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)

Happy Birthday, Erskine!

This Saturday, Erskine hosted its 175th birthday party. There were events such as ghost tours, a silent auction, a fire performance, the Erskine homecoming soccer game, and so much more. I wish I could write about everything that was going on that day, but unfortunately, I only did about half of the activities.

I began my day as an Erskine Student Ambassador. The Admissions Office hosted an event for prospective students and all of the Student Ambassadors were paired off and were put in charge of a tour group. My tour partner was my sophomore friend, Kasey.

My sweet friend Kasey

My sweet friend Kasey

We gave a tour to a group of 5 families and I felt so lucky to have Kasey be in charge. Since I’m a freshman, I’m still learning what I need to say on tours and how I need to say it. Kasey glossed over whatever I missed in an easy and informative manner. Basically, I’m saying that we rocked our tour.

After the tour, I headed to Erskinefest with my friend Grace. We were both starving, so we rushed to be one of the first people in line for lunch. At lunch, we met up with our friends John and Ives.

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John and Ives

After we finished eating, we went to pick up passports that had the schedule of events on one side, and fifteen different opportunities to get stamps on the other side. Erskine students with five stamps could get Convo credit for the day, and anybody with 5, 10, or 15 stamps could be a part of a drawing for a prize that would take place at the end of the day. I had the small job of giving out one of three special stamps during the early afternoon. My stamping improved so much by the end of the day.

Anyway, my first activities after lunch were to play corn hole and to jump on the bouncy castles. I wasn’t able to get Convo credit for the bouncy castle, but it was totally worth it.

We love bouncy castles!

We love bouncy castles!

After we left the bouncy castles, Grace, John, and Ives left to go do more activities while I spent time with my family. My parents and my older brother came to Erskinefest in the middle of the afternoon. We spent a little time at Subway, but then looked at the Archives in Reid Hall, climbed the towers in the Erskine Building, attended the Erskine men’s soccer game, and watched the parade of floats go down Main Street. Erskinefest was already a lot of fun, but it was even more fun to experience it with my family.

My wonderful parents and me in the Erskine Tower

My wonderful parents and me in the Erskine Tower

Finally, to conclude my day, I got to see a fire performance and then I danced with my friends to the music by The Fantastic Shakers. Let me just say that THE FIRE PERFORMANCE WAS SO COOL AND I WANTED TO CRY. IT WAS SO AWESOME. Seriously. My friends told me that when one performer was doing acts with a flaming hula hoop, my eyes were huge and my mouth was hung open the entire time. I totally believe them because IT WAS SO AWESOMELY AMAZING. Then one performer BREATHED FIRE. Ahhhh, I had been looking forward to that all day and that surpassed all of my expectations.

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FIRE-EATING

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FIRE-BREATHING

The music was really good too. Throughout the day, there were various bands and singers performing, including Erskine’s own Choraleers and Gospel Choir. In my opinion, the last band, The Fantastic Shakers, was the best. The musicians alternated between old, jazzy songs and more current, popular songs. It was a lot of fun to dance to, but I got so tired out!

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The Fantastic Shakers

Most birthday parties just have cake, a few friends, and gifts. This birthday party blew all other parties out of the window. Way to go, Erskine! I can’t wait until your 200th birthday!

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The sophomore float

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The inside of the Erskine Tower was covered in student signatures dating back to the early 1900s.

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2014 Erskine Homecoming lineup

Rock Climbing: An Unknown Wonder of Erskine College

For those of you who are opposed to attending Erskine because you’ll be bored out of your mind, let me just tell you something. There is always something to do here, as long as you have the motivation to find it. Now, if you have been dutifully reading my previous blogs, you know that I rarely have free time to do anything. One thing I do try to make time for every day is exercise, because I’m terrified of that freshman 15. Free, unlimited vanilla ice cream definitely threatens my resolution to weigh the same at the end of the year as I did when I started school. Thus, every day, Grace (see God’s Gift of Grace) and I drag (sometimes we literally drag) our friend Daria to a fitness room in the women’s dorm adjacent to ours, and we exercise for an hour. We use weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals, a funny looking ab doodad, dumbbells, and even some kind of foam yoga mat. We’re basically female versions of Chuck Norris.

