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)

Kicking Back with the Kooistras

This past weekend, I was reminded of a great Erskine quality that I so often overlook. On the day that I moved back into my dorm for J-term, I spent the evening with President Kooistra and his wife, sipping refreshingly delicious white tea and eating homemade apple pie. Together, we marveled at God’s mysterious work in our lives, confessed that our tendency to drive over the speed limit sometimes, and even bonded over our befuddlement with directions. In short, I had quite a delightful time with the Kooistras.

The thing that struck me the most about the evening is that Dr. Kooistra and his wife find joy in simply spending time with me. They could have preferred to have a solitary and relaxed final evening of Christmas break, but instead, they genuinely wanted to spend their evening with me. To the rest of the world, I am just an average sophomore Joe who is awkwardly figuring out life one day at a time. Yet, at Erskine, the president of the college sees me as someone worth investing his time and energy in, and this is additionally true for every student at Erskine. How absolutely, delightfully humbling and encouraging.

Obviously, I am not asserting that Erskine is the only college whose president opens his doors and welcomes students in. I am positive that many presidents are warm and inviting. I simply want to share another chapter from my story here at Erskine, because this school truly is a wonderful, blessed place.

A New View of Orientation

This past weekend, I had the privilege of experiencing Erskine’s Orientation through the eyes of a group leader instead of as a freshman. I was chosen to be an Orientation leader in April, so I spent all summer imagining what my time as a leader would be like and what Orientation would be like as a whole. Needless to say, quite a few expectations accumulated in my mind by the end of the summer. But in order to share my expectations, I first need to tell you the reasons behind my desire to work on the Orientation staff. My reasons were threefold: to make Orientation fun for freshmen, to get a head start on making new friends, and to get more involved at Erskine, because I honestly just love my college. My motives behind Orientation became my expectations for Orientation. Thus, I envisioned a whole new group of friends, the feeling of satisfaction from executing a successful Orientation, and the gradual acclimation to a busy school year at Erskine.

I moved into Erskine a week before the freshmen moved in and immediately began training and preparing for the busiest week of the school year (in my opinion). Everyone on O Staff was exhausted by the Monday before Move In Day, but we pushed through our fatigue and mustered an amazing amount of energy to get everything squared away before Thursday, when the freshmen arrived. Our fearless leader, Kaley Lindquist, the most detail-oriented person that I have ever met, coordinated every part of the weekend. Orientation would not have been the success that it was if it had not been for her dedication and passion for her job.

Orientation staff and volunteers gathered around Erskine's flagpole on Move In Day morning to pray for Orientation.

Orientation staff and volunteers gathered around Erskine’s flagpole on Move In Day morning to pray for Orientation.

All of the freshmen were split into 12 different groups led by various upperclassmen. My friend Ashley and I were in charge of Group 9; and let me just say that our group was the coolest group ever. Our freshmen had such great attitudes about every activity that we did even though they were just as worn out as we were. For example, the groups competed against each other to get the most Spirit Points by the end of Orientation. Our group ran around the Erskine campus, performing different activities to get thousands of Spirit Points. We bought 40+ cokes for Kaley, gave more than 20 sets of flowers to the sweet lady who scans our cards in the cafeteria, and even chased around various staff members for selfies (I hadn’t ever posted so many pictures on Instagram in four days). Unfortunately, we did not win first place; but, we got second place, which was the closest to first place that a group can get! We did so many activities in the span of 4 days, including, but not limited to, sessions, skits, contests, games, community service, and soiree. I would like to share all of the memories that were created from Orientation, but you would have to read pages of content, which would likely become tedious after a while. Not to mention, Orientation flew by so quickly that it is a bit of a blurred memory now.

