Erskine blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!  Today is born our Savior!  I pray that the holiday season finds you and your family healthy, happy, and enjoying the many blessings God has bestowed upon you.  I know that, personally, I am so grateful for surviving the last month of school, including a rather stressful exam week.

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to resume my blog posts by writing about some of the greatest blessings that God has given me through Erskine.  I do apologise in advance: I have no photos to do this post justice, so my ramblings will have to suffice.  I will make up for it in future posts.  So…(in no particular order) here we go!

I am grateful that, as a Christian college, Erskine brings us all together through our shared faith in so many ways: college chapel services; prayer before classes, meetings, and performances; various organizations and clubs; small-groups and Bible studies; impromptu gatherings in the residence halls; and so many others.

I am grateful for being able to live in Carnegie Hall for 3 of my 4 years at Erskine.  As a freshman, Ms Ruth and my SLAs were always supportive and helpful no matter the emergency (of both the small and large varieties).  I met so many great girls my first year that I still study, laugh, and cry with.  As an upperclassmen, I’ve had the ability to serve as a Student Life Assistant for 3 years (this is my second in Carnegie).  I have an even greater appreciation for my awesome freshman year now that I understand more fully what goes on behind the scenes, and I love being able to watch out for and get to know my girls.  And, lets’ be honest: Carnegie is probably the prettiest building on Erskine’s campus. Who wouldn’t love living in a beautiful hundred-year-old hall?

I am grateful for Ms Ruth, the RD in Carnegie for the past 20 years.  This woman wears a whole lot of hats, most of which she wears quietly.  She has the best stories, knows absolutely everything about Erskine, and has lived a terribly exciting life.  I have learned so much from her and she truly has the best advice.  As an added bonus, Ms Ruth makes sure that the halls of Carnegie are truly decked with boughs of holly, lights, trees, and bows.

I am grateful for every professor I have had the opportunity to learn from.  They challenge me academically and personally–often intertwining–and have truly helped me become a better, stronger, more well-rounded individual.  I am confident that they have prepared me fully for graduate school and beyond.  I know my professors not just as teachers, but as individuals.  I know their backgrounds, their families, and their hobbies.  I cannot think of another college where you would form this type of relationship with one professor, let alone most or all of them.  Erskine often talks about “thriving,” and my professors are the reason I thrive here.

I am grateful that Erskine gave me the opportunity to study abroad at the University of St Andrews.  All of my scholarships transferred, making it very affordable for me to spend this past spring there.  I was more than ready to get there and heartbroken to return home.  St Andrews was so much fun and a priceless experience that I will never forget.  It is hard to be so far away from all of the friends I made there; but on the plus side, I have friends to visit all over the world now!

I am grateful for the psychology department.  At many colleges and universities, psychology can be the “easy” major.  Not here.  I have definitely worked hard for my As and I am amazed sometimes at both the number of pages I have read over the past 3.5 years and how much I have learned.  I know that learning is the point of college, but we as students (and by “we,” I definitely refer at least to myself) tend to get caught up in grades and GPA.  Dr Elsner, for example, always laughs when we come to his office stressing about grades.  As he and the other professors have gradually gotten us to accept, it’s most important to focus on the work and the learning; the grades are secondary.  As a psychology major, I have gotten to write countless papers, learn statistics software,  conduct and present original research, collaborate with other students, participate in a summer research internship, be accepted to intern at a mental hospital this spring, and become the psychology lab manager.  Graduate school? Bring it on.

I am grateful for the music department.  Despite not majoring or minoring in music, I have a music scholarship and get to take voice lessons and sing with the Choraleers.  I’ve also been a member of the Chamber Choir and Bella Voce and performed in opera workshops and various other performances over the past several years.  It is definitely a blessing to practice and perform with such talented individuals, and the faculty … talented doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Some of my favorite college memories relate to Choraleers retreats and tours.  I have grown as a musician and as a Christian and I know my experiences with the department will serve me well in future ministry and life in general.

