Tiffa-Wiffa-Maniffa-Bodiffa (And Other Related Matters)

The first thing I did after I did after I got out of my last class on Friday was take a nap. (That wasn’t particularly exciting, but since I am a college student I often have to make sleep a priority whenever I can!) But AFTER I took my nap, I left Due West and headed out for my exciting weekend!

I started by having dinner with my lovely (graduated) roommate from my sophomore and junior years of college. The sweet and kind Victoria lives in Anderson with her husband, Michael. Victoria and I went grocery shopping, made dinner, and talked and talked and talked! It was a lovely dinner and I am pretty sure all three of laughed through the entire thing!

My sweet Victoria :)

My sweet Victoria 🙂

After I left these dear friends around 9 pm, I drove myself back to Due West and then met Tiffany in the Carnegie parking lot to begin our drive to Columbia. (Considering that we were only going for the weekend, I assume you will automatically know that we were going the city in South Carolina rather than the country!) Now, before you comment that us driving to Columbia at 9:30 pm at night is strange, let me tell you what my response is going to be: you have probably done some strange things in your life! Also, Tiffany had a concert on Friday night and I had dinner with the Green family, but we both really wanted to get to Columbia on Friday night so that we could be there bright and early on Saturday morning! 🙂

Several weekends ago, we went to Columbia and played with puppies!

We needed to get to Columbia to get back to these puppies!

What, you may ask, put us both in such a hurry to get to Columbia? Good question! This weekend I had the privilege of spending the weekend in Columbia with not only Tiffany, but also her parents AND grandparents! Now, in case you are one of those poor unfortunate souls who does not know Tiffany and her family or who has not read my blogs enough to become familiar with them, Tiffany has been my friend throughout my entire four years at Erskine.

Tiffany came to see my sister and I at my house back in January!

Tiffany came to see my sister and I at my house back in January!

Tiffany and I actually met on the very first day of freshman orientation, in the dorm, as we were getting dressed and ready to go to Soiree. I suppose what you might expect me to say next is that we instantly became friends and have been best friends ever since! While that would be rather cute to say, that is not actually quite what happened. After that first night we each went off and made new friends and hardly saw each other during the first few months at Erskine. But, as we were both math majors, and had several classes together second semester, we gradually started studying together and then gradually spending more and more time with each other. And then suddenly I had a new best friend! [For those who are literarily inclined – “Gradually and then suddenly!” 😉 ]

I actually wrote a blog which includes the story of how I met Tiffa… which you can read by clicking here! 🙂

Many lovely weekends in the past several years have been spent in the company of Tiffany and her family, especially this past semester. After Tiffany and I returned home from Scotland, we were used to spending every day with each other. Suddenly forced apart as she lived on campus as an SLA and I commute 30 minutes to school, we had to begin actually making efforts to spending time together. (That is, when we were in Scotland, we shared a room. So literally all I had to do was roll over and look at her to have a conversation. Now I have to drive half an hour- which MOST people would consider to be more effort than simply rolling over in bed.)

This weekend we had such nice weather! :)

This weekend we had such nice weather! 🙂

Weekends with Tiffany and her family are the absolute BEST! Not only do I get to spend time with Tiffany, I get to spend time with her entire family. First of all, Tiffany’s mom is hilarious! (Actually, when I told her that I was going to write a blog about her this weekend she cracked me up by offering up all sorts of wonderful descriptions I could use for her in my writing). While almost all of the terms that she came up with are mostly true, I really love spending time with her because she is so much fun to be around. As soon as Tiffany and I walk into the door she is running around, telling us stories, and (of course!) handing us lists of things to do!

While Tiffany’s father is not nearly as talkative, he is equally as kind. Tiffany’s dad is really good at planning and making sure every need is taken care of- from making sure that everyone has all of the ingredients to make dinner to checking that each person has their favorite drink at dinner. Before any of us even think of anything, he has already thought of it- and taken care of it! I suppose that might be described as foresight? Whatever it is, he has it!

