crossing the Pond

I am officially in St Andrews, Scotland.  I have known about this trip for about a year, and I have been so excited to plan it, but it never truly became real until I was hugging my mom and dad goodbye at the airport.  It was so difficult to not start crying as I passed through security (and got randomly selected to undergo extra screening…guess I can’t complain that they were profiling)!  Everything went smoothly, though, and my first flight–to JFK–was only half-full so most of us spread out and had an empty seat next to us.  My layover in New York was 5 hours, with no free internet, so I spent the time reading, eating dinner, and walking around the terminal.  Everyone was so amiable!  Whoever says that New Yorkers are not friendly or nice has obviously never been to JFK.

I was able to watch the sun set over the water as we neared NYC. it was breathtaking!

I was able to watch the sun set over the water as we neared NYC. it was breathtaking!

the outskirts of the city covered in snow and bathed with the light of the setting sun

the outskirts of the city covered in snow and bathed with the light of the setting sun

My second flight, to Amsterdam, left around 11PM and they served us a snack, dinner, AND breakfast.  For about a 6-hour transatlantic flight, it was a lot of food and it was quite good, too.  Eating pasta at 12:30AM while flying up over Canada and across the Atlantic is a pretty unique experience.  I watched Brave while eating dinner: I figured it was an appropriate choice for heading to Scotland and it’s also something I really wanted to see. It was fantastic!  Unfortunately, I only managed to sleep off and on for about 3 hours of the flight.  However, I did have an entire row of 3 seats to myself, so I was able to stretch my legs out.  It’s the little things!

my dinner on the flight to Amsterdam. it was so good!

my dinner on the flight to Amsterdam. it was so good!

Everyone in the Amsterdam airport was quite kind, which was good because I had a 4-hour layover there.  My last flight was only about an hour long and then I arrived in Edinburgh and made it through Customs easily.  I saw so many smiling faces in all 3 airports!  Coming from the friendliest city in America (Charleston), it is heartwarming to know that there are countless kindhearted souls all over the place. When I found my checked bag at baggage claim, I discovered that somewhere along the way one of the wheels had been broken off.  Bad luck!  I had to drag around a 47-pound suitcase with only one wheel, which was not the easiest thing in the world.  I easily met the other students that I would be sharing a shuttle with and we waited less than an hour for the shuttle to arrive.  The driver was very friendly–imagine that!

It got dark as we drove but I was still amazed to be driving around in a different country–and on the wrong side of the road!   I cannot tell you how many times my heart leaped as we rounded a corner and I saw headlights coming at us on the right: I was so sure we were going to be hit!   We passed over a beautiful old bridge, through several quaint towns, and saw lots of snow.  (NYC, Amsterdam, and Scotland were all covered in snow!)  I was so tired by this point that I dozed off several times, but woke up literally as we passed the Welcome to St Andrews sign a bit before 18:00.  A few minutes later and we pulled up at Melville, my new home.   We received a very warm welcome from some of the wardennial team (Warden = RD for you Americans) and I made it my room.

As you can probably tell, I had a very busy first couple of days…and that wasn’t even the whole of it! My night did not end until probably close to midnight, but I will write about that next time as it is currently after midnight and I have my first class in the morning.  Thank you to all who sent prayers and well-wishes my way.  I definitely felt them in my travels, and they are still working now.  Cheers!

Me, My Camera, and a Volleyball

Everyone wants something to rally behind. A team they can cheer for, a cause they can support, a movement that’s bigger than themselves on their own. And I’m no different. Sure we have sports teams and groups on campus, but so far, nothing had really stuck with me. Enter men’s volleyball. New on campus this year, all the players are freshmen or transfer students, which means they could either fail miserably at adjusting to life in Due West, or they could take a nod from the Thrive initiative and, well, thrive. And thrive they have! Bonded yet not exclusive, the team seems to be making its home here at Erskine. The team came back from their fourth game on Tuesday with yet another win, and is scheduled to play – get this – Harvard later this season!