Get on our level

Get on our level.

Back to the point, along with exercising with my friends, I also joined a rock climbing club here. Membership only cost $10, which was my main motivation to join. I’m definitely not super strong or flexible, but I can scale up some of the easier walls without too much trouble. Tonight, I actually conquered one of the routes that was one of my projects. I think I’m at a disadvantage because I’m super short and I can’t reach the rocks that other people with normal heights can reach. But I do have a friend who’s super amazing at climbing! Her name is Darby and I look up to her so much because she is so intensely amazing! She’s tiny, but she’s so strong and tough.  I secretly think of her whenever I need the motivation to not give up when I get tired or frustrated.

Darby likes to come down Spidey-style. :)

Darby likes to come down Spidey-style. 🙂

I have really enjoyed the rock climbing club because it has pushed me to make a bunch of friends that I probably wouldn’t normally even talk to. The leaders of the club were so inviting and encouraging, that I was ready to become a member regardless of whether I could actually make it up a wall or not. I have really loved getting to know them and I have also loved improving my climbing skills. I like to think that rock climbing is a practical, hands-on application of the muscles that I build when I work out in the exercise room. I can tell that I’m able to push myself a little bit more on the walls, each time that I go.

Here’s how this blog relates to you: whether you’re in high school, in college, or in whatever prime of life that you think you are, GET INVOLVED! Find things that you enjoy and make awesome memories by doing them! Don’t make the excuse that you never have time… because you might just be doing something that you hate or you’re just too lazy to start something. If the former is true, then you should just stop doing it. Obviously, you can’t skip out on important things like working or cleaning. But if you’re in a knitting club, but you hate knitting, then leave the club! Find something else that will make you happy. If the latter is true, then I feel bad for you. Because if you’re going to let your laziness get in the way of your happiness, then.. you’re just worthy of pity. Get off your potato-chip-covered couch, smooth out the 10-inch, potato-shaped indent, and cross something off your bucket list!

Want to see some pictures of my cool rock climbing pals?

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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!

Living Lent: Ash Wednesday

+:-)     How cool is it that there is a ready-made emoticon for Ash Wednesday? (This twenty-first century student appreciates it at least.)

Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Holy Week and the Easter season.  Erskine bonus: being surrounded by Christians means that I don’t often need to explain what Lent is, or why I currently have ashes on my forehead.  [Another Erskine bonus: being able to go to church with your professors!]  Many students here choose to give something up or make some sort of extra effort for the next 40 days, and I love hearing how creative they are.  It is a reminder of something my priest said in Mass this morning: God appreciates our thoughtfulness and our efforts, not perfection.  In my personal life, I can say that I seldom think about God from that perspective–I have a guilty conscience and ruminate on the countless ways I mess up and fail.  But God is our Father, our friend, our greatest supporter, and the truest and greatest giver of love.  As much as He does for us every second, He notices and appreciates gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness!

Though I am choosing to make sacrifices and/or changes in my personal life, I am not sharing the majority of those in the blog.  I am, however, undertaking a sort of project on the blog for Lent and I would love for you to follow along and be involved.  The series will be loosely based on Love Life Live Lent, and  I got the idea from a friend in St Andrews who is doing it this year for the second time.

I have discussed the idea with the communications department here (which supports this blog) and they are graciously providing me with support and guidance.  I will post updates daily (or as often as possible) about my projects, discussions, questions, and thoughts.  You will also get to read perspectives and thoughts from other members of the Erskine community, which may be a welcome change from my voice.  One of my intents of my Life Lent project is to encourage thought and discussion in our community, which includes you!  I welcome and ask for feedback, questions, and ideas.  I also want to preface by reiterating that I am Catholic, so many posts will likely include things about my personal faith perspective and traditions.  There will be many others, though.

This post may seem rather vague, but I want there to be some element of surprise regarding what I choose to do each day.  Though I may discuss personal projects I undertake or struggles I have, I have no intention of making this project about me.  I  hope to focus on community, faith, and perspective.  Please comment or contact me with any input, insight, or ideas you may have.

