What I Expect From Erskine

Well, I am now in my second semester at Erskine so I must have a pretty good grip on college life, right? I make decent grades. I know how, when, and where to study. I have that stable friend group. I can handle anything that Erskine throws at me. HA. That’s laughable. In the past seven months that I’ve been at Erskine, I may have learned how to thoroughly analyze Brownings’ “My Last Duchess,” participate in a handbell choir, and even carry a decent conversation in Spanish, but I still don’t know squat. Honestly, the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I actually know. The only reasons that my ignorance doesn’t totally frustrate me are the reality that I don’t need to know everything and the faith that I have in Erskine’s ability to prepare me for entering “the real world” by the time I graduate.

After I graduate, I want to head off to graduate school and pursue an M.S. in genetic counseling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, genetic counseling is the practice of giving advice to families who are worried about the nature, risks, consequences, or treatment of a genetic disorder. My passion for genetic counseling was sparked when I visited a genetic center in Greenwood. During that visit, I toured through various labs and talked to several employees, but was uninterested in any subjects until I talked to the genetic counselor.

Genetic counseling may sound like the most boring job on earth to you, but several aspects of the job appeal to me. As a Christian, I love the counseling part of the job. God has endowed me with a desire to get to know people and to bring out the best in them that I can. I love listening to people’s stories and learning their interests, fears, and opinions. I have always wanted a job that centers itself on helping others. A part of me loves working with people because I want to fix them, which is a desire that can be taken too far if God is shoved out of the picture.  While I know that I cannot cure people’s hearts, minds, or bodies, I am secure in the knowledge that God will use me to serve Him in amazing ways. As a science-lover, I really enjoy learning about genetics and how someone became the person that they currently are. I am a short, squinty, asthmatic Asian and that’s all due to genes (thanks, Mom and Dad..).

I am the kind of person who needs to have a plan if I want to be able to move forward. Becoming a genetic counselor may not be in God’s plan for me and I am open to change, but right now in my life, I have a goal to work towards. Part of the reason that I came to Erskine is because I expect to graduate from Erskine feeling ready to take on whatever challenges come before me. I fully believe that Erskine will supply me with the knowledge that I will need to succeed in graduate school, the faith that I will need endure trials in the world, and other important life skills.

What do you expect from a college?

Living Lent: blessings abound

Where did today go?  Whether we are knee-deep in classes or on break, it seems that time skips gaily by while I am left in the dust wondering where it went so quickly.

Today I promised part II of my list of blessings, so without further ado, I shall continue. [Sidenote: yes, I have been reading poetry.  Why do you ask?]

my books don't quite fit on my bookshelf...

my books don’t quite fit on my bookshelf…

12. Literature 
Books, books, books.  What is the best book you have ready lately? What is the last book you read?  I have been an avid bibilophile since I was little and scared myself silly reading too many Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.  I used to get in trouble for reading when I wasn’t supposed to.  (Yeah, figure that one out.)  Literature has provided me with entertainment, friends, profound emotional experiences, a greater understanding of the world, a better perspective of the human condition, and a basis for my understanding of God.  Though I am not the most talented writer in the world, I have a sincere respect and appreciation for those that are blessed with a such a talent.  And I am truly, deeply grateful for the gift of words.

13. Home

Charleston: home sweet home

Charleston: home sweet home

Home is where the heart is.  Home can be anywhere, and is anywhere.  Some once tried to tell me that I couldn’t be homesick for Scotland because it was never home–I respectfully disagree.  I believe that home is anywhere where there is a piece of your heart; though I only spent 4.5 months there, it was enough time for my heart to grow some and leave a piece behind.  Of course, home is definitely wherever my family is, too.
I am getting ready to graduate and go to grad school, though I’m still not sure where yet.  I literally have no idea where I will be in 6 months.  But I am so fortunate to have places to call home.  And I am excited to see where else God will let me call home!

14. Friends
I am blessed to have friends all over the world, even though I don’t get to see many of them very often.  Friends amuse, encourage, love, provide companionship, and help you learn valuable life lessons.  True friends are hard to come by, and quality is definitely more important than quantity.  Who cares how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have?  I am grateful for those who know the real me–good points and flaws together–and love me regardless.

Holly decided to surprise me...

Holly decided to surprise me…

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she's working in DC now.

my wonderful friend Sarah from St Andrews! she’s working in DC now.

