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!

Erskine professors are the best.

Part of what makes Erskine so special–part of that unique feeling on campus that no one can quite explain–is the faculty.  Every professor at Erskine could most likely make more money and gain more prestige working elsewhere but they choose to be here.  I know many instances of professors leaving higher-paying jobs (or turning down enticing offers) elsewhere to be here.  This is so striking because it shows just how much these individuals truly care about us, their students.

While at Erskine, I have had the most contact with the psychology, foreign language, and music departments.  Professors in almost every department, though, have deeply impacted me in both similar and varying ways.  I have never seen a teacher as truly excited about math as Dr. Gorka and I have also had the benefit of his excellent advising regarding study abroad.  I have learned–and retained–more world history in the past few years than I have the rest of my life combined.  Dr. Granados’ classes have both frustrated me and massively improved my ability to communicate in Spanish, as well as fostered a genuine interest in Spanish literature.  I talk to her as a professor and as a friend.  Our current acting president, Dr. Christie, has also been my acting director and my English teacher.  I know of no one else who could make the book Moby Dick as interesting as he did in his American Romanticism course.

I have spent hundreds of hours in the music building singing as part of a choral ensemble, in voice lessons, in practice rooms, and as a performer in many concerts and musical productions; and  I have attended many other musical performances by amateurs and professionals.  Thanks to Erskine’s music department, I have had a music scholarship for four years even though I am not a major or minor.  Singing with the Choraleers for four years, as well as Chamber Singers and Bella Voce, has afforded me the opportunity to sing and worship at dozens of churches around the southeastern United States.  Some of my favorite memories of college were made during Choraleers retreats or trips.  Singing sacred music with a choir and conductor who actually believe the words we are singing is a far more powerful experience than singing the same music with a secular ensemble.  And Dr. Nabholz’s daily witty comments and retorts never fail to make us laugh.

The professors in the psychology department have been my encouragement, my biggest supporters, and sometimes my biggest frustrations.  Drs. Elsner, Showalter, Sniteman, and now Dr. Van Scoy are truly some of my favorite people on campus.  They have celebrated my achievements with me, given me countless words of motivation and advice, and helped me find my footing when I stumble.  I have read thousands of pages and spent countless hours studying for this department, but it is [almost] never boring.  These professors see potential in me that I never would have found or believed on my own, and they are part of the reason that I consider the psychology lobby/lab my second home on campus.  If I get accepted into a graduate program, and survive, it will be due to the thorough preparation they have given me.

I know of few universities where professor can connect your name to your face, let alone know your family, hometown, major, and campus involvement.  I not only learn from these extremely intelligent individuals, I eat meals with them, know their families, and have called them at home or on their cell phone.  They remember to ask about my health when I’ve been ill or hurt or how a major assignment or exam turned out when I’ve been stressed.  More than a couple of professors kept up with me and my travels and experiences abroad via Facebook and I don’t find that weird at all.  Erskine may have more than its fair share of stellar professors, but I would not change that for anything.

The First Day of School

This Monday was the first day of classes here at the University of St. Andrews.

As I have been waiting about 100 years for classes to start, I was quite excited. I went to bed early and I got up early (7:30 am). I took a shower, I dried my hair, and I agonized over what to wear. I packed my backpack.

(I had to be fresh. I had to go downstairs. I had to have my bowl of cereal.)

My class started at 9 am. I arrived at 8:45 and waited for Elisabeth and Mairi to get there, and we walked inside. I sat in my seat and got out a sheet of paper to take notes. I opened a new pack of pencils. I was ready for my first day of school!

And…… Class was over by 9:45. So that was pretty much the most anticlimactic first day of my entire life. I had about 45 minutes of lecture, and that was my only lecture for the day. However, don’t feel too bad for me! My professor realized that he would be missing several lectures during the 8th week of the semester, so he decided to schedule an extra two hour lecture on Friday afternoon. This was the first time that this has ever happened to me: at American Universities professors do not typically walk into class on the first day and announce that they will be holding extra lectures!

It is actually quite a common thing here for students to have very little contact with their professors. Students might attend only 1-3 hours of lecture per class, per week and then be expected to do a large amount of reading and studying on their own. I have 3 classes that only meet once per week and this week so far all of the professors have let me leave early.

On the plus side, we have a cleaning service here in my hall! No, I am not kidding!! Every morning someone comes in to take out our trash and once a week she comes in to vacuum the floor, clean the sink, and dust! At Erskine they always say to freshman “you better be neat, no one is going to clean up after you in college!” But here, someone actually does help us out a little bit! It is the strangest thing!



Class Act

Has it really been that long since my last post?! Time certainly flies and it needs to slow down.

