The Best Daddy in the Whole, Wide World!

Last week was one of the most difficult weeks of my entire life. A giant monster with sharp claws and a strong bite, formally known as the GRE, came down expectantly to attack me when I was least expecting it. The giant beast attacked from the right and the left throwing all sorts of touch math and vocabulary questions which I needed to overcome in order to save me life! Fortunately, I survived, although it was a rough 5 hour long battle which wore me out completely!

Taking the GRE was a CHALLENGING experience… I wrote an entire blog about it! (In case you wanted more details! 😛 )

This is the part of the story where my wonderful Daddy comes in. Knowing that I would have a hard time saying no to fun in Scotland to study, he told me that if I were to have absolutely no fun for a week before the GRE, and just study, he would take me and a few friends out to dinner. He tasked my roommate, Tiffany, with the task of ensuring that I was actually having no fun and reminding me to study for every possible second that I was awake. And Tiffany rose to the challenge! Every time I would start to talk on the phone, or text, or get comfortable in bed she would tell me that I looked like I was having too much fun and that I needed to get back to work, now!

The night before I took the GRE my daddy called me on Skype to wish me good luck and give me a few last tips before the test. After we chatted for a bit, he asked me if I had my suitcase nearby. And I think to myself, what on earth? What does my suitcase have to do with the price of tea in China??? I told him that it was on top of my wardrobe and pointed my camera at it. He asked me to get it down. I was really confused, and speculated that he had seen the mess all over my room while Skyping with me and wanted to remind me that I only have one suitcase to lug all of my stuff home…. But I got the suitcase!

But the inordinate amount of stuff lying all over my dorm room floor was not what my dad was trying to point out, at least not in that instance. He had me unzip the main compartment, unzip the inner lining, and look under the plastic on the side. And there, taped to the inside of my suitcase, was a one hundred-dollar bill! My dad had put it in there a week before I left for Scotland, as a surprise to remind me that he had been planning a surprise for me long in advance! He told me it was a present from him to reward me for all of my studying and to allow me to take a few friends out to dinner as a treat from him!

Naturally, I was quite excited! Can you imagine a daddy doing anything nicer for his daughter?? I quite happily scheduled a dinner date for Tiffany, Elisabeth, Naomi, and I because I love them, and I also REALLY APPRECIATED all of the hours they spent helping me to prepare for the big day!

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! :)

Tiffany and Naomi were excited for dinner, too! 🙂

And what a fantastic dinner we had! We all went to the grill house in town and ordered a delicious meals. Elisabeth and I ordered Mexican fajitas, which came out on hot plates still sizzling! (We knew they were coming before we could even see the waiter approaching…. Naomi announced, ~I hear your dinner coming!” and cracked us all up!) Naomi and Tiffany had delicious burgers and chips. And we all had a FANTASTIC TIME! This goes to show, I really do have the best daddy in the whole, wide world! ❤

We had such a FANTASTIC time!

We had such a FANTASTIC time!

 

More Than Meals

Hello Readers!

It occurred to me today that in my last semester I will most likely not be able to do one of my favorite things here at Erskine- eat dinner with my professor! It might sound weird, but it has meant a lot to me in my time here. Let me explain.

Over the course of my three years at Erskine, I have been invited out to dinner with or over to the home of many of the Erskine faculty for meals. It hasn’t been one particular person and has ranged from the President to the professors. It’s a good break from dining hall food (which is needed every now and again) as well as a time to get to know faculty and peers outside of the classroom.

More than any of that though, these experiences have really embodied something that I love about Erskine and one of it’s distinct charms to quote the common phrasing: “At Erskine, you are more than a number”.  

How many students at big universities have been over to eat at the home of their president? How many students know their professors’ children (even pets!) by name? How many professors would take the time and money to have a home cooked meal for their students? I do not have a lot of experience with other bigger colleges, and so I do not know the answer to these questions. The impression that I get however from the people that I know is that there is something very unique about a place like Erskine in the care and treatment that a student receives here.