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I’ve been to half of their games so far, the most recent being their Tuesday win over Emanuel in Georgia. Three friends and I drove down to watch them bring the fleet heat to the Lions, and I got to test out my new camera! It’s a Cannon Rebel DSLR… and I think I geeked out… just a little. Anyways, here’s to the Flying Fleet! I think my camera and I have found something we can rally behind.

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home sweet home!

I have a home! Well, I actually have multiple homes; to be more specific, I have a home in Scotland! As of last Monday I was still emailing back and forth with the St. Andrews office of accommodations and had not received another offer. My mom and I decided it would be a good idea for me to call the office directly and speak to someone about it, so I [eventually] figured out how to successfully make an international call to Scotland with our calling card. I talked to a wonderfully kind woman named Mary, the same woman I have emailed back and forth with over the past month. After introducing myself and explaining my situation, she remembered me and seemed surprised to find out that I had not received another offer. Mary assured me that they would send me an offer within the next couple of days and told me to keep checking my student portal.
When I woke up Tuesday morning, I checked my portal and found an offer! (Mom said she knew right away because she heard me running downstairs.) My home at St. Andrews will be in Andrew Melville Hall, a co-ed hall of single rooms that houses about 230 students from freshers to 4th years (all of the accommodations at St. Andrews are co-ed). Also exciting to me: the hall is only about a mile from where my classes will be, I will get 19 meals/week, and it is the least expensive housing option on campus! I know of at least a half-dozen other JSA [Junior Study Abroad] students who will be living here as well.

Andrew Melville Hall- my home for Spring 2013!(photo by Corey Faniel)

Andrew Melville Hall- my home for Spring 2013!
(photo by Corey Faniel)

I accepted the offer almost immediately and joined the Facebook group for Melville. I adore these people already! Everyone has been very welcoming, helpful, friendly, and funny! Through the group, I met a student from France, Joanna, who will be flying into Edinburgh at about the same time as I am. She offered to share a taxi to St. Andrews and then go get dinner with me when we arrive. She has given me a lot of helpful information about the hall and the school.
I am very grateful to those who joined me in praying about this situation, and I am so thankful that God answered our prayers in this way! I have a bad habit of overthinking and over-worrying about everything, and it truly is a relief that everything is falling into place this way. So much stress and worry has been replaced by genuine excitement! Moments like this help teach me that God truly is in control and remind me to put my faith and trust in Him. He’s got my back, praise the Lord!

Cold Weather, Warm Conversation

As the temperature drops and the new semester starts for many college
students, Erskine begins what its students affectionately call “J-term.”
This one-month semester in January offers students the opportunity to take
one class that they might not otherwise have time or desire to take at a
much slower pace than during the normal semester. Instead of taking a
class, for my sophomore year I am externing with Erskine’s communications
department.

Today, instead of browsing college pamphlets and literature to learn about
publication style, voice, and design, I had the chance to sit down with
Mrs. Joyce Guyette, the Associate Director of Written Communications at
the home of the Flying Fleet. Mrs. Guyette writes for the campus alumni
publication Inside Erskine,and proofreads some of Erskine's other
literature.

After earning her English major, Mrs. Guyette attended graduate school and
completed her coursework after her first child was born. From her
description of her various editing and proofreading positions throughout
her life, a common theme has risen from Mrs. Guyette’s timeline of jobs.
Instead of a strategic career track or plan to climb the ladder of
English-related jobs, Mrs. Guyette seems to have been found by her editing
positions. She displays a great faith in the Lord, staying true to what
she enjoys, and trusting Him to provide. Moving around from places like
Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina, the Guyettes currently find
themselves in the Palmetto state, with Mrs. Guyette enjoying using her
English major to write and proof for Erskine College.

In addition to talking about what has led up to her position at Erskine,
Mrs. Guyette also shared a bit about the writing process with me. One of
my favorite anecdotes she shared was about her uncle, who served as senior
editor and senior writer at Sports Illustrated some years ago. He told his
brother, Mrs. Guyette's father, that he hears the rhythm of the writing in
his head. I found it particularly interesting to learn about how her jobs
differed in respect to work environments, group work versus individual
assignments, and her transition from thinking on paper and working with a
typewriter in college to completing the whole writing process on the
computer.

