The Countdown for College

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until I leave my comfortable, small-town environment for an unfamiliar, smaller-town environment. 

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until I say goodbye to my family, my friends, and my church and say hello to new friends who will become my new family and a new church where I will make new friends. 

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until I go from being a superior senior to a feeble freshman.

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until I share my room with another person for the first time in my life. 

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until all my anxious fears and anticipations become realities. 

 

14 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes until I move in to Erskine College. 

 

If you were to be one of the hundreds of people who asked me if I was excited to leave my home and start a new life at college, I would easily reply with a hearty “Oh, yes!” But in my mind (and somewhere deep in the pit of my stomach), there is something uneasy and gray that keeps me from bubbling up like some of the other incoming freshman that I have met. I can’t explain why it exists. Perhaps it stems from the uncertainty of whether I will succeed in my schoolwork, or the fear of forcing myself into unknown terrain in order to make new friends, or the inevitable pang of homesickness that I will get despite the 30 mile proximity of my house. Regardless of the reason, I have decided to label the sensation as the Pre-Beginning Jitters, or, PBJ’s.

 

Any person who has ever been a starter for a game, or participated in a music program, or has had the opening line to a play can empathize with me after I explain the Pre-Beginning Jitters. Since I played church basketball (I know, I’m hardcore) for 6 years, my experiences are perfect examples of the PBJ’s.

Throwback to my 9th grade basketball team (I'm the four-eyed #20)

Throwback to my 9th grade basketball team (I’m the four-eyed #20)

Here’s a timeline of my emotions and thoughts as a basketball game approaches: (I was the starting point guard, for the record)

  • 1 Week Before The Game: I know there’s a game next week and that I can’t schedule anything that night. No big deal. I can’t wait to practice tonight!
  • 1 Day Before The Game: All of my teammates are freaking out, but it’s not big deal! Even if we don’t win, it’ll still be fun to play.
  • 30 Minutes Before The Game: Okay, I’m starting to get nervous, but I’m sure everything will be fine! I just need to focus on the here and now.
  • 10 Seconds Before The Whistle Blows: OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. I’m so nervous and anxious that I think I might actually throw up on the court. How embarrassing would that be? Oh man.. if I screw up right now, I’ll never live it down and the rest of the game will be ruined. What if I miss the ball? What if the other team scores a point? What if someone breaks their nose and we have to cancel? I think I’m gonna be sick..

Have a virtual Pokemon face cookie as a reward for surviving the danger zone of my crazed mind and continuing to read this post. 😉 IMG_1379

 

Back to my point, that timeline of emotions is exactly how I had been feeling about college. I was nonchalant and even indifferent about leaving for college and then suddenly, BAM. I graduated from high school and I had to start thinking about what going to college actually entailed. Now I’m at that 10 seconds point before the ball is tossed up. The game hasn’t quite started yet and I don’t know what to expect from myself or the players around me. The one thing that I do know is this: thousands of people have felt the exact same way that I am feeling right now, and not only did they survive college, but it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

So bring it on, Erskine! I’m ready to handle anything that you throw at me! There may be some nervous puking, and I will probably cry at some point, but I’m ready to take on the challenge!

P.S. Stay alert, because I’ll be sharing all of my crazy, exciting stories with you throughout the year!

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!

Is it REALLY time for the Graduation Fair, ALREADY??

Yesterday I went to the graduation fair for seniors at Erskine. And it was weird.

After all, for years I have watched people go to the graduation fair. Even last year, I watched my friends order their caps and gowns, address graduation invitations, and plan their graduation outfits. I wondered at how they must feel about leaving Erskine and thought that I was sure glad that I was never going to be graduating!

You may think that I am crazy when you hear me say that I never thought I would graduate. After all, you must be asking, what do you think you came to college for?? To take a nap?!?!? Of course my END goal has always been to graduate on time, maybe even with honors! But when I am sitting down and planning my daily or monthly life, I simply never think about actually leaving Erskine. I have been here for so long that graduation feels like an impossibility! When I came to Erskine as a freshman, four years felt like the longest time on earth and I didn’t realize I would only have to blink once and the time would be over! So you can understand why attending the graduation fair was a bit strange!

The question that all of my professors have been asking me recently is: Do you feel prepared for life? They want to know if their four years of guidance and advice has helped me to grow and feel ready to conquer the world after I leave Erskine. Do I feel that my Erskine education has helped shaped a better and brighter future for my years ahead?

In some ways, this is an impossible question. After all, who knows what I would have done if I had not come to college, if I had not chosen to attend Erskine?? Do I look like the Lord Almighty, all-knowing and understanding not only of everything that is, but everything that could have been? Not hardly! But what I can tell them is this. Since my first day at Erskine, I have learned a lot of things. I have learned about grammar and writing and reading. I have studied history and theories of Biblical interpretation. I have learned a TON of statistics and ideas on human life through my double major in math and psychology. I have explored the world by studying abroad! Academically and socially, I am an entirely different (and in my opinion also more enjoyable, hilarious, interesting and definitely humble!) person than the girl who started college four years ago.

So am I ready for Erskine graduation? Not hardly yet! But I am much closer than I was three and a half years ago, and I still have three months to get ready!

snowpocalypse: Erskine edition

In case you live under a rock, or on the opposite side of the world, or in the tropics, let me be the first to tell you that the southeastern United States got snow dumped on us this past week.   Actually, I think I read somewhere that 49 of the 50 states in the Union have snow on the ground.  How often does that happen??