Continuing with the arts, I am grateful to be an active member of Erskine’s theatre department.  Actually, we technically aren’t even a department, but that certainly does not stop us from acting up a storm!  As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, I get to help make the magic happen both on the stage and behind the scenes.  I had to take a break from the improv this group this past semester, but I hope to finish out my time at Erskine as an active member again this spring.  My fellow Thespians are, quite frankly, talented. And did I mention funny?  They are definitely both.  In sum, if you have never seen any music or theatre performances at Erskine, you are missing out.  We’d love to see you in the audience!

I am grateful for my friends.  Late night studying, paper writing, rehearsing, procrastinating, finding amusement in Due West, 2AM excursions to IHOP, cooking together, and so much laughter …  I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

I could probably easily spend another thousand words  writing about how great Erskine is and how God has blessed me in my time there, but my mom is about to take the baked ziti out of the oven and I am too excited to eat a big chunk of it.  I hope your stomach is as happy as mine is about to be.

I pray that your heart may be content and that this season will bring you happiness and peace.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

homecoming 2013

Erskine’s Homecoming, the last of my undergraduate career, was 26 October.  I do not think that finality sank in until just now, as I write this.   Does anyone know where the homecoming tradition came from?  I was on Skype with Aaron, my best friend from St Andrews, the morning of homecoming and in the process of telling him about the day’s events, he asked me what homecoming is. 

How do you describe such an American tradition to one who has never experienced it?  Apparently I did a sufficient job, but he still laughed at our odd ways here on the other side of the Pond.  That was an interesting cultural realisation for me: something which I have always sort of innately understood is an alien concept to most of the world.  But I digress.

This year, Erskine combined Homecoming with our Fall Fest–organised and sponsored by the Erskine Entertainment Board–and parent’s day.  Between the families, friends, students, faculty, and alumni present, it was the busiest I have ever seen the campus.  Breaking character for a day, this quiet little academic village was buzzing from dawn well past dusk.  Also a big deal this year: 2014 marks the 175th anniversary of Erskine College, in case you didn’t know.  On the 24th, we were lucky enough to get to hear about life as a member of the centennial class from Mrs. Dot Simpson Wise, Erskine class of 1939, in a special convocation ceremony.  After the interview, Erskine gave us free 175th anniversary t-shirts, which you will see in a few of the photos below.  Anyone who has been to college understands the excitement of a free t-shirt.  I think I could go a month wearing only Erskine shirts.  This is not a complaint.

classic car, classic shoes, classic Erskine. and the free t-shirt. I love my college. (and my mum-she let me borrow her old saddle shoes!)

this year’s homecoming theme was 1950s; classic car, classic shoes, classic Erskine. and a free t-shirt. I love my college. (and my mum–she let me borrow her old saddle shoes!)  [photo by Evan Gursky]

Traditionally, Erskine holds an event called Fleet-o-Rama the night before.  This involves music, food (often including fire for roasting marshmallows! s’mores, anyone?), float decorating, and other activities.  Despite the chilly weather, it was a fantastic time.

The day itself featured the homecoming parade, an auction, performances by the Choraleers and Gospel Choir, an athletic banquet, exhibition games by various athletic teams, the soccer games and homecoming court, and the concert that evening.  If you are anything like me, you get tired just reading that sentence.  I think we all slept well that night!  The concert featured a band called Air Dubai, preceded by Shane Sniteman, the talented son of one of our professors.

I love seeing the school spirit and pride that everyone shows on days like this.  As stressed out as we may get sometimes, and despite the frustrations that inevitably arise sometimes being in such a small community, I really do love this place and the people here.  I cannot think of another college that supports every student the way Erskine does.  Few outside of Due West know what in the world a “Flying Fleet” is, yet we are fiercely proud of it.

I took very few photos over the weekend, but my talented fellow student, Katie Putnam, took many for the school.  I share some of them below.  There are many more on the Erskine Flickr page.  Enjoy!

The Choraleers singing, directed by the wonderful Dr. Nabholz. It's never easy to sing outside but we were wonderful. Not that I am biased or anything. (I am the one on the front row who isn't wearing jeans like everyone else.)

The Choraleers singing, directed by the wonderful Dr. Nabholz. It’s never easy to sing outside but we were wonderful. Not that I am biased or anything. (I am the one on the front row who isn’t wearing jeans like everyone else.)

