The Light of Erskine in the Darkness of Depression

This semester has been emotionally, mentally, and physically draining for me. The stress of being at college, a family member’s passing after a horrible accident, and other events left me worn out, heartbroken, anxious, and eventually physically ill for several days. Every day hit me harder and harder than the day before. I started to feel trapped by the inability to breathe or swallow because of the heaviness that settled in my heart. One night, as I was sitting in front of my Supplemental Instruction class, a stabbing, physical pain in my heart overwhelmed me to the point that I couldn’t speak or move. I am convinced now that I was depressed.

Now, I know that my depression was not as serious as others’ sufferings, and I am not trying to overdramatize my life or situation. I definitely was not diagnosed with a depressive episode or anything, but I was not just in the doldrums or melancholic from a bad day. For the duration of almost a month, I felt like a completely different person. All of my usual vitality and joy was replaced by fear and emptiness. Yet, when someone asked how I was going, I persisted in giving the typical response: “I’m okay. How are you?” The last thing I wanted to do was push my burdens onto my friends, plus I hated the crumbling wreck that I was inside.

William Styron described depression as “a storm – a veritable howling tempest in the brain,” and that’s exactly how I felt. My soul felt like it was torn in two, and I feared that the lighter half was being overcome by the darker half. The amazing part of this story is that God never let me lose hope in His goodness in spite of everything. He taught me complete reliance in my utmost weakness and re-opened my heart to the incredible joy of being seen as a righteous daughter of Christ when I feel most worthless.

So what does this have to do with Erskine?

In all honesty, I felt trapped by Erskine. Over the past two years, I had become so involved with various areas on campus. Now, at the peak of involvement, I felt completely incapable of handling everything, which only increased my anxiety. It turns out that Erskine College was exactly where I needed to be. By God’s grace, so much goodness came out of my weakness. My grades remained high even though I had lost all ability to study well. Organizations that I had poured my heart into last year grew stronger and more stable, even as I pulled away. God sent me an abundance of encouragement and support from my family and friends. I was flooded with people who shouldered my burdens, who delighted in praying for me, people who encouraged me that it was okay to not be okay. I was constantly surprised by an encouraging message or a hug from students I barely knew, often when I was hitting my lowest point of the day. I had a community of people who listened patiently and gave me a shoulder plus a dozen Kleenexes to cry on. I had professors give me understanding and comfort. Most of all, I was reminded of the hope of the preeminent existence of God’s goodness every day in class, in chapel, through RUF, with my friends, and by the community as a whole.

I do not take any of this for granted.

This battle has lasted for almost a month, but now I am starting to feel more normal than I have in a while.

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

Candlelight: An Erskine Tradition

In my opinion, no college or university is complete without its share of strange and sometimes incomprehensible list of bizarre traditions. Clemson students rub their ancient rock before football games, students attending the University of St. Andrews walk up and down the pier on Sundays wearing red robes, and Erskine College girls hold candlelights.

Arriving at Erskine my freshman year, I had never heard of a candlelight. I was walking around campus in my innocent freshman-in-her-first-week-of-college state where I constantly imagined that there could not possibly exist anyone as mature or independent as I currently was. And then, bam! I am assaulted on the front steps of my own college with three posters! Come to the candlelight! And I thinking, come to whaaaaatt?? I figured that they must be very popular at Erskine (whatever they were) because three of them were being held that week, with one being that very night! I decided to go along and figure out what it was all about.

I probably would have been lost and not made it to my first candlelight on time except for the fact that all candlelights are held right outside of the women’s dormitories. I made it just in time for what appeared to be the beginning of a strange ritual: girls standing in a circle in the dark and passing around a lit candle while singing some sort of song that everyone magically knew the lyrics to. The entire thing was rather enchanting and beautiful until one of the girls suddenly blew the candle out and everyone stopped singing and starting dumping water on her head! (And I am just standing there thinking…. WHAT on EARTH is going on around here???)