Tiffany’s grandparents are such darlings, and they say the most hilarious things. For instance, Tiffany and I were hanging out with them today and talking about the recipes Tiffany wants to learn to make before she wants to get married. She listed them all – chicken and dumplings, chicken tacos, baked chicken, fried chicken, grilled chicken….. and Tiffany’s grandfather just looks at her and says, “Chicken, chicken, chicken, bawk, bawk, bawk!” Tiffany’s grandmother is so sweet! She and I both like to collect and send greeting cards- she has hundreds of them in her room! Spending time with them and Tiffany’s parents made this weekend, and many weekends in the past, a memory I will always cherish 🙂

We all went out to lunch at the Lizard's Thicket yesterday- but, don't be fooled! They don't actually serve lizards!

We all went out to lunch at the Lizard’s Thicket yesterday- but, don’t be fooled! They don’t actually serve lizards!

One of the reasons that I am so happy I chose to attend Erskine is that it has given me the chances to make friends with sweet girls like Tiffany, and get to know them over a period of time as we take many classes together. Yes, there are only several math majors at Erskine. But because there are only a few of us, we really have the opportunity to bond and get to know each other way better than we ever would have otherwise. Tiffany and I will both graduate from Erskine this May- only 40 days, 13 hours, and 20 minutes from now- but we plan to be best friends for the rest of our lives! 🙂

Tiffany is as cute as this puppy- and that's saying something!

Tiffany is as cute as this puppy- and that’s saying something!

The Proof of a Good Friend

If you ever looking to see a mix of reactions in a group of people, tell them that you are a math major. I’m not even kidding, this is actually quite hilarious! I am a double major in math and psychology at Erskine and, because everyone in American culture routinely asks college students what they are majoring in, I often have to tell people about my majors.

Their reactions usually follow one of two extremes: the look of awe, as if I have personally halfway completed the quest to cure cancer, or the look of extreme disgust as they wonder what kind of torture I must have endured as a child to voluntarily subject myself to such a fate. Meeting a new group of people is almost as always interesting as the various new acquaintances either nod at my announcement or, alternatively, may go to great lengths to express their dissatisfaction with my decision. Some even go to such extremes as to pretend to stick their fingers down their throats and make gagging noises….. quite an extreme reaction, in my opinion!

As a math major, I have spent a lot of time learning how to prove various statements. (This is also somewhat funny because in psychology, my other discipline, to say that you have proved something is akin to saying you wish to torture small animals or something equally ghastly.) Proving a statement in math is quite difficult for me and often takes a lot of work, but I am usually quite proud of any proof I have written! I have a friend at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland called Scott who also studies math and is absolutely brilliant at writing proofs. I am pretty sure that any proof I could write now, he wrote when he was about twelve or thirteen. Nonetheless, studying math and proof writing is really awesome because it is cross cultural — anybody, no matter what language they speak, should be able to read and understand a well written proof in math. Even as a study abroad student in Scotland last semester, the language of proofs was still the same!

For instance, here is a proof I attempted to write last night for abstract algebra!

For instance, here is a proof I attempted to write last night for abstract algebra!

One thing I have learned in life is that not everything can be as neat and tidy as a math proof. Friendships and relationships can be difficult, and not every question so easily answered. Sometimes situations can arise where no one is sure about the right answer, and tough decisions have to be made. I think that one of the things that makes Erskine special is that, not only do we learn about life inside of the classroom, we have a lot of opportunity to learn about life outside of the classroom. As I have studied how to prove that the square root of two is irrational, I have also studied questions about my closest friendships. At Erskine I have had the opportunity to explore: what is the proof of a good friend?

