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.

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.

the_magician_s_nephew__wood_between_worlds_by_electricalbee-d79qiby

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.

Van Taylor ’75 talks about his decision to stay at Erskine

VanTaylorSoccerStadium-2Many Erskine alumni share the same story: they aren’t sure whether Erskine is the right fit for them … until they experience it for themselves.

Erskine alumnus Van Taylor ’75 has coached soccer at Lander University for 30 years after a career in pro soccer. In an interview with a local paper, he recounts his first encounter with Erskine College:

Taylor was, at first, signed to play for Davis & Elkins, in West Virginia. But while on a soccer tour in Germany, Taylor found out Davis & Elkins’ then-coach left. So, Taylor’s father — who had been in touch with then-Erskine coach Darrell Saunders — visited Erskine for Taylor.

The father liked it. The son? He had no clue, but that’s where it was decided he would try.

“My dad said, ‘Oh, you’ll love it,'” Taylor recalled.

Taylor, who earned All-American honors at West Essex (New Jersey) High School — the same school one-time USA men’s soccer coach Bob Bradley later attended — was not as excited about Erskine.

Taylor remembers calling home and saying, “Dad, I’m not staying.”

“There’s no way,” Taylor added. “I grew up outside New York City and New Jersey. No way I was going to stay there for four years.”

But Taylor’s father suggested he at least give it one semester.

Taylor decided to not only stay at Erskine, but also flourish there. He graduated from Erskine in 1975.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” said Taylor, an Erskine Hall of Fame member. “Not only did I get my degree here, but I got a great education. I met my wife (Beth, Greenwood District 50 director of secondary education) here. So, [Erskine] is a special place to me.”

Longtime Bearcats coach Taylor honored by stadium dedicationl.

via Index-Journal.

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!

The Proof of a Good Friend

If you ever looking to see a mix of reactions in a group of people, tell them that you are a math major. I’m not even kidding, this is actually quite hilarious! I am a double major in math and psychology at Erskine and, because everyone in American culture routinely asks college students what they are majoring in, I often have to tell people about my majors.

Their reactions usually follow one of two extremes: the look of awe, as if I have personally halfway completed the quest to cure cancer, or the look of extreme disgust as they wonder what kind of torture I must have endured as a child to voluntarily subject myself to such a fate. Meeting a new group of people is almost as always interesting as the various new acquaintances either nod at my announcement or, alternatively, may go to great lengths to express their dissatisfaction with my decision. Some even go to such extremes as to pretend to stick their fingers down their throats and make gagging noises….. quite an extreme reaction, in my opinion!

As a math major, I have spent a lot of time learning how to prove various statements. (This is also somewhat funny because in psychology, my other discipline, to say that you have proved something is akin to saying you wish to torture small animals or something equally ghastly.) Proving a statement in math is quite difficult for me and often takes a lot of work, but I am usually quite proud of any proof I have written! I have a friend at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland called Scott who also studies math and is absolutely brilliant at writing proofs. I am pretty sure that any proof I could write now, he wrote when he was about twelve or thirteen. Nonetheless, studying math and proof writing is really awesome because it is cross cultural — anybody, no matter what language they speak, should be able to read and understand a well written proof in math. Even as a study abroad student in Scotland last semester, the language of proofs was still the same!

For instance, here is a proof I attempted to write last night for abstract algebra!

For instance, here is a proof I attempted to write last night for abstract algebra!

One thing I have learned in life is that not everything can be as neat and tidy as a math proof. Friendships and relationships can be difficult, and not every question so easily answered. Sometimes situations can arise where no one is sure about the right answer, and tough decisions have to be made. I think that one of the things that makes Erskine special is that, not only do we learn about life inside of the classroom, we have a lot of opportunity to learn about life outside of the classroom. As I have studied how to prove that the square root of two is irrational, I have also studied questions about my closest friendships. At Erskine I have had the opportunity to explore: what is the proof of a good friend?