But once I had stuck around for the rest of the event, I got the basic idea of what was going on, and over the past three years at Erskine my love for the tradition has only grown stronger. The Candlelight is simple: whenever an Erskine girl gets engaged, she attempts to keep it a secret and only tell one or two of her closest friends (I say ‘attempts’ because we need to be real here: girls, especially the recently engaged sort, have a very hard time NOT talking!) That day or evening her friends plan a candlelight for her to help her announce her engagement to the world; they put up posters all around campus announcing that an Erskine girl has been engaged recently and will be having a candlelight some time that week. They usually include a picture or a quote or something which gives you a clue about who the girl might be: but ideally only the one or two girls planning the candlelight know who is engaged.

Girls love to talk about candlelights! It makes a very fun game: sitting in your room with your friends talking about who could possibly be engaged. People will guess random couples and discuss how likely they think it is to be each certain person. “Oh no, it could not be her because I am pretty sure she was studying all weekend” or “It could be her! Didn’t she say this weekend was her two year anniversary???” Girls will keep on guessing right up until the candlelight starts, when everyone will gather outside of the women’s dorms in a huge circle. One of the girls who planned the candlelight will light a candle and begin singing. We sing a song about love (the same one every time) while passing the candle from person to person in the circle. And we stare at each other. We wonder who is going to blow out the candle.

And suddenly, one girl blows out the candle! She is the one who engaged! Usually everyone shrieks in their excitement and then celebrates her new life of engagement by pouring a cup of water over her head! The girl who is engaged then stands in the middle of the circle, dripping wet, and shares the story of how her fiancé proposed to her. Everyone listens with fascination and then celebrates the fantastic story by picking the girl up and then carrying her over to the nearby fountain to drop her in! It is one of our favourite ways of showing love to our fellow sisters in Christ at Erskine 🙂

And now this story comes with a twist. As you know, there are six students (5 girls, 1 boy) from Erskine studying abroad at St. Andrews this semester. Two weeks after we get here the sole male traveller, Robert, decides that he is ready to propose to his girlfriend, who is also studying abroad. He and his girlfriend, Angel, went to the beach with two other girls from Erskine to do a “photo shoot” when he suddenly bends down on one knee and proposes!

Robert planned the engagement very well: on the BEACH in Scotland!?? How awesome is that?? :)

Robert planned the engagement very well: on the BEACH in Scotland!?? How awesome is that?? 🙂

We are all very excited for Angel, and the four of us other girls who are here decide that Angel ought to be able to have her very own candlelight! But how can we do it? There are only five Erskine girls here total… and there is no way Angel can wait until we get back from Scotland to tell! So Angel decided she will not be able to have a candlelight after all… but the four of us had other plans!

Out plan was fairly simple but surprisingly fun. We told Angel that we all wanted to meet for some ice cream. We convinced her to come outside her dorm and come with us, even if she had not eaten her dinner yet (everyone knows it is the new thing to eat dessert before dinner, Angel!) We all secretly brought a cup of water with us and met her outside on the steps. And just when she had begun to suspect that something was up… surprise!! We dumped water all over and began to sing the song!! We all had a really fun time bringing a little bit of Erskine tradition to St. Andrews to celebrate our friend’s engagement! It was super hilarious because while we were all standing in a circle singing several people walked by and looked at us like…. What on EARTH is WRONG with these people??? But we just kept on singing!


Angel thinks she can get away!! :)

Angel thinks she can get away!! 🙂

And then we went and got our ice cream 🙂



An Erskine Student

Good afternoon!

My name is Holly and I am a student at Erskine College. More specifically, I am about to start my senior year at Erskine and I am VERY excited! I double major in mathematics and psychology, and this upcoming year I am about to have one of the best experiences of my life : I am going to study abroad! (You can go ahead and bet 20 bucks that many of my blog posts will relate to my travels and fun in Scotland!)

My most recent Erskine yearbook photo :)

My most recent Erskine yearbook photo 🙂

But before I tell you every detail about my plans to go abroad, would you like to know a little bit more about me? I am from Southern Pines, North Carolina and I went to Pinecrest High School. Unlike many students at Erskine, I did not choose to come to Erskine because I am a loyal member of the ARP church (I am a Baptist :P) or because my great-great-great-great grandfather went to Erskine. My average grandfather did not go to Erskine, either!