It was encouraging to learn that she was able to use her English major in
many ways that she loved. While I’ve heard many times about the benefit of
teaching after receiving an English major, it was inspiring to hear about
the many other prospects available for English majors. Also, in the
climate of pressured career preparation and long-term planning fostered in
college, it was relieving to hear a success story of someone who followed
what she loved, pursued education in what she enjoyed, and let the Lord
lead her to thoroughly enjoyable job opportunities.

After sharing her story with me, Mrs. Guyette offered some advice
regarding my college education. I am currently a double major in English
and Art, but have been on the fence as far as the English side goes for
the past semester. However, Mrs. Guyette encouraged me to take time during
the slower January term to stop, think, and pray about what direction to
go, and what to major and minor in.

I loved talking with Mrs. Joyce Guyette about her experiences in the
English world; her love of writing and editing seems to be contagious, as
I find myself reconsidering the English track at Erskine more deeply than
before our conversation. She has a wealth of information, and it was
wonderful to have a conversation with her.

studying abroad: the application process

The application process for study abroad started last fall for me, when I decided for sure that I wanted to spend a semester at St. Andrews. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a Spanish double major and knew that I would have to study abroad for that–it has always been something that I looked forward to.  After my freshman year at Erskine, my favorite Spanish professor (Dr. Granados) took a yearlong sabbatical and I decided to double minor in family studies and Spanish instead.  However, I still wanted to go abroad and decided that St. Andrews would be a great place to go.  The University is currently celebrating its 600th anniversary–what better time to go and be a part of its history?

To begin the process, I talked with Dr. Gorka (our study abroad coordinator) and started filling out Erskine’s application in early February.  I also asked two of my favorite professors–Dr. Elsner [psychology] and Dr. Evans [Bible & Religion]–to write my letters of recommendation.  I submitted my completed study abroad application and student agreement in late February and heard back in mid-March from Dr. Christie that Erskine’s committee had accepted me.

Dr. Elsner also wrote my letter of recommendation for my St. Andrews application, and the Academic Office helped me send an official transcript.  I submitted that application on October 9 (the deadline for Spring applicants is October 31) and received my offer of acceptance on October 18.  If I remember correctly, I squealed and started dancing around my dorm room in my pajamas when I read the email and there may have been a few tears.  I am not ashamed.

I accepted my offer almost immediately and submitted my accommodations application that same week.  Coincidentally, I received an email from Delta around that time advertising a sale on airfare to Europe.  Within a week, I booked my flights for an amazing price.  I applied for and received my passport in August, so I did not have to worry about taking care of that while I was at school.

Since then I have been spending a lot of time looking through the course offerings at St. Andrews.  The British system of credits and classes is quite different from the American and several times I have found myself Google searching phrases or words to figure out what they mean.  There are several “honours-level” psychology classes, unlike any we offer at Erskine, which I am interested in taking.  Alternatively, I found an introductory level Divinity class, a Social Anthropology class, and a Scottish Music class, all of which look quite interesting if I need another course.

I have also set up my St. Andrews email account, which they do through Gmail. It’s a great set-up!  The University also has a webpage with a list of steps to be completed by applicants and another for incoming students, both of which I have found to be quite helpful. (If you are interested, here is the link: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/studyabroad/incomingstudents/internationalstudyabroadprogramme/.  The offer & entrant information link is on the left side.)

Moving through this process, I have realized that there are so many details to consider and take care of.  Fortunately, both Erskine and St. Andrews staff have been extremely helpful the entire time.  I have talked to Erskine’s financial aid and business offices several times each, and I always come away with all of my questions answered thoroughly and offers to help more should I need it.  I have had the same experience with St. Andrews: every person I have emailed has responded in a friendly and timely manner and I always find the answers I am looking for.

Today is the first day of January term classes at Erskine.  Although I am homesick for my college home and family, I realized this morning that I leave 2 weeks from tomorrow.  The closer my trip gets, the more excited I am!  I cannot wait to begin this exciting journey.

[Update: I do not have my housing situation resolved yet, but  I hope to hear from St. Andrews this week.]