At the banquet, six Erskine alumni were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame

At the banquet, six Erskine alumni were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame

The freshmen court: Kristen Craft, Amanda Strickland, and Anna Raquel Robinson.

The freshmen court: Kristen Craft, Amanda Strickland, and Anna Raquel Robinson.

The sophomore court: Hayley Rogers, Miranda Guthrie, and Elinor Griffin.

The sophomore court: Hayley Rogers, Miranda Guthrie, and Elinor Griffin.

The junior court: Rachel Talbot, Mika Goyette, and Chelsea Ball.

The junior court: Rachel Talbot, Mika Goyette, and Chelsea Ball.

The senior court: Cate Cardinale, Corin Hallman, Leslie McGill, and April Horne.

The senior court: Cate Cardinale, Corin Hallman, Leslie McGill, and April Horne.

Cate Cardinale was crowned the 2013 homecoming queen. To her left and right are student body VP Hannah Collins and student body President Daniel Prohaska.

Cate Cardinale was crowned the 2013 homecoming queen. To her left and right are student body VP Hannah Collins and student body President Daniel Prohaska.

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

Choraleers

I’m in the process of planning the end of the year banquet for the Choraleers and it’s all kinda bittersweet. I realize I only have one more year with this precious group of people. Sure, from time to time we get on each other’s nerves, but at the end of the day, we are a family that sticks together and encourage each other. We share laughs. We share heartaches. We share triumphs. We share failures. But at the end of the day the greatest thing we get to do as a group is minister to people and in turn get ministered to by the very people we’re singing for. I’m actually going to miss people next year. Let’s be real, sometimes people just get on your nerves. But for what it’s worth, I’ve shared a lot of nice moments with the seniors that are going to be leaving next year. Time goes by so fast and at a time like this I feel compelled to make better use of all the time I’ve been given with the people that God’s placed in my life. You can learn something from people if you just take the time to get to know them. You don’t always have to like the person, but we are called to love each other.

The banquet will be this Friday afternoon and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got some great gifts prepared for our director and accompanist and the fellow officers. We’ve got a slideshow ready for people and are prepared for lots of laughter and reflection on past memories. It’s going to be a great time of fellowship.

Good Morning– It’s Tour!

Sarah and I on the bus

I’ve got a confession to make. It takes me an inordinately long amount of time to wake up and get ready in the morning. By college standards, at least, a full hour and fifteen minutes—during which I get ready, have devotions, eat breakfast, and straighten my room before departing—is quite extravagant. I don’t seem to be able to successfully mirror the vast majority of college students who roll out of bed, throw on clothes, and are ready to meet the world with a  smile—or a least a somewhat pleasant-I’m-essentially-awake look—within fifteen to twenty  minutes. My roommate is one such person, and, especially since she highly dislikes waking up, she knows how to squeeze every possible minute of sleep from the morning before jumping out of bed to look chipper and lovely within minutes.

Orchid in the Botanic Garden in D.C.

It takes me, on the other hand, at least an hour to wake up and render myself presentable. And heaven forbid I not have time for breakfast or leave my bed unmade. Until, that is, a morning last week when, for the first time in my college career…my alarm didn’t ring. Ironically enough, that morning happened to be the only day of the year when an entire bus full of people was waiting on me to get ready. Yes, I didn’t wake up the morning of choir tour.

Schadell, Aimee, Hannah and I with our first host family. They welcomed us warmly into their home with ice cream, Oreos, and good conversation, followed by a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, cinnamon rolls, and fruit the next day. Mmm.

You see, each year the Choraleers leave on Thursday morning for tour. Since midterms and classes don’t end until the Friday before Spring Break, this departure time means that the week before tour is a rather hectic time of scurrying to take tests early and write papers due on Thursday and Friday. I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. –not bad, really, in a setting where all-nighters aren’t uncommon—packing for the trip and completing a paper that was due Friday. Then, I blithely set my alarm for 6:40 p.m. (whoops!) and went to bed.

Stopping for a meal en route

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my alarm ringing insistently. When, bleary-eyed and blind (praise God for contacts!), I reached to turn it off, I discovered that I was, in fact, receiving an incoming call from my friend Aimee. And it was 8:35 a.m. What?! Frantically recalling the injunction to arrive in the Due West ARP parking lot at 8:00 or 8:15, ready to roll out at 8:30, I half-shouted into the phone in half-awake disbelief: “Aimee, Is it really time to go?!” (I’m devastatingly witty in the mornings.) Aimee calmly told me just to come as quickly as possible and that she would send someone to help carry my luggage.