I have eaten some good meals, sure, but the overall meaning of my Erskine experience has been more than meals. My professors have always been there outside of class to answer my questions and even to give advice in times of difficulty (both in and out of the realm of academics). I haven’t been treated like a number, rather I have been treated like a person. The flipside to that is that you cannot just skip class without getting the third degree, but nonetheless anonymity is no substitute for intimacy. Home cooked meals win every time.

God bless,

-BD

 

Past, Present, Future

Hello Readers!

My final fall break has marked a semi-definitive halfway mark for my final semester here at Erskine. It is an interesting thing to think about, and as I talk with freshmen in the midst of their first semester it’s hard to believe that three years has gone by so fast. All I can say is “Don’t blink. It only seems to go faster as the years go by”.

Yet, in the midst of that, I have been reminded today of something very important. Our convocation speaker was a graduate of the class of 1939, Erskine’s 100th year as an institution. As we approach our 175th year, I am reminded of the rich history of this place and all of the people who have walked these halls before me. It was apparent that a lot has changed in the past 75 years, but that much has stayed the same. Erskine’s seemingly undefinable charms are still here, and it still stands out as a very special place.

I have been very blessed to be a part of Erskine, and I will take the lessons learned here with me wherever I go. I am refusing to let myself get too bogged down with the what-ifs of my past three years. Two months will fly by, no doubt, but there is plenty of time to soak up the last drops of Erskine experience that I have left.

I guess the comments of an alumni have brought me to the realization that I too, will soon be an alumni. I am not too far from being out of my “Erskine bubble” and into the world. There is definitely a special culture on this campus. It is a safe place in a lot of ways and there are so many opportunities here that are perhaps harder to find elsewhere. One of the things that Miss Dot told us today was a quote from one of her friends. He said that all of his graduate studies had indeed prepared him for his career, but that his time at Erskine had prepared him for life.

God bless,

-BD

 

I Skipped a Pub Quiz to STUDY!! (Aka: Taking the GRE)

If you have been keeping up with the Erskine blog, then you might have noticed that I suddenly disappeared last week. Hm, you might have thought to yourself, where has she gone? She normally puts up a blog post about every other day. And now it has been almost two weeks!

Rest assured, I did not suddenly fall off the face of the planet or get swarmed by a herd of angry kittens! Instead, was attacked by something even more deadly: the Graduate Record Exam. In case you are still blissfully unaware, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a four and a half long test required as part of the application process for a large percentage of graduate schools in the United States. In other words, it is a super big, important test that I have to do well on if I want to keep going to school.

Here in the UK, no one had ever heard of the GRE. I told my friends in class, at church, and in my hall that I was going to take the GRE and that I had to study. Their response: stare at me blankly and ask what the GRE is. So I tried explaining to them that it is like the SAT for grad school. Still nothing. And I have been standing around all week wondering to myself wondering what kind of strange world do I live in now where no one has ever even HEARD of the SAT or that GRE?? Do these people live under a ROCK?? And then I thought to myself… No standardized testing? Maybe I should live here for good!

Studying for the GRE was at best dull and uninteresting. Normally I like a good study session where I can really feel like I am working hard, but then, normally I am not studying abroad in Scotland! My dad made a deal with me that if I were to study hard for five days in a row and have absolutely no fun he would pay for me to go out to a nice dinner after the test. The problem was is that there are way too many fun things to do in Scotland! I realized I had hit a whole new level of dedication when I skipped a pup quiz to study!

Actually, I lied to you just a lit bit there. Sorry! (My GRE study guide would say that was a peccadillo- just a small sin! 😛 ) There was one part of studying for the GRE that was fun: the GRE vocabulary flashcards. In order to improve my vocabulary for the test, I ordered a box of flashcards containing the top 500 vocabulary words appearing on the GRE. For about a week before the test I carried those notecards with me everywhere. I flipped through them in my bed, I studied them on the way to class, I agonized over their definitions on the elliptical. My challenge was to memorize as many of the words as I could before I took the test.

