I ever feel like eating a home-cooked meal and bumming some gas money off my ever-gracious daddy, then home is only a short drive away! I thought that I would avoid my daddy like the plague once I moved to Erskine, but I’ve visited his office at 11:00 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning (I’m such a daddy’s girl).

My main point is just this: if you’re reading this while trying to pick a college, don’t rule out the one that’s right under your nose until you’ve visited and experienced the culture and environment. Don’t judge a college just by hearing about it from a friend. You may miss out on a college that is absolutely perfect for you. It may be Erskine; it may not be Erskine. All I know is that I got a pretty sweet deal by coming here and I can’t believe that I fought against it for such a long time.

College: More Than Just School, Sleep, and Socializing

People have told me that there are three main elements of college: school, sleep, and a social life; I can only have 2/3. When I first heard that, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Depressing, yes, but I thought it was such a profound statement. I used to run through different combinations in my head. Maybe I’ll have school and a social life, but no sleep. Or maybe I’ll have school and sleep, but no social life. I didn’t know what to expect, so I couldn’t wait to find out what my life would be like at college.

I’ve been in school for 2 1/2 weeks and I’m gonna go ahead and tell it like it is. The only element of the three that I have is school, and I barely have school. Next week is the week of tests for 2 out of my 4 classes, so this weekend is going to be one giant cram session of information. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about my schoolwork. I’m one of the rare kids who actually finds pleasure in doing homework, but I also find joy in getting to bed earlier than 2 and being able to spend quality time with my friends.

So where did those two elements go? I mean, obviously I haven’t only done school all this time, so what’s a good picture of my sleep schedule and social life?

Sleep: HA. Where do I begin? Every night, I go with my friends, Grace and Daria, to the Watkins Student Center and study. We always go straight back to our dorm once we’ve finished our work, so there’s absolutely no dawdling (other than the occasional shove into a tree)! I have only gone to bed before midnight twice since school started. Then I eventually fall asleep, only to wake up at 7 the next morning. Now this may not sound too bad, and I’m definitely blessed to be able to sleep this much. However, I get really grumpy and irritable when I get tired (my family can attest), and averaging 4-5 hours of sleep every night instead of the usual 7-9 hours that I used to get makes me pretty darn tired.

Social Life: Well, my idea of socializing is eating meals and studying with my friends. If I want time with my boyfriend, one of us makes the 30 minute drive to the other, and we study together. Honestly, I look at some of the students here and wonder they could possibly keep their grades up because they’re always goofing off together. Maybe I’m just jealous..  I should be thankful, though, because I get to go to church with friends and I get to be with people at RUF on Sundays! My life isn’t as pathetic as I make it seem.

I have been blessed with so many good things, even though my circumstances aren’t as ideal as I would like. God has really stretched my ability to love others, but He hasn’t given me more than I can handle. Yesterday I was really frustrated with a cocky guy in one of my classes and as hard I tried, I couldn’t force my heart to love him. I didn’t have a lot of homework to do that evening (surprisingly), so I was able to have some quiet time with God, which made a world of difference for my outlook on life. I read 1 Thessalonians 5, which talks about “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet,” (verse 8) and I was so convicted. I realized how distracted and selfish I have become because I’ve been so centered on myself instead of on God.

Thus, my conclusion is this: It doesn’t matter whether I have sleep, a social life, or even school. If my heart isn’t satisfied in God, then I have nothing.If God isn’t glorified in my actions, then my actions are worthless. If my insecurities and pride get in the way of my faith and love, then I need to die to myself and find life in God.

My new goal in college can be summed up by Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God’s Gift of Grace

It has been exactly two weeks since I left my home and entered a new life at Erskine. I haven’t quite gotten homesick yet, but there are a few things about my home that I didn’t start cherishing until I left. In fact, if someone asked me what the hardest thing about college has been so far, I wouldn’t say it’s been the workload or the classes or even the communal bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things have taken a while to adjust to, but they definitely haven’t been the hardest thing to get used to. The biggest trial that I have had to overcome is the loneliness that comes from not being surrounded by the close friendships that I had at home. I’m not gonna lie. It’s hard to go to a college where you don’t know anyone, even if it’s only 30 minutes away. It’s hard to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to meet people while feeling pressured to find your best friend in the crowd. It’s hard to hold onto the hope that you will make lifelong friends even though you’re not as outgoing as others around you. 

I got so lonely and frustrated during the first few days. I mean, obviously you can’t rush into a close friendship. Friendships grow over time. But I just wanted one good friend with whom I could laugh and talk and be myself around. I prayed to God for days to either send me a friend like that or to give me the strength to keep my head up and continue to hope in His plan. Thankfully, He answered both prayers! He sent me an awesome girl by the name of Grace.

Isn't she a cutie? ;)

Isn’t she a cutie? ;)

She’s funny, crazy, wise, and really in love with God. We hit it off as soon as we started talking! At first, we bonded over the shared qualities of our boyfriends, but we soon progressed to becoming really good friends in a matter of hours and we’ve been inseparable ever since. Well, not really.. We aren’t always together. However, we try to eat meals together; we share two classes together; we even study together in the evenings!

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“Studying” = Sleeping and sad selfies

I’m so thankful for her. Her sweet spirit always warms my heart, plus she’s really fun to pick on! For example, we have this game at the cafeteria where we try to steal each other’s plate and take them to conveyor belt for the dirty dishes. I normally win, but I have a slight advantage, being a ninja and all. 

So in conclusion, I’ve been so blessed by God in several aspects of my life. However, the biggest blessing that He’s recently given me is the gift of Grace as a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing friend. I’m so excited to seeing what the future holds for us and our friendship. She might even convince me to give horseback riding a try!