Within ten minutes, I was walking onto the bus to the good-naturedly joking welcome of friends who had been on the bus for the last thirty minutes or so. I may have looked and felt frazzled, but an in-bus breakfast and en route devotion soon restored me. At any rate, it was quite an exciting start to tour! Though one I don’t hope to soon repeat…

Choraleers On the Move

A couple of weekends ago I went on my first Choraleers mini-tour since my return from Spain. I wasn’t exactly sure how the trip would be, since I’m still getting to know the freshmen in the group (who are wonderful, by the way) and was, *cough*, less than certain of all my notes. On Saturday afternoon, we embarked on our drive to August, Georgia, where we rehearsed at a couple of different churches and were treated to dinner by one of the host churches.

Next, we were assigned our roommates and families for our home-stays—one of the best parts of Choraleers mini-tours. Every home-stay has been different for me, and I’ve actually ended up in a couple of mansions (no, I’m not kidding—if ten girls all have their own bedrooms,  the home qualifies as a mansion) during past trips. Whatever the size of the house, though, it’s always fun to get to know different people from the congregations of the churches where we’re singing. During this most recent trip, I had the pleasure of staying with an Erskine alumna and her sweet family. We enjoyed talking about all kinds of topics over a plate of delicious cookies, but when we landed on the subject of Erskine—which involved our friend’s reminiscences about her time as a Choraleer—we just couldn’t stop talking. We had such fun–even getting to flip through old Erskine yearbooks together– that it was quite late before my fellow Choraleer and I finally realized that we’d better head to bed if we were going to be ready for our early morning performance! Despite our less-than-optimal amount of sleep, our Sunday performances—two in the morning and one in the evening—went well, and the trip in general was great fun.

Being in Choraleers has been one of my absolute favorite parts of my experience at Erskine. Honestly, I didn’t realized how much I’d missed singing with the amazing group that makes up the “Choraleer family” until I came back from Spain and felt a though a vital part of my life that had been missing was suddenly restored. What a joy it is to sing—especially once you know the notes—and what a blessing it is to be able to sing to God’s glory with good friends! We also have an amazing new director this semester, Dr. Nabholz. It’s been a lot of fun learning his directing style and seeing the musical effects of the techniques he’s teaching us.

Friends and I on Choraleers tour at Universal Studios (not where we performed...but a lot of fun) in Orlando my freshman year.

Speaking of which, I was incredibly excited recently when, in preparation for our Spring Break tour to Washington, D.C., Dr. Nabholz had us split up into mixed formation during rehearsal. This mixing of the sections resulted in my being flanked by a tenor and a bass, with a soprano directly behind me. Wow, was it amazing to hear the way all the parts meld together! It’s one thing to be in one’s own section, with a somewhat foggy idea of what each other part sounds like—but to hear the subtle contours of each other musical line? That transforms a “piece” into true music. Of course, I may, *cough*, have noted—no pun intended—that I perhaps don’t know all my notes as well as I ought. Gone is the wiggle room of being able to listen the person next to you when you’re no longer in sections. Which means someone will be frequenting the practice rooms quite a bit between now and our departure for tour. D.C., here we come!

Sharing through Song

Thursday night the Choraleers had the great experience to sing with five other college choirs from the Upstate of South Carolina.  We carpooled just over an hour to Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina for the Upstate Intercollegiate College Festival.  There we got to listen to, meet, and sing for choirs from Mars Hill, Clemson, Bob Jones, Presbyterian, and Southern Wesleyan.  Although it was a long afternoon and evening – we left at 3:30 and did not return to Due West until about 11:00! – it was worth the experience of being able to fellowship and share music with people our age who have a love of music as we do.  We get to sing for others all the time, as a choir, but it is not often that we have other choirs sing for us!

If you would like to hear the concert, it was recorded and you can find it archived on Southern Wesleyan’s website at:  http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18437444 Erskine begins at around 1:12:00.  Enjoy!