The fun part of this story is how helpful my Scottish friends were with this goal. Tiffany, my roommate, started quizzing me on the words in our dorm before we went to bed. Then my friend Elisabeth stepped in and dedicated two evenings in a row to painstakingly go over every word and definition with me, carefully stopping to make sure I really understood the words and could use them in context. The last night before the test my friend Naomi came over to help me with the last few words I needed to practice. I will never forget how these sweet girls gave up their time to help me prepare for my test!

Naomi came over the last night before the test to help me review my vocab cards! :)

Naomi came over the last night before the test to help me review my vocab cards! 🙂

The morning of the test I thought I was going to die. Literally, I was sure of death’s eminence. This mainly stemmed from the fact that I had to get up at 5:45 am in the morning! As I am not meant to get out of bed before 9am, this was a real challenge. Tiffany and I took the 6:20 am bus to Edinburgh and arrived just past 8:30. She went to the coffee shop to study for her math test and I went to the test centre to take my test! Although I was also sure I was going to die of stress or, alternatively, fall asleep during the exam, I managed to make it through alive.

After I finished the test I decided that I deserved a reward. I LOVE to reward myself, and generally reward myself for basically everything that I do. So I decided to reward myself for completing the GRE by getting a professional hour-long massage. Let me tell you’ll something right now: that was the BEST HOUR of my ENTIRE life! Anybody who is reading this blog and has never had a professional massage should drop their computer right now and go get one! I am fairly confident that I am addicted, this stuff is better than crack!

And before you make some ridiculous comment about how I don’t know if it is truly better than crack, because I have never tried crack, let me tell you something. Recent research has found that oreos are probably more addictive than crack. I may not have much experience with crack, but I certainly know a thing or two about oreos!

Want to read about how OREOS are less addictive than CRACK?? Here is the article!

 

Living Like Jonah

Hello Readers!

I am about to try something bold…very bold. You see, over the summer I was very blessed to be able to go to Wales on a missionary internship with World Witness (the ARP missions organization). My bold attempt is going to be to give a brief summary of an experience that took 42 blog posts over the course of the summer. But here it goes!

My trip to Wales was an amazing experience, and I was able to go abroad with my fiance, who worked with a church a few hills over from where I was. We left on the last day of May and returned to America on the last day of July. I was given the opportunity to do work with the churches and young people in the Pontypridd area in South Wales. The trip was rife with a lot of hard work, a lot of joy, and more new experiences than I care to try and count. This was not my first overseas mission trip, but it was the first time that I had been abroad for so long. It was also the first time that I was able to do ministry as a day-to-day occupation.

I met so many amazing people on my journey and was able to work alongside of so many Welsh brothers and sisters. They were a great encouragement to me in my faith and taught me so much about hospitality and evangelism. Being in Wales gave me such a different perspective on my view of what it means to be a Christian. The European Church culture is far different than that of American Christianity. It is humbling to see people who face such scrutiny and mockery holding on and working so hard for the sake of their Savior.

One of the coolest things about this trip, and a point of relevance, is the connectedness that it had to Erskine. At Erskine I have made connections with many people who have encouraged and supported me in my various endeavors, especially in Wales. Not only have my Erskine relationships been important for my trip to Wales, but Wales was an important step in my Erskine education as well. It served as my practical internship for my Christian Ed major and, aside from the fact that I was able to receive school credit for my trip, it provided a platform for me to use all of the things that I have learned in my time here. My time in Wales has been invaluable to my growth as a student of the Bible, and I am truly blessed to have spent time in such a special place.

If anyone would be at all interested to read more about my trip the link is: http://livinlikejonah.blogspot.com/

God bless!

-BD

 

take memory lane to Brussels

As my favourite form of procrastination is reminiscing about my semester abroad,  and as my week contains multiple exams and major assignments, I think this is the perfect time to write some more about my time across the Pond.  [Note: I do not condone excessive procrastination.]  I believe I have yet to tell about my visit to Brussels so I will commence there.

