Fueled by his Erskine experience, Pete Savarese moves forward

Pete-with-secret-society-signs-cropIn 2016, Erskine’s Pete Savarese marched across the stage at commencement after a long journey through five years of college and seven surgeries. And he wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“I think for me, for my personality, I really needed a small school. I definitely needed an environment where I could know everyone,” he explains. He knows some people want a big school, but that was not for him.

“I would have been lost and only had a few friends. Instead I left school with eight or nine hundred friends!” he says. “Any time I am asked what made Erskine such a great place to be, I always have one answer—the people that make up the Erskine family.”

Considering this, he concludes, “I think the biggest advantage I received from Erskine is a mindset that every person counts, every person is valuable, and every person around you deserves your time and effort.”

Read the full story: » Fueled by his Erskine experience, graduate moves forward (Erskine News)

Service Learning at the DreamCenter (Men’s Volleyball)

The Erskine men’s volleyball team just returned home from a trip to California that included a couple matches at West Coast colleges plus five full days of service at the DreamCenter in Los Angeles.

The DreamCenter is an organization staffed by volunteers who serve thousands of individuals and families in the LA area via humanitarian outreaches, education, and community programs.

The volleyball team spent 5 days working at the DC, and pitched in to help with everything from child care to loading the food truck, doing construction, talking to folks, and picking up trash from local streets. Their days were jam-packed with activity, led by DreamCenter volunteers who themselves have often been recipients of help and care from the DC.

Coach Derek Schmitt writes in his final entry about the trip,

We closed our week [at the DreamCenter] with some $5 Hot-n-Ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s as each of us talked about how we are different from when we checked in to the DreamCenter on Monday afternoon.  There were a lot of great things shared including spending more time in prayer and in the Bible, having more of a servant mentality, being more appreciative of the things we have, having more faith in God and His power, and much more.  It has been exciting to see the guys invest in the DreamCenter this week and the impact it is having on each one of them.  

Read more from Coach Schmitt about the guys’ experience at the DreamCenter:

First day at the DreamCenter

Day 2 at the DreamCenter

Day 3 at the DreamCenter

Day 4 at the DreamCenter

Last Day at the DreamCenter for Men’s Volleyball.

It’s a Small School

One of the things that you will find if you attend Erskine is that all of the students are very connected. You may not know somebody, but chances are you will know OF them, and at least know a little bit of basic information about almost everybody you will see on a daily basis. People have a wide variety of opinions on this, but I think it is just a fact considering that there are only about 500 students attending Erskine each school year (aka: we go to a small school!)

Students at Erskine are often willing to go great distances to help each other out. I can give you an example for this one: last year on my 21st birthday a bunch of friends and I drove a few hours to Columbia, SC to run in the USMC Mud Run. It was super fun! After about two and a half hours of running, though, we were COVERED in mud! I mean, we were swimming in pits of mud deeper than we are tall, so if we came out looking ready for a tea party people might have been a little creeped out!

I mean it... look at the mud all over us... we were SUPER GROSS!

I mean it… look at the mud all over us… we were SUPER GROSS!

I had asked one of my friends earlier in the month if we could come back to her house in Columbia to take a shower before driving 2-3 hours back to Erskine. She had agreed multiple times, so everyone thought we were all set. So we come out of this race dripping mud and freezing cold and wet and we try to call her, and she doesn’t answer. We stood shivering and dripping mud outside, waiting for her to call back, when she finally texted back about 30 minutes saying we could not come over after all. Everyone panicked… what were we going to do??? (I think it only fair to point out that this friend was not ignoring us on purpose, she was in town to take care of a sick family member and a family emergency came up with another one of her family members that same day, so she was very busy!)

Of course, none of us knew this at the time. All we knew is that we are two and a half hours away from home, cold, wet, and quite uncomfortable! To make a long story short, we ended up calling one of our friends who had graduated from Erskine the previous year and was living in an apartment in Columbia while she attended her first year of med school. She, with absolutely no notice and with finals to study for, let all seven of us smelly students come over to her apartment and take showers one by one in her bathroom. Not only that, Megan took care of us by ordering us pizza and giving us water and towels and soap to scrub all of the mud off! It was one of the sweetest 21st birthday presents a girl could have 🙂

i stole this from her Facebook profile.. so I hope she is not too mad! But this girl is seriously too beautiful for words! :)

i stole this from her Facebook profile.. so I hope she is not too mad! But this girl is seriously too beautiful for words! 🙂

Another one of my favorite memories of Erskine occurred my sophomore year, about a quarter of the way through the year. My boyfriend of about six months had just broken up with me, and as a typical college student I was lying around inconsolable because I thought my life was over… (I am known for being extremely dramatic during times of distress, but don’t feel bad for me, this is just a natural part of life that everyone must get through!) My sweet friend Leighton called me the next day to cheer me up, and invited me to come to the Erskine volleyball game with her.