Even my abstract algebra textbook has life advice to offer!! :)

Even my abstract algebra textbook has life advice to offer!! 🙂

Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” One of my biggest blessings at Erskine for me has been the opportunity to make close friends, both at home and abroad. The word love is also defined for us, in 1 Corinthians, and probably quite familiar to you. I think of my darling Elisabeth, who is always so patient with me and sweet Samantha who has never said an unkind word to anyone. Friends who are humble, like Rachel who enjoys whatever the Lord has blessed her with and does not envy the possessions of others. Or Ben, who has so much to be proud of, but does not boast in his own accomplishments, and Kate who is not proud even though culture might say she has every right to be.

Some of my good friends: Kendra, Kate, & Tiffany!

Some of my good friends: Kendra, Kate, & Tiffany!

My friend Vannah, though she has been through many trials, does not dishonor anyone- at least, not that I have ever heard! Girls like Tiffany who are not self-seeking, but constantly look to support and help others. Or how about my roommate, Victoria, who lived with me for two years but was never easily angered by my crazy living habits?? I have, also, to think of Kendra, one of the most forgiving girls I know, who constantly looks for the best in people and keeps no record of wrongs against her. And how would I survive without Heather, who does not delight in any sin in my life, but rejoices in learning God’s truth with me. Last night my dear friend Christine went out of her way to protect me- to bring me dinner when she knew I had none. My beautiful Sarah always trusts that I will be a good friend to her, my friend Amanda who has always had such high hopes for all of her friends, and Lolly has persevered as one of my closest friends since the very first day of orientation!

As a student at Erskine, I have learned many lessons in math and psychology, about how to prove a mathematical statement and how to demonstrate ideas about human nature with psychology. My favorite learning experiences, however, have focused on friendships. In the past four years I have learned much about how to be a good friend and know a good friend when you see one: and these (hopefully) are not announcements that make any one want to gag!

An AMAZING Academic Experience!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in one of the best academic experiences I have had as an Erskine student. And considering that Erskine is a highly academic college, and I have been here for four years and had a lot of academic experiences, that is a pretty strong statement!

So what did Holly do that was so fab???, you may be asking yourself. Let me tell you! Last weekend Dr. Elsner, another student called Christine, and I went to the Alpha Chi National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a three day conference for the Alpha Chi National Honor Society which takes place every year! Students from all over the country gather together to present their research, listen to speakers, and enjoy exploring the city together.

 

Ready to explore the city!

Ready to explore the city!

If you are ever experiencing low self esteem as a student, I recommend that you attend an academic conference. At a conference, all of the students are treated like serious scholars. While we were there, everyone wore nice clothes and dressed up all of the time. We stayed at an extremely nice hotel in St. Louis and were served fine foods. As Christine and I clicked everywhere in our heels, she commented to me exactly what I was feeling, I have never felt so professional!

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

Besides presenting some of the research that we have done in our majors (I presented on a paradox in game theory known as the Traveler’s Dilemma and Christine presented on a study she is conducting concerning the effects of seating on attention), we were given the whole of Friday afternoon to explore the city of St. Louis. What a fabulous time we had! Dr. Elsner is possibly one of the most fun college professors that has ever been! We spent the afternoon eating out at a nice restaurant, walking around downtown, and exploring the city! We even got to go to the top of the St. Louis arch!

 

Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

I suppose that after we went to the top of the arch, we got stuck in picture taking mode. If you think about it, that makes sense. When you do something super awesome, like go to the top of the St. Louis arch, you tend to start taking a lot of pictures. And then when you get down, you think to yourself: that was really fun! I want to take some more really fun pictures! And then you end up walking around St. Louis attempting to pose next to random statues you find all around the city!

 

Duck lips??

Duck lips??

 

We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!

We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!

 

Christine's scary face is much better than mine!

Christine’s scary face is much better than mine!

One of the coolest parts of the trip took place on Friday night. Dr. Elsner, Christine, and I were invited over to spend time with two students who graduated from Erskine several years ago. They heard that we were in town and invited us over to enjoy some chocolate cookies and great conversation! One of the phrases that it often used to describe the Erskine Experience is Forever Connected. Having the opportunity to meet two awesome alumni simply because we were in town and they wanted to meet us, I think, is a perfect example of how this statement rings true.