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Tug of War at Freshman Frenzy

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Dancing the night away at soiree

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I love All My Neighbors

But, all good things must come to an end, and so Orientation had to as well. As I reflect on the fruits that were produced from Orientation, I find myself pleasantly surprised. I was pushed to be more confident, more friendly, more sacrificing, more patient, more loving…the list can go on and on. I became friendlier as I got to know not only a whole bunch of really awesome freshmen, but also, as I grew closer to my Orientation coworkers. They were my family for a week. I changed from only being good friends with a handful of the upperclassmen to growing closer to each person in different ways. Despite being surrounded by strangers again and feeling exhausted from attending the various events, this year was still much more comfortable and fun! I definitely enjoyed Orientation better as a leader than as a freshman. This year’s Orientation did not just meet all of my expectations; it surpassed them. I would encourage anyone who is considering being a part of Orientation to go for it! Orientation gives students a chance to make an impact on people’s lives and to be impacted by others, which I consider to be a really cool life experience.

The O Staff Family

The O Staff family

The Presidential Scholarship: It’s Not Just About Winning

It was a bleak, grey morning. Rain splashed on the windows and flooded the pavement. Everyone was packed into one small building, nervously sipping coffee and quietly talking. Nobody knew what to expect, where to go, or who to talk to. 

If you were a part of the semi-final round of the Presidential Scholarship last year, you can relate to this scene. When I pulled up to Watkins with my friend, Katherine, I was overwhelmed with how impressively mature my competitors looked, but how gravely solemn they were too. During the opening ceremony at the Bowie Chapel, there was a tornado warning so everybody had to head to the basement in the building. When we were finally released to go to our various interview rooms, the Mall at Erskine looked like the Wood Between the Worlds, flood-style.

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I met my interviewers, looking and feeling like a drowned puppy. However, they were so kind and understanding that I quickly lost most of my discomfort.

The group of students that I was a part of was definitely an experience in itself.  Now, I want to clarify that I did not get called back to the final round of the Presidential Scholarship, probably because I gave terrible answers and did not present myself as confidently as a Presidential Scholarship winner should. When asked my favorite person in history, I said Jackie Robinson. Why him? Because I really don’t care about things in history, let alone have a favorite person. Shoot me. That being said, I was amused while listening to the other people in my group. It seemed like they tried to answer each question with one of their accomplishments. I can’t remember any particular quotes, but I do remember listening to this one guy who listed off all of these things that he was captain, leader, and president of such-and-such. I feel bad now, but I kept thinking, “Wow, he’s totally making up some of this.” That was my first experience of any sort of interview and I walked away feeling completely underwhelming.

So do I have any advice for future participants of the Presidential Scholarship? Well, you definitely don’t want me to coach you on how to win over your interviewers. I would just be clichéd and tell you to be yourself and be honest, blah blah blah. Ask your parents. I’m sure they have a lot of good counsel. However, the competition isn’t just about winning the Presidential or the Solomon scholarship.

So here are some things that you should keep in mind when you’re competing at Erskine:

1. Get to know people. One of my biggest regrets about competing for the scholarship is that I didn’t talk to many students while I was there. Once I got to Erskine, I found out that I had missed out on meeting my roommate, my best friend, and lots of other good friends. You’ll be thankful for having familiar faces greet you when you roll up to Erskine in August.

2. Get to know Erskine. Erskine really is a great place. The school is beautiful on the outside, but there is so much more beauty to be found in Erskine through the students, random events, and other opportunities. I’m still finding out things about Erskine that are pretty sweet. I mean, did you know that there’s a prayer room in the upper level of Watkins for students to use for group prayers? I think that’s pretty special. Also, we just had a Jackson Pollock day where students got to throw paint at shirts and sheets for funsies. That’s pretty special too.

3. Get to know ME. Not to be biased or anything, but I’m a pretty cool person, if you’re into reading, running, cooking, singing, playing piano, basketball, pandas, colors, laughter, pool, or sticky notes. Also, the other student ambassadors are also pretty great. Granted, they may not be as great as me, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t talk to them. 😉

Hopefully this gets you a little excited about the Presidential Scholarship. I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go to Erskine until I stayed overnight in the dorms with a friend. That one night changed my mind, which changed my future four years. If nothing else, the Presidential Scholarship is a great step to experiencing Erskine.

J-Term: A Study of…?

For those of you who don’t know, J-Term, or January Term, is a mini-semester in January during which students take one class every day for 3 hours. These classes can range from a trip to Japan to studying the Apocrypha to figuring out the math behind certain puzzles and games. Basically, students get to ease into the spring semester by taking a light class that appeals to their interests. So what class did I sign up for? I’ll answer your question with a riddle:

You hear it speak, for it has a hard tongue. But it cannot breathe, for it has not a lung. What is it? 