I actually heard about Erskine on the internet, from a website called It is actually a really cool website! High school students go online and fill out a questionnaire about what they want their college experience to be like,  and then recommends what it thinks would be the perfect college for each of the students. I answered all of the questions, and it recommended Erskine College for me. So I applied, and visited, and now here I am!

Me and my six best friends at Erskine!

Me and my six best friends at Erskine!

I basically think that Erskine is the best college in the entire world! I love all of my professors and the close friends that I have made! Even more, I love the community. I love living in a dorm where I know everyone and where I can run up and down the dorm halls on Sunday nights in my jammies, begging everyone I see if I can borrow a movie (because I certainly do not want to study on a Sunday!)

But I suppose that anyone can tell you that they love their college without giving any concrete reasons why they do. So let me tell you a few reasons I love Erskine so much. I have thought for a long time about it, and I have decided that the best part about Erskine is the professors. Why the professors? After all, the students at Erskine are also pretty awesome 😉 But if it were not for the professors at Erskine, we would be a pile of really awesome, really uneducated students hanging out in lobbies watching movies and trying to microwave pop-tarts! But besides teaching us basic course material, our professors go way out of their way to teach us the important things in life: how to decide what we want to do with our lives, how to enjoy our learning, and how to do well in life outside of academics.

Some students at Erskine think that they are ninjas!

Some students at Erskine think that they are ninjas!

My professors have certainly done these things for me! My freshman year I had no idea how to write a paper that made any sense at all, so my seminar professor (Dr. Chaney) spent hours in her office with me that year teaching me the difference between an active and passive voice, and what my other professors meant when they talked about “to be” verbs. My sophomore and junior years I took two intense physics courses, and I was falling behind. My physics professor, Dr. Schelp, let me come to his office four days a week outside of class for extra tutoring and help on my homework. He never even once complained about how slow I was, or how much help I needed all of the time. He just brewed a cup of coffee and microwaved himself a burrito, and then kept answering my questions! I mention these two professors because they are the first two I thought of, but many of my other professors have given me extra help, spent time in their offices with me talking about life, and helped me to grow outside of the classroom.

At Erskine we also have academic advisers. Each student has a professor in their major who helps them sign up for classes, who helps them choose the best route for them to take in their major, and who helps them do other academic stuff (such as apply for summer research opportunities and maybe even grad school!) Because I am a double major, I have two advisers. Dr. Abalo is my math adviser, and has probably had more questions for me from any other student he has ever advised. Every semester I go into his office and draw a chart of my upcoming semester and make lists of all of the possible classes I could take. He kind of looks at me like I am crazy each time and then helps me choose what would be the best math classes for me to take. I think he wonders how I can possibly talk so much, and how I can have so many questions, but he answers them all and is one of my favorite professors at Erskine 🙂

The Erskine Society of Psychology (ESP)

The Erskine Society of Psychology (ESP)

My psychology adviser is Dr. Elsner. Of all of my professors, he is my favorite and also one the reasons why I came to Erskine. I attended one of his lectures during a scholarship competition weekend and he talked about how wonderful the psychology program is at Erskine. He told us all about the challenging courses we get to take (I am a nerd and get really excited about my classes, as you might can tell), and how successful the students are after they graduate. The whole thing was so well done, and offered the extra incentive of doing well in life after graduation, that I could not help but come to Erskine! 😛

Dr. Elsner has definitely been the best adviser a student can have. Besides patiently answering the hundreds of questions about what I should do with my life after graduation, he has helped me with hundreds of other problems I have stumbled across as a student at Erskine. Which leads me to how I came to study abroad: when I decided (way too late) that I wanted to study abroad, I was not eligible. This year is my senior year and I had too many courses I needed to take before graduation in order to leave for a semester. Dr. Elsner rearranged my entire last year and course requirements so that I could go, including teaching an independent study for me last semester because I would miss the required course while I was abroad.

You know you go to Erskine when this is what you see on the way to math class!

You know you go to Erskine when this is what you see on the way to math class!

Now there are only 44 days remaining until my flight leaves for St. Andrews, and I am about to die with excitement! Actually I hope not to die, because then I would miss out on this wonderful opportunity that Erskine is providing me!