 

Is it REALLY time for the Graduation Fair, ALREADY??

Yesterday I went to the graduation fair for seniors at Erskine. And it was weird.

After all, for years I have watched people go to the graduation fair. Even last year, I watched my friends order their caps and gowns, address graduation invitations, and plan their graduation outfits. I wondered at how they must feel about leaving Erskine and thought that I was sure glad that I was never going to be graduating!

You may think that I am crazy when you hear me say that I never thought I would graduate. After all, you must be asking, what do you think you came to college for?? To take a nap?!?!? Of course my END goal has always been to graduate on time, maybe even with honors! But when I am sitting down and planning my daily or monthly life, I simply never think about actually leaving Erskine. I have been here for so long that graduation feels like an impossibility! When I came to Erskine as a freshman, four years felt like the longest time on earth and I didn’t realize I would only have to blink once and the time would be over! So you can understand why attending the graduation fair was a bit strange!

The question that all of my professors have been asking me recently is: Do you feel prepared for life? They want to know if their four years of guidance and advice has helped me to grow and feel ready to conquer the world after I leave Erskine. Do I feel that my Erskine education has helped shaped a better and brighter future for my years ahead?

In some ways, this is an impossible question. After all, who knows what I would have done if I had not come to college, if I had not chosen to attend Erskine?? Do I look like the Lord Almighty, all-knowing and understanding not only of everything that is, but everything that could have been? Not hardly! But what I can tell them is this. Since my first day at Erskine, I have learned a lot of things. I have learned about grammar and writing and reading. I have studied history and theories of Biblical interpretation. I have learned a TON of statistics and ideas on human life through my double major in math and psychology. I have explored the world by studying abroad! Academically and socially, I am an entirely different (and in my opinion also more enjoyable, hilarious, interesting and definitely humble!) person than the girl who started college four years ago.

So am I ready for Erskine graduation? Not hardly yet! But I am much closer than I was three and a half years ago, and I still have three months to get ready!

Edinburgh Castle

Hello!

If you have been reading my Erskine blog loyally for the past several months, you may remember seeing this sentence at the end of one of my not so recent blogs:

(NEXT WEEK ON HOLLY’s BLOG: Even more details on the Edinburgh Castle! Which famous Scottish king’s birthplace did the girls get to see?? And…. Up close and extended photo commentary!)

Now, you may have thought to yourself, surely a week has passed! Surely she has had the opportunity to write about her trip to Edinburgh by now! But, I am sorry to say that I have not written! The worst part of this whole thing is that I posted that statement on September 30, 2013! So I am sorry to say that I have been rather behind! 😦

Going to the Edinburgh castle and seeing the town was an amazing experience! When I signed up to come to Erskine four years ago, I never imagined that part of my Erskine experience would be going to the capital of Scotland to see the birthplace of James VI of Scotland! But, I did go, and I learned so much more history than I think I could ever learn in one day of sitting in a history classroom. I think that is one of the reasons why Erskine loves to see students study abroad: it gives us an opportunity to learn things we might never have really understood or appreciated, otherwise.

Approaching the castle!

Approaching the castle!

 

One of the buildings in the castle! :)

One of the buildings in the castle! 🙂

The Edinburgh Castle was probably first constructed by David I in the 12th century, and has been an important point in Scottish History ever since. During the Scottish wars for Independence, the Edinburgh Castle was one of the major points of contention. He who held the castle held Edinburgh, and thus Scotland. The castle has been sieged many times, both successfully and unsuccessfully.

Large cannons placed throughout the castle walls have been a good method of defense!

Large cannons placed throughout the castle walls have been a good method of defense!

Walking around the castle is not what I thought walking around a castle would be like. I typically tend to think of being in a castle as a primarily indoor affair, particularly in the land of Scotland! But the castle was actually a cluster of medium sized buildings which had served various purposes over the years. As we walked around with our tour guide, she would point to each one of the buildings and explain when it was probably built and what it had been used for in the past.