15. Health
Not much explanation is needed here.  Though I would/will praise God no matter what, I am grateful for the health that I have enjoyed thus far in my life.

16. Hope
Hope allows me to dream.  Hope gives me something to smile about on the worst days.  Hope has guided me through darkness.  The capacity for hope is something which separates us from the rest of God’s creation, something which beats pessimism and cynicism.  I hope for a lot of things, and it gives me direction and goals.  Hope shapes our lives in so many ways.

17. Forgiveness
Christ died for me on the cross.  What else needs to be said?  But there IS so much to say.  I mess up daily, hourly.  I am the queen of making mistakes.  God’s forgiveness is one of the single greatest blessings I have known; and I truly appreciate forgiveness from friends, family, and foes alike.  I am grateful for the capacity to forgive others, and how I learn and grow through that process.  I am sp blessed that forgiveness  affords me opportunities for new beginnings.

18. Oxygen
Breathing is, well, necessary for survival.  I am blessed to have every breath that God has allowed me in my life.

came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

I came across this gem while exploring St Andrews

19. Nature
Speaking of life…how incredible is the world in which we live?!  We get our food, the components of our clothes and houses, and so much of our inspiration from the natural world.  From the daffodils blooming everywhere right now to the mountains to the vast ocean, and everything in between, I consider the earth to be a blessing from God.  Though it’s easy to take it for granted,  I appreciate any opportunity to be out in the fresh air soaking up the sun.  Or being rained on.  Snow is great, too.  I’m not really picky.  And sunsets are often known to stop me in my tracks.  God is truly the greatest artist!

I took this outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring

speaking of daffodils: I took this photo outside of my dorm in St Andrews last spring.

20. Peace
The more I hear about the war and unrest and fighting in other areas of the world, the more I feel blessed to live in such peace and stability.  (Governmental disagreements aside.)  Yes, crime happens.  Yes, We have been victim of terrorist attacks.  But compared to countless millions who live in constant fear for their lives, I am so blessed to sleep each night feeling safe.

21. Children
How can the sight or sound of a young child–especially a baby–not make you smile?  Children represent imagination, innocence, hope, joy, love.  I hope to be a mother some day, and for now I cherish any opportunity I have to spend with kids.  Every child is truly a gift from God!

22. Emotions–all of them


happiness. [photo by Mayank Kapadia]

When I say all of them, I mean the bad ones as well.  Without sadness or anger, how can you understand true joy?  Without frustration, relief means little.  Emotions remind me that I am alive.

23. (one to grow on) YOU!
Whether I know you personally or not, I know that God made you with care and that He has a great purpose for your life.  I consider it an honor and a blessing to share this world with you, and to be able to share pieces of my life with you.

In Christ,

Living Lent: Hope

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord!”  As we repeated this between refrains during the responsorial psalm in Mass yesterday, I said it with practiced ease.  I have grown up hearing and believing these words for my entire life.  When I woke up this morning with them still on my mind, however, I realized that lately I haven’t believed them enough.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
[Isaiah 40:31]

If you have lived on this earth for any amount of time, you–like me–have no doubt experienced stress, heartache, worry, grief, exhaustion, or any combination thereof.  If you are an Erskine student, you have perhaps experienced one or some of these in the past week, and likely will in the next week and a half until Spring Break–otherwise known as MIDTERM TIME.

stress... As this particular verse from Isaiah reminds us, placing our hope in the Lord renews our strength! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty weary from my busy schedule and long “to do” list right about now.  As I started writing this post, I tried to think about the last time I thought about hope.  I certainly hope for many things in my own life: love, acceptance, forgiveness, an A on a test, being accepted to my ideal PhD program, healing, focus…that list could go on all day.  I have so many hopes for my family and friends, and for all of those hurting and suffering in the world.  But do I place my hope in the Lord?  God knows every intention and desire of my heart, yet (as I wrote about yesterday) He appreciates thoughtfulness.  Prayer is thoughtful. Prayer is thought-full.  Prayer is hopeful, hope-filled.  And my faith is the source of all of my hope.  I can’t remember the last time I actually pondered the idea; so today I have decided to reflect on how hope has helped me and sustained me, and why Lent is such a great time to refocus on it.