After saying goodbye to Anna in Frankfurt over Spring Break, Scott and I continued with our delightful first-class train ride to Brussels, Belgium.  I thoroughly enjoyed this segment of the trip by sleeping the entire 4 or so hours: clearly, I am a delightful travelling companion. We arrived that night and were met by Cory, a friend from Melville (our residence hall in St Andrews).  It was already dark outside but he showed us a bit of the city before heading to his house.  Our first stop was to get Belgian waffles.

Let me pause here.  Belgian waffles.

real. authentic. Belgian. waffles.

Belgian waffles

I am forever ruined.  They were beyond delicious!  We ate them while perusing La Grand Place–the public square–which is full of wonderfully ornate old buildings.  A few blocks away we also saw the obligatory Manneken Pis, which is a fountain of a little boy, well, peeing.  For some reason, Brussels is famous for this little fountain.  Who knows.  There were also dozens of interesting cobblestone alleyways and it was so tempting to explore each of them.  It was getting late though, so the three of us took the trams to Cory’s house in the outskirts of the city.  And what a cool house!  I wish I had time to talk about all of  the cool things they have.  My favourites were Cory’s huge Lego model of Hogwarts that he made himself and his room, which could have been fully decorated from a Harry Potter set.   (Cory founded the Quidditch team at St Andrews, runs a French HP fan website, and speaks at conferences.  I dare you to find me a bigger Potterhead. He’s the best.)

La Grande Place Janneken Pis alleyway

After a restful night’s sleep and breakfast–where we got to meet his family–we were off again to the city.  And what a city!  Aside from the fact that a wonderful friend and my academic dad are natives, it’s an amazing place.  One of the first places we went was the Justitiepaleis, or Palace of Justice.  It is called a palace for a reason.  That monster of a building should make anyone afraid of breaking the law.  The Royal Palace is probably smaller but lovely, and we spent some time walking around the park in front of it.

Buckingham Palace was awesome, but this is nothing to scoff at either.

Buckingham Palace was awesome, but this is nothing to scoff at either.

I’m very grateful to my friends for indulging my Catholic-ness.  When Cory asked us if there was anything in particular we wanted to see, I said Catholic cathedrals.  He asked which one and, not knowing anything about Belgian cathedrals, told him to choose.  I am happy in any cathedral.  So off we went to Église Notre Dame du Sablon, or Cathedral of Our Lady of Sablon.  I especially loved the way the chapels along the edge of the sanctuary were arranged in almost an open-air fashion, let alone being in a 15th-century cathedral filled with beautiful artwork and echoes of ancient hymns lingering in the rafters.  There was also a marble alcove dedicated to two families with statues and crests all around, and a baptismal font in the middle.  It was so still that I couldn’t help but feel solemn and reflective.

down the aisle altar look up! chapels another view DSCF1188 crucifix Requiëscant in Pace

I can't resist! Organs are such beautiful instruments.

I can’t resist! Organs are such beautiful instruments, and the lighting here is ethereal.

Wow. That was a lot of photos in a row.  I wish I could share them all! I also wish I could keep writing, but–alas–academics do come first.  I will share more soon; until then, please say a prayer for all of the Erskine students tackling midterms these next couple of weeks.  God bless and keep you!

The BEST WEEKEND of My Life

If you have ever met me before, you may know that I love to describe everything as “the best thing in the entire world!” or perhaps, for some variation, as “the best thing that has ever happened to me!” Most people roll their eyes at my obvious enthusiasm and tell me that I am exaggerating and that whatever has recently happened to me is actually not the best thing that ever happened. This then starts the frequently repeated discussion where I explain that it really is the best thing that ever happened, because it was happening at the same time as I remembered all of the other wonderful things that ever happened to me. And if something wonderful happens tomorrow it will be even better because tomorrow I will also have the memories of today and every other day!!