Have you given up yet? Okay, here’s the answer: a bell. Props to you if you guessed correctly!

That’s right, I’m taking a class on English Handbells for J-Term. Now, you may read that and scoff at how lame that class sounds as many other people did. However, I am here to declare that you are wrong because handbells are definitely the opposite of lame. I get to actually feel beauty when 10 students come together and create music. I don’t just hear the beautiful music or feel happy because we survived a 4 page song. I actually feel beauty. Who knew that someone could do that? Now, sometimes there’s only chaos and a cacophony of clashing notes, but that’s just something to laugh about and improve the next time!

So, other than the class that I enjoy so much, what’s so great about J-Term? Well, let me tell you something. The free time during J-Term can either be a curse or a blessing. J-Term starts to feel like a drag when you have a lot of free time and nothing to do. Of course, that is remedied simply by finding things to do and people to be with. I’m freed up to do so many activities that I never had time to do last semester, but I have a hard time organizing everything that I want to get done each day. I end up not getting anything done because I just watch Friends on Netflix and exercise. To be fair, there are those rare occasions when I sit down and knit a beanie or practice piano for an hour. I feel pretty productive after those days! It is also a little odd that I don’t really see as many people throughout the campus as I used to, but I definitely appreciate the people that I do get to see! Plus, I get to push myself to make plans to spend time with people that I never really spent time with last semester. Last night, my friend Grace and I got to take a girl shopping to celebrate her birthday and we had a great time! I can pretty much promise that we would be studying hard if it was Tuesday night during a regular semester. Thank you, J-Term, for making that valuable time available!

Maybe the sleepy, relaxed atmosphere at Erskine is abnormal for J-Term or it’s completely normal. Regardless of the answer, I’ve got to say that I do really enjoy J-Term. It is really nice to have a light 3 week workload at Erskine before the spring. J-Term may not be perfect, but hey. If something was perfect, we’d just find some way to screw it up, right? Plus, J-Term has a lot of strengths, such as fun classes, lots of free time, the ability to overcome procrastination, and the ability to bond with people (if you can find them).  😛 It’s just another perk of going to Erskine!

Perks and Probs: Roommate Edition

If you’re reading this post because you wanted to see what I could dish out against my roommate, then you’re about to be sorely disappointed. Honestly, I really enjoy having Dominique as my roommate. When we’re in our room, we don’t feel the need to chat all the time. We can just rest, relax, and recuperate from the day.

So then, what am I going to write about? Well, get ready for me to knock your socks off.

I’m about to tell you why it’s such a pain to room with me.

Dominique and I requested to room together at the beginning of the school year. We had never met before and our only communication had been via Facebook. We got along really well and we both prefer cold, neat rooms. Perfect combination, right?

Well, what Dominique didn’t know at the time was that I have the worst sleep habits ever. I’m not just talking about getting back to the room at 1 am after studying, or even waking up at 7 am to get ready for the day. I mean, I do both of those things, but that’s not why I have the worst sleep habits ever. I am actually the most annoying when I’m unconscious and snoozing on my bed.

Here’s a list of sleep activities that I’ve done since the beginning of school:

– Talking/Conversing

– Singing (I think I had been dreaming that I was in a gospel choir)

– Screaming “OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.” (Something I would never do when awake)

– Jumping from my loft bed to the ground (I woke up as I fell to the floor– slightly embarrassing)

– Burping (I don’t even know…)

-Grinding my teeth (technically I wear a mouthguard at night, but Dominique thought that there was a dog in the room because I was chewing on the guard)

I’m sure the list is even longer, but those are all the things that Dominique has told me that I do. I haven’t sleepwalked yet, but I’m sure that I’ll probably do that too. So, all in all, I’m really thankful for such a patient roommate who is also a pretty heavy sleeper. I don’t know what would have happened if I had been paired up randomly. If my roommate had been a light sleeper, one of us would probably be dead. She could be dead from lack of sleep or I could be dead because she finally caved in and strangled me. God works things out pretty well. 😉