You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.
With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
[Psalm 30:12-13]

I have an internship at Patrick B. Harris Psychiatric Hospital in Anderson, SC, this semester.  Though I want to talk more about this experience at a later date, this experience is worth mentioning in this context as well.  Working at the hospital, I interact with and hear stories every day from patients who have suffered from major depression.  I have heard stories of despair, emptiness, isolation, and suicide attempts.  These stories are a daily reminder of my own struggle with depression and anxiety my sophomore year at Erskine.  As a Christian who desires to work in the mental health field I actually thank God now for that experience, miserable though it was.

Some Christians have this misconception that mental illnesses, particularly depression & anxiety, happen to people when their faith is not strong enough, when they are not praying hard enough, or something along those lines.  I would like to go on the record as saying that that is completely 110% untrue.  The most difficult part of my depression was that I did have strong faith, yet I could no longer feel God’s presence and guidance in my life as I used to.  My faith never left me, though; on the contrary, it was my faith in the Lord that kept me going and gave me hope.  Eventually, as the Psalm above says, God changed my mourning into dancing, my depression into joy.  And now I have an understanding and empathy for the patients and for friends of mine going through a similar dark time.  I thank God for my suffering AND my health.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, my secure height; I shall not fall.
My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.
[Psalm 62:6-8]

My biggest worry right now, I think, is where I will be going to graduate school next year.  I have been accepted to a Masters program but was rejected from 3 PhD programs and have yet to hear from 2 others.  I am trying to take this not-hearing as a good sign; yet I have been worrying and stressing and waking up at night since December 1st, wondering whether any of the programs will accept me.  Yesterday and today have been a welcome and much-needed reminder to myself to hope and trust in the Lord.  I hope for another offer of admission, but more than that I hope to be where God can use me and shape me best to do His work.  I may be stressed about my school work and busy schedule, but I choose this Lent season to actively place my hope in the Lord.

What is your greatest hope right now?  In what ways has God taught you the value of hope?  How do you remind yourself to have hope when life seems overwhelming?

This post was longer than I intended it to be when I began writing, but thank you for sticking with me and for taking the time to read it.  You are in my prayers and on God’s mind.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit [Romans 15:13].

God bless you and keep you,

Good News!

An exciting update on grad school: first, and most importantly, after two rejections from the other schools, I have been accepted to the graduate vocal performance program at Converse College!  So, I have a new home to look forward to in Spartanburg in the spring, and the relief of knowing a definite answer to that most daunting of questions for every college senior: “What are you doing after graduation?”

The more I think about it, the more I am very pleased with the prospect of my next two years.  I am somewhat familiar with the school and the city, because my older sister, Nicole, got her undergraduate degree from Converse.  This means that I am somewhat familiar with the campus and the character of the school already, and that I can get good inside advice (and babysitting contacts!).  Also, it is a comfortable three hour drive from home (shorter than the distance from home to Erskine), and almost an hour and a half from Erskine – an easy drive to visit for a Choraleers concert, or for friends to come visit me for a weekend.  Also, though I love little Due West dearly, it will be exciting to live in an area with lots of opportunities to see concerts, plays, and other cultural events – both in Spartanburg and nearby Greenville.

Converse is also a small, comfortable size, comparable to Erskine, so I will still enjoy the feel of a small campus and a personal education.  Despite the size of the college, they have a large music department, so I will have opportunities to be involved in choirs, other ensembles, and (most exciting to me) operas.  Plus, there are very nice, brand-new apartments on campus that I definitely would not mind living in. . . a positive to know that I have a good place to stay!

In addition to this sense of accomplishment, I had my pre-recital hearing this morning and it went quite well.  I think that the good news yesterday about grad school helped me to relax, because I was hardly nervous this morning.  Now my recital is essentially ready for the big day on March 31 (coming soon!) so I just have maintain and polish my repertoire.  To top all of this off, Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre honor society that I am involved in, is putting on a Reader’s Theatre this evening, which is going to be really fun.

Although it started quite stressfully, and there may have been a couple of nights with extended naps rather than a good sleep, this week has turned out to be quite a good one!  I have overcome some big hurdles for this semester, so now I can focus on getting through midterms and look forward to leaving for choir tour in a week – Spring Break is so close!

Grad School Auditions: Check

I am officially finished with grad school auditions!  I feel so content, almost relaxed, now that they are all done.  Although there are many big things to be working on now – not the least of which is my pre-recital hearing next week – none of it seems to compare to the preparation and nervousness of the last few weeks.