So Heather, Leighton, and I went to this game when I got a random text message. It from a girl named Kristy, who had been my Orientation Staff leader during my freshmen year at Erskine. The previous year she had a great idea that she was going to surprise some of her friends, including me, by knitting them scarves (it might have been all of her freshmen during O-Staff that she was knitting for… I am not sure!) As great ideas typically go with college students, she had not been able to finish it during the busy school year and so most of us never heard about it that year.

Kristy was a softball player at Erskine :)

Kristy was a softball player at Erskine 🙂

But the next year, my sophomore year, she kept working on it! And right about 2 months into the school year she had finished and was coming to Erskine to attend a sports banquet. She texted me and wanted to know if I would be at the volleyball game, because she had a present to give me. I was a little surprised because she and I had not talked at all since she graduated, so I wasn’t sure if she remembered me. But she did! And she saw me at the game and gave me that scarf she had made and I thought I had never been happier! As an extremely over-dramatic college student, I had been so upset and thinking that no one would ever love me again (wah!) when she came out of nowhere with a handmade scarf she had been working on for months! It was probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me while I was at Erskine 🙂

The point that I am trying to make here is that I did not know either one of these sweet girls very well. Both of them were seniors during my freshmen year, and even though Megan was my SLA and Kristy was my Orientation leader, I did not get much of a chance to spend any time with either one of them. Yet both of them, during the most important of times, did something amazingly sweet and kind for me that I will remember for the rest of my life.

These are the kinds of people you meet at Erskine.

Running In the Mud

Have you ever just wished that you were miserable? As in, have you ever been sitting around and all of a sudden thought to yourself, “Dang! I wish that I was super uncomfortable and miserable right now!” Because I do! (But before you think I just love to torture myself, I suppose I better explain what I mean.)

Last semester my friend Heather and I decided that we were not in shape. I am not trying to say that we were only running four miles per day and eating ranch with our carrots, but that we really were not at all in shape. We mostly instead went to Java City and drank hot chocolate and ate cinnamon rolls every night, which many doctors agree is not good for you.

Lying on the floor and eating candy was a much more typical activity for us!

Lying on the floor and eating candy was a much more typical activity for us!

We decided that we would motivate ourselves by signing ourselves up to run in a mud run, which is a 6.2 mile run hosted by a group of marines in Charlotte used as a fundraiser. Not only do you run the six miles, but you also have to overcome 36 obstacles as a team of four. And, of course, there is a lot of mud! So Heather and I signed up with two of our friends, Joe and Marcos.

At first, we were super into training. We started running every day, and got to the point where we running five miles a day. We were basically super awesome. But then midterms came. And then projects, and grades, and papers, and everything else until Heather and I decided that the ideal amount of running is actually two miles per day. So after that we just ran two miles, twice per week.

Reading this blog impression, you might get the impression that I like to run. Let me hurry up and correct that for you, I HATE to run! I hate it with a passion! I loathe every second of it and wait impatiently for every run to be over.

Our friends made signs to motivate us to keep going!

Our friends made signs to motivate us to keep going!

But at the same time, I really love it. I think the reason is not because I loved running, but because I loved running with Heather. Heather and I would use our runs as an opportunity to pray for our school, and while we would run we would take turns praying out loud praying for the people in our school and the people of Due West. (I should point out here that because Heather is a cross-country runner and I am not, she had a lot more turns than I did, as I was usually panting for breath and falling behind 😛 ) The running was an amazing opportunity to really get to know each other and build our faith together.

And because of that, I sometimes really wish I was on a miserable run. I really miss going on those runs with Heather, because I hated them so much, and loved them at the same time. That is one of the major life lessons I have learned (or started to learn) while attending Erskine: sometimes the things you really love you have to work for, and they will not always be fun.

Heather, Joe, Marcos, and I looking super legit after we crossed the finish line!!

Heather, Joe, Marcos, and I looking super legit after we crossed the finish line!!

To conclude this post I will tell you the happy ending of this story. My 21st birthday rolled around, and the four of us traveled to Columbia and ran for about two and half hours. We were covered in mud and had a fantastic time!! We then traveled back to Erskine for a gospel choir concert (better not even get me started on how amazing that was!) and then a dinner at Ruby Tuesday with friends.

(And for those of you who were wondering, I do not think I have run once since that big race. I wish I could say that I had, but most of the time when I wake up and say that I am going to go for a run, I once again find myself laying on the couch watching Alias and eating Cheetos!)