I realized recently that I have not shared which modules I am taking, so allow me to briefly summarise each.

Scottish Music, a second-year module, meets 3 days a week for an hour each; it is co-taught by two really wonderful professors with a passion for music.  In less than three weeks, I have learned tons about Scottish history, church history, and both “classical” and folk Scottish music through the centuries.

This module also includes hour-long tutorials every other week.  Monday was our first one and we learned how to play the penny whistle.  It was a lot of fun!

In addition to Scottish Music I am also taking three fourth-year psychology modules, each of which meets once a week for two hours.

In Group Behaviour, we are talking a lot about crowd dynamics and crowd psychology which is a different perspective than I had anticipated, but it has been very thought-provoking and it has already done a lot to broaden my global perspective and reassess media portrayals of world events.  The class neatly combines aspects of sociology with social psychology.

I am also taking a class called Emotion, which has been quite philosophical so far; we have discussed the history of ideas on emotion, largely focusing on philosophers’ interpretations and ideas on what they are.  We also discussed the experience of an emotion and considered how to define what an emotion is.  It seems simple enough at first, but when you get into it you quickly discover that there is no one straightforward or really correct answer.  I never realized how little literature there is on definining emotions especially considering how much they are studied and discussed.

My third psychology course is entitled Cognitive Psychology and the Emotional Disorders.  My main area of interest is the clinical side of psychology and this class is a great complement to the counseling and abnormal psych classes I took last semester at Erskine.  We focus mainly on depression and anxiety and have been looking at some interesting research about implicit and explicit memory bias in individuals with depression, dysphoria, or anxiety.

A lot of that probably sounded quite nerdy; I apologize.  Needless to say I really love and enjoy my classes!

The light about a week ago was so beautiful: dark grey clouds contrasted with golden sunlight streaming through. I took this photo in the upstairs lobby of the arts building after my music module. Such a beautiful scene.

The light about a week ago was so beautiful: dark grey clouds contrasted with golden sunlight streaming through. I took this photo in the upstairs lobby of the arts building after my music module. Such a beautiful scene.

It’s also quite nice to be done with classes by 1 or earlier every day, though I always have to hightail it back to Melville for lunch because the dining hall closes at 1:30.  (You eat meals in your hall of residence here.)  My classes are all a 20 minute walk from my hall, but at least I get several miles of brisk walking in every day:  no wonder I’m always hungry!  I’m also rather cold all the time, especially when it’s very windy.  Which, come to think of it, is almost always.  My poor fingers and toes–by the time I get wherever I’m walking they are usually numb or aching and it takes forever for them to warm up.  Thankfully  my room is quite toasty and I’ve even had to turn the radiator down a few times at night after waking up too hot.

I still love living in Melville.  I am slowly meeting more people and the food is usually quite good.  I really appreciate the community atmosphere: that’s something that Melville has always been known for and it is very evident.  I also really appreciate our cleaning staff; just like at Erskine, they do a superb job keeping all of the common areas clean. Unlike Erskine, though, they also pick up our trash every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and vacuum our rooms and clean our sinks once a week.  It is certainly incentive to keep my room picked up and, as I do not have any cleaning supplies with me, it’s nice to know that it will stay clean.  Melville really does feel like home; we are such an eclectic group of people that as far as I can tell get along splendidly.

In my next few posts I will describe some of the events and activities that I’ve experienced so far and share some more pictures.  I take my camera with me everywhere so I have tons of photos.  I also plan to devote a post to food, and one to language–I promise there are some interesting stories there!  Until then, cheers!

I walk by the Old Course and the hotel every morning that I have class and about a week ago the hotel was literally glowing golden from the way the light was hitting it, even though the sky was so dark. It was incredible!

I walk by the Old Course and the hotel every morning that I have class and about a week ago the hotel was literally glowing golden from the way the light was hitting it, even though the sky was so dark. It was incredible!