I had two auditions this weekend: one at UNC Greensboro and the other at UNC School of the Arts.  Luckily, my friend Emma lives in Charlotte, so I imposed on her family’s hospitality and gratefully accepted the offer to stay at their house for the weekend.  From there, it was a manageable hour to an hour and a half traveling to Greensboro and Winston-Salem for my auditions.  Being around people I knew and not having to deal with the extra burden of finding a hotel to stay in was a relief.  After everything else that I was dealing with in those two days, it helped me relax quite a bit knowing where I was going to sleep, and having familiar faces around.

So, the big question now, I suppose is: “How did it go?”

One of my great challenges: the runs in "Parto, parto" from Mozart's 'La Clemenza di Tito'

Well, I had a good experience at both locations: I liked both campuses (and found them easily, thanks to my friend Rachel’s GPS that I borrowed!), the judges and other facilitators were friendly, and I sang well.  It’s a satisfying feeling to walk away from an audition and know that I couldn’t have done much better.  The aria that I was most worried about (Mozart’s “Parto, parto” from La Clemenza di Tito) turned out to be a personal best performance!  I never sang those long, complicated runs as well as I did on Sunday, and I am so proud of that.  I also did my sight-reading perfectly and easily on Saturday, which boosted my confidence.

I think the only small mishap involved my preoccupation in driving to UNCSA on Sunday – I was so absorbed in my thoughts, running lyrics, and warming up that I didn’t notice my gas tank quickly emptying.  Finally, my gas light went on about a minute before I reached the campus, startling me and causing me to make a detour through Winston-Salem to find a gas station.  After driving for a few minutes through the city and not finding one, it finally occurred to me that I had a GPS, which has the capabilities to find something like, say, the nearest few gas stations.  After trying the first three that came up on the GPS (all of which were closed or non-existent), I happened upon one and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled in to fill up.  This small crisis certainly didn’t help my nerves, but it is easy enough to laugh at it now.


The music building at UNC Greensboro - my second possible home next year. (from their website: performingarts.uncg.edu/music)

After everything, I am left with one definite rejection, one probable acceptance, and one totally ambiguous.  UNCSA had call-backs last night, which I wasn’t asked to stay for, but I’m okay with this.  For one thing, it is nice to know for sure, even though the result is negative.  Plus, it was a great experience to get a little bit of a feel for a conservatory, and to be in the presence of so many talented, aspiring opera singers who share my passion.  So now I’m waiting for word from Converse and UNCG; the former seemed quite positive when I auditioned, and I have no idea what the latter thought.  Regardless, now I just have to sit back and wait, and do more of that simple thing called “schoolwork”. . . piece of cake, after three grad school auditions in two consecutive weekends.

Grad School Auditions: Part One

Wow.  This morning I had my first of three grad school auditions, and I ever since I got back to Erskine it seems surreal – did that just happen?  It went well, but I think what makes it seem so hard to believe is that after so much preparation it was over so quickly.

Blackman Music Building at Converse College - one of my prospective homes next year (from their website: http://www.converse.edu)

Last night I went to bed exceedingly early for a Friday (10:30!), and I left at 7:30 this morning for Spartanburg, where I auditioned at Converse College for their Masters program in Vocal Performance.  I arrived in good time with a little over an hour left before my audition, so I was shown to my practice room where I leisurely warmed up and ran through my repertoire before being summoned to the audition room.

I met my accompanist a couple of minutes before, and we went right in for my audition.  I sang, then sat down for a brief interview with the faculty judges, and it was over – a short ten or fifteen minutes later (I was too preoccupied to keep a very accurate measure of the time!).  I lingered for a little while longer, walking around the music building to get a lay of the land and talking with a couple of professors.  Finally, there was nothing left to do but drive back to Erskine, and I even made it back in time for lunch in the dining hall.

The whole trip took only five hours, all of Saturday morning, and that was it – now I just have to prepare for my other two auditions next weekend and wait for a reply.  The whole process of applying and auditioning for grad school is a rather nerve-wracking, yet exciting, experience.  Like many things in life, there is a long period of preparation, then the time finally comes and it is over.  It is nice to be partially finished, though, especially since I am satisfied with my performance today.  If I can perform equally well at my two auditions next week, I don’t think that I will worry about where I get in – I will have done the best that I could, and I know that I will end up where I am meant to be.  What a good feeling.

Parlez vous français?

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

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

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

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