Even my abstract algebra textbook has life advice to offer!! :)

Even my abstract algebra textbook has life advice to offer!! 🙂

Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” One of my biggest blessings at Erskine for me has been the opportunity to make close friends, both at home and abroad. The word love is also defined for us, in 1 Corinthians, and probably quite familiar to you. I think of my darling Elisabeth, who is always so patient with me and sweet Samantha who has never said an unkind word to anyone. Friends who are humble, like Rachel who enjoys whatever the Lord has blessed her with and does not envy the possessions of others. Or Ben, who has so much to be proud of, but does not boast in his own accomplishments, and Kate who is not proud even though culture might say she has every right to be.

Some of my good friends: Kendra, Kate, & Tiffany!

Some of my good friends: Kendra, Kate, & Tiffany!

My friend Vannah, though she has been through many trials, does not dishonor anyone- at least, not that I have ever heard! Girls like Tiffany who are not self-seeking, but constantly look to support and help others. Or how about my roommate, Victoria, who lived with me for two years but was never easily angered by my crazy living habits?? I have, also, to think of Kendra, one of the most forgiving girls I know, who constantly looks for the best in people and keeps no record of wrongs against her. And how would I survive without Heather, who does not delight in any sin in my life, but rejoices in learning God’s truth with me. Last night my dear friend Christine went out of her way to protect me- to bring me dinner when she knew I had none. My beautiful Sarah always trusts that I will be a good friend to her, my friend Amanda who has always had such high hopes for all of her friends, and Lolly has persevered as one of my closest friends since the very first day of orientation!

As a student at Erskine, I have learned many lessons in math and psychology, about how to prove a mathematical statement and how to demonstrate ideas about human nature with psychology. My favorite learning experiences, however, have focused on friendships. In the past four years I have learned much about how to be a good friend and know a good friend when you see one: and these (hopefully) are not announcements that make any one want to gag!

Living Lent: 22 years of gratitude and counting…

Wow!  Starting a blog series right before midterms week was poor timing on my apart.  I apologize for taking so long to start writing again!  I am not going to publicly admit how many days last week I napped in the Student Center rather than getting a proper night’s sleep.  This was one of my most overwhelming midterm weeks ever, especially considering that I had no midterms in St Andrews…

Speaking of St Andrews: I was in Paris, France, a year ago today! My, how the time has flown.  I miss so much about Europe and am looking forward to visiting again some day.

But on to my post for today.  A week ago I turned 22 (which feels sort of old when you live in a dorm full of 18- and 19-year-olds…) and despite my hectic and stressful week, so many little things along the way reminded me just how blessed I am.  Lent is a time of reflection, preparation, and gratitude, so today’s post is 22 things for which I am grateful.

1. Faith
I am grateful for my Faith in God, in His love and mercy.  I have faith and hope for forgiveness and salvation.  My faith has strengthened me and saved me in my darkest moments.  I have faith in people, in love, in goodness, in the future.  Faith is all-encompassing in life and the anchor for my soul.

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimee; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimée; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

family photo from Nicole's & Jeremy's wedding, June 2012

family photo from Nicole’s & Jeremy’s wedding, June 2012 (photo ©Marni Rothschild Pictures, LLC)

2. Family
We are by no means perfect, but my parents and siblings are my biggest support and encouragement.  I am so blessed to call my mom one of my best friends.  I appreciate [though I do not say it nearly enough] that I can sit and talk to my parents for hours about literally anything.  I am so grateful to have a little brother with Down syndrome.  Growing up with a special needs sibling has taught me countless valuable life lessons and given me a completely different outlook on life.  I know no one who embodies unconditional love the way that Luke does.

3. Erskine
Though originally I had no intention of going to Erskine (who wants to attend college where her sister goes?!), I am so glad that God led me here.  I have learned so much, been challenged in ways I never expected. made amazing friends, travelled so many fun places, gained valuable life lessons and mentors, and become more certain of the path which God desires me to follow.

4. St Andrews
St Andrews CastleJust as Erskine has shaped me and changed me for the better, my study abroad experience is probably the single experience of my life that has most helped me to realize who I am and gain confidence in myself.  I left last January knowing not a single person, and left 1 June with scores of great friends and countless life-changing experiences.  I have a stronger faith and a different perspective of the world from studying in Scotland and travelling around Europe.  Of course, I now have what feels like an insatiable desire for travel and adventure…I am so excited to see what my next opportunity will be!