Liberal Arts Learning and Fellowship Fun

Laughter: the best medicine

It’s hard to believe that the first week of classes is over! Sometimes I’m absolutely bewildered when I think back on all that one can learn, enjoy, and do in just one short six-day span. I’m also happy to report that I’m loving my classes thus far and am excited about the subjects I’m studying. These include Literary Criticism, Spanish, Politics, and various other English classes—what fun! This morning, for example, I watched two of my favorite professors give a joint lecture in a class titled “Music and Politics”. An experimental interdisciplinary course, the class is predicated on the idea that all knowledge is interconnected and that, thus, there is much to be learned through study which brings together different disciplines rather than relegating them to separate, ironclad caskets in the treasure vault of understanding. Today we discussed the view held by various ancients—from Aristotle to St. Augustine—that music has an inherent moral dimension to it. It was quite fascinating to ponder the idea that different types of music, even apart from any lyrics, might in some way either help establish order or, conversely, destabilize a society. Might various musical styles carry inherent implications that make it difficult for one or the other to be used as a medium for a certain type of message? According to Plato, certain rhythms “are the expressions of a courageous and harmonious life”. Fascinating thought that.  I will, however, forgo taking Aristotle’s advice on one score—I in no way feel persuaded that I ought to inform my lovely flautist friends that, as aforementioned venerable Grecian declares, “the flute is not a moral instrument”. Ancient philosopher or not, we don’t have to agree on every point, eh? Another aspect of the week that has been incredibly fun has been the way in which rigorous study has been interspersed with wonderful conversations with fabulous people. I love the academic life (perhaps too much…I promise, parents, I shan’t be a starving scholar forever!), and combining that love with great community makes for an amazing blessing. Should one even be allowed to have so many delightful friends in one place? At any rate, I’m thankful that, though college life is certainly stressful at times, I’m able to learn and grow at a place like Erskine.

Parlez vous français?

I have taken Spanish classes almost every year since I was in eighth grade, studied abroad in Spain for four months last fall, chosen it as one of my majors in college, and reached a rather fluent level of the language.  I can meet a native speaker and comfortably have a conversation.

Now, in my last year of college I am taking introductory French classes.  Those who know that I am a Spanish major are surprised when they hear that I’m taking French, and ask if I need the elective credit hours for graduation – this is not the case at all.  In fact, as a double major, I hardly have room to squeeze the extra class in for two semesters, but somehow I am making it work.IMG_6073

Part of the reason that I began to consider learning another language was from looking into grad school this summer (and topic of several future blogs).  Vocal performance graduate programs encourage applicants to have a fairly versatile language background – most programs suggest two semesters of experience in French, Italian, and German, as they are three major languages of western vocal literature.  I had never been in a day of class in any of these, so I decided to take either French or German at Erskine this year to give myself an extra leg up.

I chose French because I am not so great at its pronunciation (I’m decent in German, I like to think), it is a close cousin to Spanish, and half of my family’s history is French (as my name gives away).  So I enrolled, and now I am two and a half weeks into the class and really enjoying it.  I seem to be picking it up fairly quickly, and I am reminded of how much I really love languages.  It is sort of strange to be starting from scratch with a language, since I haven’t been at that level in about eight years with Spanish, but it’s exciting to begin learning a second foreign language.  And just think, I will dabble in at least two more languages in grad school!

For me, life IS a musical.

Wow, I just realized that I haven’t written a blog in a week and a half. . . the time must be passing quicker than I realize!  Although I am content with my schedule this semester, the fact that 80% of it is music classes can be sort of overwhelming sometimes.  Allow me illustrate.

Besides my one General Education class (Math) and my Spanish-American Civilization class, I have two music history classes – I’m not sure yet if this is an entirely crazy idea or just a good challenge.  Only looking at that, four traditional classes sounds like not too bad of a semester, right?  I’ve always had my voice lessons and a couple of ensembles added to the mix, so I thought that wouldn’t be too bad to handle.  This semester, though, is much more involved than usual, which sort of came as a surprise, though I should have known this was coming.

So, as a music major concentrating in vocal performance, as well as just a passionate musician, I tend to give a hearty “sure!” to every opportunity to sing.  I think this semester I may have reached (though not exceeded yet, I hope) my maximum capacity for the amount of music I can take in at a time.  First, I am part of Choraleers and Chamber Singers, so we have many new pieces that we are all working diligently on, but I also have several extra pieces to learn because of my absence last semester.  This is a good amount of music. . . but wait, there’s more!  I am also part of the opera workshop, so I am learning selections from three different Mozart operas, I am preparing five pieces for a vocal competition two weeks from tomorrow, and to top everything off, my junior recital is five weeks away.

Oh my.

Sorry to bore you with my list (or complaining), but goodness, it just goes to show you how quickly you can get busy at Erskine!  Granted, this is the area that I choose to spend most of my time and energy in because I enjoy it and I am (God willing!) going to graduate with a degree in music next year.  Somehow it is mildly amusing to me when I think about how excited I was to get back into music, after being away for a semester, because even though I knew I would be very busy as usual, I still did not realize that I would be this busy.  But, I can’t complain too much, because I chose it all; regardless of how overwhelmed I feel at the end of some days, I know that when it comes down to it, I am going to enjoy it all and not regret any of it.

Oh, and by the way, if you like music events and want to see some of these wonderful concerts, recitals, opera performances, or other exciting music events, check out – there are lots of great things going on in the department this semester!