We also saw an exhibition on how to properly apply armor for a battle!

We also saw an exhibition on how to properly apply armor for a battle!

One of my favorite things to see was St. Margaret’s chapel! This chapel is actually thought to be the only part of the original castle remaining. It is believed to have been built by David I when he built the castle, in honor of his pious mother: Saint Margaret of Scotland. It was the oldest standing structure in Edinburgh and absolutely beautiful! What is amazing to me is that, in my small group here in Greenwood, there is a sweet couple who were actually married in St. Margaret’s chapel! Of all of the people I met in Scotland, it was actually an Erskine graduate living in Greenwood was married in one of the coolest places ever!

 

The inside of the chapel is so small that it can only seat about fifteen people!

The inside of the chapel is so small that it can only seat about fifteen people!

Knowing and Being Known

One of the best experiences which my time at Erskine has afforded me has been the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St. Andrews. For three and a half months I am living and learning in a new country, entirely different from my own. Studying abroad is amazing.

Studying abroad, strangely enough, has also reinforced all of the reasons why I love Erskine College so much and why I chose to study mathematics and psychology there instead of anywhere else. I am sure you have heard that the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Before I came to Scotland, I loved Erskine, but I was still unsure if I had made the right decision when I heard about things students were doing at other colleges. The fact is that no matter where you go to college, someone else, somewhere else will always be doing something amazing. Experiencing the large research university, with hundreds of students in every class and professors who will never even learn my name, has shown me that the “other side” might be what is right for some people, but also that Erskine College has helped me to grow academically, emotionally, and spiritually more than I ever could have expected to anywhere else.

The key difference is the relationships I have developed with my professors. Students at colleges around the world usually have plenty of opportunities to meet new friends and spend time having fun with people they care about. They don’t usually have the opportunity to spend time with their professors, the people who are teaching them every day in the classroom. When I tell my new friends in here in Scotland that I have spent hours in my professors offices, babysitting their kids, or going over to their houses for dinner they generally look at me as if an alien has landed and taken over my body; none of them have ever heard of such a thing!

Freshman year I came to Erskine confused about who I was and what I wanted to study. I had only visited Erskine one time prior and still was unsure how to make my way around campus, the typical lost freshman girl who was unsure about anything and everything. I still remember the day that I decided I wanted to study psychology and needed to write my four year plan. I wondered in to Dr. Elsner’s office (the chair of the psychology department at Erskine) and asked him for his help. I didn’t know, then, that professors have office hours for students or that students are typically schedule appointments with their professors before just showing up at their door. I stumbled into Dr. Elsner’s office, and he helped me with my four year plan for psychology and patiently answered my seemingly unending stream of questions.

Sophomore year I requested to have Dr. Elsner as my advisor and also took a class with him that met five days a week, all year long. I am pretty sure that any other professor would have been absolutely tired of seeing me every day that year! But if he was, he hid it well. Almost every afternoon that year I came into his office with at least ten questions about what we were learning in class that day, and to ask for his opinion on my ideas for a research project. Dr. Elsner answered them all, and encouraged me to try new things. He suggested that I try applying for summer research opportunities, gave advice for which ones would be good for me, wrote letters of recommendation for my applications, and then encouraged me to try again next year when I didn’t receive any offers for placements.

Junior year came with a surprise: I decided that I wanted to study abroad my senior year. Most students plan to study abroad well in advance before they go; they usually come in to college and design their four year plan around their semester away. About a third of the way through my third year, I decided I wanted to go too. Yet, if it hadn’t been for Dr. Elsner, I would not have been able to go. Not only did he support my decision, he helped me to completely rearrange my four year to include time for studying in Scotland. Making my trip to Scotland possible was not just an afternoon of creative thinking! To make sure I received all of my credits for graduation, Dr. Elsner had to meet with me twice a week spring semester to teach me a course in Developmental Psychology. Developmental psychology is offered every year in the fall, but I wanted to take it in the spring so I could go to St. Andrews in the fall. If Dr. Elsner hadn’t been willing to take time out of his busy schedule to teach a course just for me, I never would have been able to come to Scotland.