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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A Well-Rounded Workout

During my senior year of high school, I ceased—for the first time since elementary school—to play team sports, and as a result, I essentially went an entire year without exercising. Upon arriving at college, however, I quickly discovered (epiphany!) that exercise was an essential for a balanced, healthy life. Having two gym facilities within five minutes’ walking distance has been the clincher, and I’ve gone to the gym regularly ever since.

Certainly, one might make the argument that college life simply does not allow time for exercise. What I’ve found, though, is that a few hours a week in the gym serve as an invaluable stress reliever which both relaxes and invigorates me, enabling me to study more effectively and efficiently when I do sit down to work. Of late, the gym has offered a couple of other unique attractions—one has been helpful instruction on workout routines, and the other, the opportunity to practice Spanish.

You see, when I go to the Galloway gym across campus, I often run into friends who are athletic training majors. This turns out to be of great benefit to me, because they often stop what they’re doing to show me how to do a particular workout more effectively. Often, they even go into a detailed explanation of the physiological bases for their advice, which proves quite instructive and fascinating.

My time in the gym has also been especially interesting lately due, in large part, to my time in Spain last semester. The reason for this is that many of Erskine’s athletes are from Spanish-speaking countries, and so I often run into them at the gym. While before studying abroad, I might have ventured a timid hola, my experience overseas has given me both more courage in speaking and a greater ability to identify with students studying outside of their native countries. As a result, I’ve lately gotten to have a number of conversations in the gym with friends from Puerto Rico, Spain, and Peru. Thus, I’m able to get both a physical and intellectual workout all at once. And now, off to the gym!

Tongue-tied: Being Humbled and Finding Grace

The following is a blog post that I wrote three weeks ago. I was a bit too sore to post it at the time (often, the lessons God teaches us are painful at first, but grow sweeter with time); but after reading it again today, I am greatly encouraged by how far I’ve come—ever by God’s grace!—in what feels like ages but has been, in fact, just three weeks. Part two of this blog post will be an update on where I am now in the language-learning process, for the patient reader who cares to continue. And now, my thoughts from September 19th:

With my friend Elizabeth--she speaks Italian and some English, and she was such a help to me during the retreat!

How profoundly humbling, and what a great blessing it is, to be shown love and grace by God’s people in another country. This weekend I went on a retreat to the mountains of Valencia with the youth group (which, in Spain, includes “youths” ranging approximately from the age of twelve to thirty) of the First Baptist Church of Alicante. What an experience! After having missed church for two consecutive weeks due to travel, I was so longing for the fellowship of believers. Of course, the weekend was complicated a bit by the oft-frustrating reality of a language barrier. (But don’t you speak Spanish, you may ask?) The humbling answer is that…although I understand my teachers in class and am able to communicate satisfactorily in the classroom setting, communicating with facility outside of the classroom is another feat entirely. In consequence, I found myself, frustratingly limited in my ability to communicate this weekend. My frustration was heightened, I think, by the
fact that I love words and language and therefore hardly knew what to do with myself when I was, in effect, bereft of the gift of rich, deep communication.

Paula and I. This girl has a Spanish father, a German mother, and is fluent in Spanish, English, and German at age thirteen. Wow.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I was able to have some incredible conversations with extremely patient, kind friends who helped me when I struggled to find the right words and who answered my endless questions about grammar and vocabulary. What a blessing that was! At the same time, the more I learn, and the more I improve…the more I realize how far I have to go. This weekend, for example, I discovered that a number of the words and uses of words which I’ve learned in textbooks over the years are not at all used in the same way in real life…at least not in Spain, where a particular variation of Spanish is spoken. To be reminded that books cannot teach me everything was, again, very humbling for an inveterate bibliophile such as myself. In addition, to feel almost mute at times because of my limited vocabulary or because of the difficulty of thinking quickly in Spanish, was profoundly humbling. But what a testimony and example the believers in the group were to me through t
he way in which they welcomed me, cared for me, and loved me, even as I stumbled over the beautiful words of their language.

The delightful group of people who went on the retreat--what fun it was and continues to be to get to know them!

My experience this weekend, and in Spain in general, has helped me realize how incredibly isolated I’ve been when it comes to languages. Yes, of course I’ve taken a foreign language in school ever since middle school. Even so, learning vocabulary and grammar in class is so very different from “living a language”, as my director puts it. I’m beginning to realize how very much I will have to learn outside of the classroom if I’m ever going to have a fair command of the Spanish language. Which is, of course, why I’m in Spain—it’s far more exciting and compelling to learn a language when speaking it well is a necessity for daily living and communication!