We had classes cancelled Wednesday, Thursday, AND Friday this week.  Yes, that means I am currently just past halfway through an unexpected 5-day weekend.  Some of us have been grateful for the extra time to work on papers or study for postponed tests.  Some of us have spent our days [and nights] having snowball fights and building igloos (no, really. there’s a picture further on).  Some of us have discovered how difficult it is to walk gracefully–and walk without slipping–on icy snow.  Some of us experienced our first EVER snow day (poor Floridians!).  Some of us discovered the magic of snow cream.  And ALL of us have enjoyed the extra sleep and fun time with our friends!  Below are some photos I took this week.

outside of Moffatt Dining Hall

outside of Moffatt Dining Hall

someone built a snowman under the Towers! (Erskine Building and Philo Hall in the background)

someone built a snowman under the Towers! (Erskine Building and Philo Hall in the background)

looking out of Carnegie over the parking lot and softball field

looking out of Carnegie over the parking lot and softball field

looking out of my ice-covered car window

looking out of my ice-covered car window

obligatory snow selfie, because I adore snow.

obligatory snow selfie, because I adore snow.

frozen fountain!

frozen fountain!

the Engler house on Pedestrian Highway looking even prettier than usual

the Engler house on Pedestrian Highway looking even prettier than usual

Since many of you have probably not been at Erskine when there was snow on the ground (this is only my 2nd experience in my 4 years), and since I have a lot of friends who are talented photographers, I thought I would share Erskine snow days through the eyes of my fellow students.  There is a lot of scrolling, but I promise it’s worth it.  Thank you so much to all of my friends who have agreed to let me peruse their Facebook and Instagram accounts and include their photos in this post. [Click on any photo for a larger version.]

what a stylish snowman! photo from Autumn Horne '17

what a stylish snowman! photo from Autumn Horne ’17

roommates having fun in the snow! Cali Colbert & Jordan Joseph, both c/o '17

roommates having fun in the snow! Cali Colbert & Jordan Joseph, both c/o ’17

looking toward Belk Hall (background) with Bowie Arts Center to the right. photo by Ashley Strickland '17

looking toward Belk Hall (background) with Bowie Arts Center to the right. photo by Ashley Strickland ’17

friends in the snow! Danica Newton & Ross McEwan, both c/o '17

friends in the snow! Danica Newton & Ross McEwan, both c/o ’17

ready to go sledding! Norma Deluna & Clarissa Stiving, both c/o '17

ready to go sledding! Norma Deluna & Clarissa Stiving, both c/o ’17

I've always loved this tree; Belk Hall is to the right. photo by Sami Maree '14

I’ve always loved this tree; Belk Hall is to the right. photo by Sami Maree ’14

during and before the snow; photo by Sami Maree '14

during and before the snow; photo by Sami Maree ’14

Erskine Building, photo by Sarah Baroody '16

Erskine Building, photo by Sarah Baroody ’16

photo by Sarah Baroody '16

photo by Sarah Baroody ’16

Erskine bushes outside of the library, photo from Sarah Baroody '16

Erskine bushes outside of the library, photo from Sarah Baroody ’16

Someone gave the statue some hipster accessories a few weeks ago. photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

Someone gave the statue some hipster accessories a few weeks ago. photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

looking out of the dorm window; photo by Mika Goyette '15

looking out of the dorm window; photo by Mika Goyette ’15

Pete Savarese (’15) braved the snow in crutches (and shorts!) to spend some more time on the soccer field

Sally Caldwell & Clara Formby, both c/o '16

Sally Caldwell & Clara Formby, both c/o ’16

photo from Sally Caldwell,'16

photo from Sally Caldwell,’16

Galloway in the snow; photo by Corey Marks '16

Galloway in the snow; photo by Corey Marks ’16

photo by Corey Marks '16

photo by Corey Marks ’16

a group of "Erskimos" spent hours building an igloo on The Circle! Over 30 people, including the Due West police, helped out. photo from Jeanne Bell

a group of “Erskimos” spent hours building an igloo on The Circle! Over 30 people, including the Due West police, helped out. photo from Jeanne Bell

photo by Miranda Guthrie '16

photo by Miranda Guthrie ’16

the Erskine Building, photo from Tegan Van Rijn '17

the Erskine Building, photo from Tegan Van Rijn ’17

Alumni Gate, photo by Sami Maree '14

Alumni Gate, photo by Sami Maree ’14

Euphie Hall, photo by Sami Maree '14

Euphie Hall, photo by Sami Maree ’14

Anna Raquel  Robison & Danica Newton, both c/o '17

Anna Raquel Robison & Danica Newton, both c/o ’17

looking toward Memorial Hall; photo from Danica Newton '17

looking toward Memorial Hall; photo from Danica Newton ’17

Norma Deluna ('17) catching snowflakes

Norma Deluna (’17) catching snowflakes

looking across the mall toward Watkins Student Center, photo from Sarah Baroody '16

looking across the mall toward Watkins Student Center, photo from Sarah Baroody ’16

Erskine blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

homecoming 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

Shane Sniteman opening for Air Dubai

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

The lead singer of Air Dubai singing his heart out

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 🙂