Senior year has been no different. Right now I am in Scotland, writing this article in the University of St. Andrews library. Already I have emailed Dr. Elsner three times this weekend. The first was ask him several questions about class registration for spring registration. Two of the classes I need to take to graduate are offered at the same time, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Dr. Elsner emailed me back and offered to move the time for psychology senior seminar so I could get all of my classes does in time for May. The second email was about the new APA guidelines for undergraduate psychology. Dr. Elsner emailed all of his students and asked us if we would like to read the new guidelines and offer feedback for the upcoming changes in the department. I think all students really appreciate the regular opportunity to give feedback on what we are learning and how the department can improve. The third was about graduate school, to ask him if he would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation letter for my application to a Ph.D. program in North Carolina. Dr. Elsner wrote back quickly and told me to send him the details!

The best thing about Erskine is that this story would not be surprising to any of the students who read it. Dr. Elsner treats each and every student who has him as their advisor as important and worthy of his time. When I go to his office, there is almost always a line of students waiting to talk to him and get his advice, because he makes it clear that every student is important to him. Each student who comes to ask for his advice gets his full attention and support, even those who don’t have him as their advisor or may not even be taking any classes from him! I have written about Dr. Elsner because he is my advisor, but I would also not expect anything less from any of the other professors who mentor each of the students at Erskine College. In my opinion, this is what Erskine really means when they offer the chance for each student to know and be known.

Thanksgiving in the UK

As an American sojourning in a foreign land, I felt that it was my personal responsibility to introduce my fellow students to the happiness and joy that a genuine spirit of thankfulness can bring to a person (especially when that spirit of thankfulness is expressed in a large turkey!) In other words, I really wanted to cook a whole bunch of food for my friends over here, and let them know what a real American Thanksgiving is like!

It makes sense that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. After, Thanksgiving is a celebration of a first harvest in the new world, and Scotland is certainly part of the old world. It’s a little more surprising that none of them seem to know what Thanksgiving is about, and many seem to guess that is has something to do with Lincoln. (A fact that I find quite interesting, Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holidays, but US citizens are more likely to think of pilgrims.) What really got me, though, was my friend Rachel declaring that she had never even heard of Thanksgiving! I wondered to myself, what do they DO in Northern Ireland??

Every Thursday evening here in St. Andrews, I take part in a wonderful small group with some of the best people I have met here in Scotland. The group is diverse; we have two Americans, one person from Singapore, three Northern Irish, as well as a healthy blend of Scottish and English students! 🙂 And of course, because small group occurs every Thursday, the two Americans (Vannah and I) realized fairly early on in the term that we needed to introduce our small group to a proper Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving eve. Vannah was super amazing, she was the one who really made it happened and organized everyone! She invited all of the guests: all I had to do was show up and help prepare. She and I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen! We made homemade pies, chickens (since most people don’t like turkey 😦 ), green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet tea. The kitchen was exploding with ingredients! I think the best way to describe to you how messy our kitchen was is to tell you there was a point where we LOST an ENTIRE CASSEROLE! That’s when we knew we needed to think about straightening up! J

The most hilarious thing was watching all of the British students see all of our food for the first time. None of them had ever had green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or even heard of dressing (stuffing!) They wondered at sweet tea and asked if they were supposed to add milk, or if it was alcoholic. They stared at their plates and made comments about how they had never had so many strange foods on their plate at the same time! It was basically hilarious! J  One of the best parts of the evening occurred at the end, when everyone around the table shared what they were most thankful for! It is always amazing to take time to give thanks to the Lord for all of His amazing blessings, and I certainly know I have MANY things to be grateful for!

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! :)

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! 🙂