5. Singing
I by no means have the best voice in the world, but I truly love singing and that voice that God DID give me has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in so many different choral ensembles, from my church choir to high school chorus and show choir to several groups at Erskine.  I am a veteran member of the Erskine Choraleers and have also sang with Bella Voce and the Chamber Singers.  I am grateful for the ministry that music provides in my personal life as well as the opportunity to use music as my ministry in church.

the finale pose from my sister's senior music project, "All That Jazz." (photo by Whitney Adkins)

the finale pose from my sister’s senior music project, “All That Jazz.” (photo by Whitney Adkins)

6. Dance

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews--such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews–such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

From the time I knew what one was, I wanted to be a ballerina.  When we played dress up as kids, 9 times out of 10 I wore the tutu.  When I was 6 or so years old, we hosted a French exchange student who taught me how to do a pirouette and I practiced until I was too dizzy to walk.  My family moved to SC when I was 8 years old, and within a year I started taking ballet lessons.  I continued for 6 or 7 years, even progressing to learning pointe (yes, dancing on your toes. yes, OUCH).  High school afforded me the opportunity to branch out and learn some different dance forms, as well as the art of singing AND dancing–a.k.a. show choir.  Since I’ve been in college, and especially since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with all things swing dance related: traditional, Charleston, lindy hop, blues…[Speaking of which, if you have never seen the I Charleston St Andrews that we in the St Andrews Swing Dance Society made last year, you should definitely watch it!]
Dance is a part of my heart, a part of who I am and how I relate to the world.  I am grateful for any and every opportunity to practice and share my love.

7. Theatre

with Tillary Blackman ('13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I've ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

with Tillary Blackman (’13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I’ve ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

No, I am not going to list every art form that I can possibly think of (though I am definitely grateful for all of them!).  Singing, dancing, and acting, though, are all art forms which I especially love.  I truly enjoy acting on stage, doing tech work or working back stage, and watching performances.  I love the challenge of learning a new character and bringing her/him/it to life, the challenge of improvisation, the chaos of tech week and opening night, the feeling of pride earned by a successful performance.  Long rehearsals test patience, energy, and relationships but ultimately strengthen all of these.  I know that my participation in theatre will only help me in my life.

8. Freedom
Sounds cheesy, or cliché, I know.  But how many countries actively persecute Christians? How many countries severely limit the rights of women?  Yes, we can sit here and debate the meaning and context of the word “freedom,” but I am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in the United States has afforded me.

9. Sleep
If college has taught me anything, it is the value of sleep.  I think back now to when I hated going to bed as a child, or when I used to wake up at 4AM and go to the basement to read or play by myself while everyone else slept.  The 22-year-old me wants to ask the 6-year-old me, “WHY?!”  It is so easy to make other things a higher priority than sleep, but it really is essential to proper functioning and good moods.  I truly am grateful for the times that I get a good/full night’s sleep.  Nap time, anyone…?

10. Food
Along the same lines, who doesn’t like food?  It’s delicious.  It’s satisfying.  It’s strengthening.  It makes you feel happy, body and soul.  Nothing says home and love like Mom’s home-cooked dinner.  Food is a common denominator of our social gatherings.  Food encompasses culture, tradition, seasons, memories, creativity (yeah, that art thing again…), nature, and love.  Though I cannot say that I love every food I have ever tried, food is definitely one of the ways I know for a fact that God loves us.

11. Social Media
“Aha! Another Facebook addict!”  I know you’re thinking it. Yes, you.  And perhaps I am slightly guilty as charged, though I’m working on it.  While realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance, I do believe that most of these platforms can be very useful.  My primary use for Facebook is staying in contact with all of my friends from abroad and all over the United States.  We are using Pinterest as a common space to plan my sister’s bridal shower, and I use it to collect articles and information relevant to psychology and therapy.  I get the majority of my world news from Twitter.  Everything in moderation, but I really am grateful for these connections.

Odd place to stop for the day, but I’m halfway and this is quite a long post.  So…stay tuned tomorrow for part II! [I seem to like multi-part posts.]  Until then, I’d love some feedback!  Do you agree with some of the points that I made? Do you disagree with any? What are you most grateful for today?  What am I forgetting? How cute is my little brother? [Correct answer: the cutest!]

In Christ,
Christine