Most people think I am crazy.

On that note, this weekend was possibly the best weekend of my entire life! For one thing, I did not even have to solve even ONE math problem or attend ANY extremely long lectures. Instead I got to spend the weekend learning about the Word of the Lord and fellowshipping with Christian friends (and drinking lots of tea!) At this point you are probably wondering to yourself, how did Holly manage to have such an awesome weekend?? What a great question! Cornerstone St. Andrews (the church I have been attending here in Scotland) decided they would arrange a weekend away for the Uni students and I decided I would go along.

At first that may seem like an easy enough decision to you: to leave on a Friday afternoon and go for a weekend away in Comrie with your fellow Christian students. Sounds easy, but I was really scared. After all, I have only been in Scotland for one month (today is my one month anniversary in Scotland!) and have only known these girls for a couple of weeks. What if they did not like me? What if I had an awful time? What if they all thought my American accent was weird and decided not to talk to me for the entire weekend! I was quite scared about how the weekend would go.

Despite my somewhat ridiculous fears, the weekend turned out wonderfully! We left on Friday afternoon and drove for about two hours to a small house in a small town called Comrie. Let me tell you, Comrie has got to be one of the most beautiful places ever! It is surrounded by rolling hills, forests, and rivers with riverbeds of small stones. It was one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! One of my favourite parts of the weekend was going out to the river each morning to spend a half hour praying and reading the Word.

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN'T want to live here!!

Honestly, I am not quite sure who WOULDN’T want to live here!!

The theme of our weekend was ‘Facing Reality.’ We talked about how in our Christian lives surrounding our whole selves to God is more than an afternoon walk in the park and much more than occasional afternoon or evening entertainment. In our small groups we talked about how surrendering your life to God is something that is more about asking the Lord to change your heart and your thoughts than just trying to be a “better Christian” by just doing more “religious stuff.” It is about changing your entire outlook on life and living your entire life for God. We also had an amazing speaker (called Laurence) from the Netherlands who came with us for the weekend and shared his testimony about how he surrendered his life to the Lord at the age of 17 and the ways that the Lord has grown him in maturity and understanding since that time.

A favourite memory from the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon. After lunch on Saturday we were given a free afternoon until dinner. I was sitting there thinking to myself, what am I going to do with myself all afternoon? Everybody here looks like they all are going to have fun things to do, but what if none of them wants to do anything with me?? But before I could worry anymore about how I would entertain myself, the girls from my Bible study group invited me to come the nearby town of Crief with them! And we had the most FANTASTIC time! We went to a coffee shop to have some tea/coffee and then we went to the park. Let me tell you, Scotland playgrounds have the funnest toys EVER! At first I was not sure if they would all think I was crazy if I threw my backpack on the ground and ran over to the swings and bouncy things, but then I decided that the opportunity was too good to miss!

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! :)

You have got to admit it looks like a lot of fun! We were running around like crazy! 🙂

After this wonderful weekend in Comrie, I am starting to realize that I really love being in Scotland. I love the scenery, and the weather, and the people I have met. I LOVE the girls in my small group and the time we spend studying the Word together every Thursday evening. I am really starting to feel like I am part of a community here in Scotland!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

The 8 girls who went to Crief: 4 mums and their 4 academic daughters!

(P.S. Another sweet moment occurred on the first night we arrived in Comrie. My small group of 8 girls were all staying in one room together in a set of 4 bunk beds. That night everyone was getting ready for bed when I went to take a shower. I took quite a long time and expected everyone to have gone to bed when I got out. I came into our room to find that everyone HAD gone to bed, but that they had left the light on for me anyways! All seven of them were rolled up in their duvets like little burritos to keep the light out, but left it on for me so I would not have to search for my bed in a strange place in the dark. It was one of the sweetest things ever and made me feel really welcomed and loved ❤ )

We were excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! :)

We were quite excited to find a sweet shop in Crief! 🙂