I will close today with a brief explanation of why Catholics (and others) receive ashes on this day each year.

The Christian tradition of the dies cinerum (day of ashes) began in the 800s AD but ashes have been used for repentance and penance for thousands of years in myriad cultures.  The ashes we use are the ashes of the palms we burn on Palm Sunday, sprinkled with holy water and blessed by four traditional prayers.  In the Old Testament, ashes are an outward sign of repentance (example: Daniel 9:3-6).  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of repentance, assessment, and a new beginning.  We have all heard something along the lines of, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), or “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  Ashes are a sign of physical death; our physical bodies may die, and we intend to die to our worldly desires, but we have the hope and faith of eternal life with God.

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

I am so grateful for a schedule that allowed me time to make it to Mass today!

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
[Psalm 51:10-11]

God bless you and keep you,
Christine

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 BEST Foam Fight EVER!

The day after Raisin Sunday is Raisin Monday.

Read the BLOG about RAISIN SUNDAY!

After Raisin Sunday, Tiffany and I were exhausted. We were covered in paint, whipped cream, cheese puffs, and sand and we were ready to take a shower. We crawled into our beds and vowed that we would never move again.

Unfortunately, we had to move again. The alarm clock rang on Monday morning. We rolled over and looked at each other. We knew that we were going to have to get out of bed, and neither of us wanted to do it.

Once we did get up (an hour after the alarm rang, shockingly!) things got a whole lot better. The traditions for Raisin Monday are just as interesting for Raisin Sunday at St. Andrews. Every year on Raisin Monday morning, students go over to their mum’s house. The mum can then dress the children as WHATEVER SHE WANTS before sending them off to their dad’s house. The dad then gives them a “raisin receipt” which is usually the most ridiculous item he can think of. All of the dad’s children then carry the receipt off to St. Salvador’s quad, where they turn it in for entrance into a school wide massive foam fight..

Make sense to you? Yeah, me neither! 😛

On Monday morning, Tiff and I went over to our mums’ house to see how they would dress us. They were really sweet and made all of their children a delicious breakfast of bacon rolls and fresh fruit. They then dressed us up! My mum, Elisabeth dressed me up as Donald Duck. My siblings were dressed up in all sorts of random costumes, my favorites were Mario and Shrek! Tiffany’s mum dressed her and all of her siblings as teletubbies. (Tiffa was the yellow one, La-La!)

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

After getting dressed we went to our dad’s house (TIff and I have different mums, but the same dad!) James gave all of his children a joint gift: a HUGE block of ice that we had to carry for 20 minutes across towns with our hands! It was very cold, and he put green food dye and sugar in it to make it sticky 😛

A family photo: My mum and her six kids :)

A family photo: My mum and her six kids 🙂

Walking to the foam fight was hilarious! Mums dressed up their children as all sorts of things, we saw bees and flowers and monsters and babies wearing only a diaper. We saw one dad who dressed up as Aladdin and made all of his kids carry him along on a huge mattress through town. Most of the mums went ALL OUT on their costumes!

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! :)

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! 🙂

Once we got to the foam fight, we got in the queue. My family was the FIRST FAMILY in line for the foam fight! I think that we must have skipped the queue to turn in our receipts, because I know lots of people had been waiting there a lot longer than we had! But when they opened the gates to let us in the quad for the foam fight, we were the first ones in!The foam fight was CRAZY! Imagine everyone you know at Uni running around in a quad wearing Halloween costumes. Then imagine that they all get out cans of shaving cream and start flinging it at each other. EVERYONE was covered in foam and attacking everyone and yelling and running and screaming! This is Scotland, so it was about -100 degrees outside, but it was absolutely hilarious!
Foam Fight!

Foam Fight!

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! :)

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! 🙂

After it was all over we went back to our hall for a shower. Our wardens decided to add one extra surprise to the day: before girls could enter the hall they had to have a freezing bucket of water dumped on their heads. The guys had it worse, they had to run a lap, wearing only boxers, around the hall! Once they finally let us inside we made a beeline for the showers. I got warm in my shower, put on my pajamas, and didn’t get out of my bed for the rest of the day! 🙂
I love my mum <3

I love my mum ❤