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)

God’s Gift of Grace

It has been exactly two weeks since I left my home and entered a new life at Erskine. I haven’t quite gotten homesick yet, but there are a few things about my home that I didn’t start cherishing until I left. In fact, if someone asked me what the hardest thing about college has been so far, I wouldn’t say it’s been the workload or the classes or even the communal bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things have taken a while to adjust to, but they definitely haven’t been the hardest thing to get used to. The biggest trial that I have had to overcome is the loneliness that comes from not being surrounded by the close friendships that I had at home. I’m not gonna lie. It’s hard to go to a college where you don’t know anyone, even if it’s only 30 minutes away. It’s hard to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to meet people while feeling pressured to find your best friend in the crowd. It’s hard to hold onto the hope that you will make lifelong friends even though you’re not as outgoing as others around you. 

I got so lonely and frustrated during the first few days. I mean, obviously you can’t rush into a close friendship. Friendships grow over time. But I just wanted one good friend with whom I could laugh and talk and be myself around. I prayed to God for days to either send me a friend like that or to give me the strength to keep my head up and continue to hope in His plan. Thankfully, He answered both prayers! He sent me an awesome girl by the name of Grace.

Isn't she a cutie? ;)

Isn’t she a cutie? 😉

She’s funny, crazy, wise, and really in love with God. We hit it off as soon as we started talking! At first, we bonded over the shared qualities of our boyfriends, but we soon progressed to becoming really good friends in a matter of hours and we’ve been inseparable ever since. Well, not really.. We aren’t always together. However, we try to eat meals together; we share two classes together; we even study together in the evenings!

IMG_20140903_181802368

“Studying” = Sleeping and sad selfies

I’m so thankful for her. Her sweet spirit always warms my heart, plus she’s really fun to pick on! For example, we have this game at the cafeteria where we try to steal each other’s plate and take them to conveyor belt for the dirty dishes. I normally win, but I have a slight advantage, being a ninja and all. 

So in conclusion, I’ve been so blessed by God in several aspects of my life. However, the biggest blessing that He’s recently given me is the gift of Grace as a wonderful, beautiful, and amazing friend. I’m so excited to seeing what the future holds for us and our friendship. She might even convince me to give horseback riding a try! 

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!

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!

Thanksgiving in the UK

As an American sojourning in a foreign land, I felt that it was my personal responsibility to introduce my fellow students to the happiness and joy that a genuine spirit of thankfulness can bring to a person (especially when that spirit of thankfulness is expressed in a large turkey!) In other words, I really wanted to cook a whole bunch of food for my friends over here, and let them know what a real American Thanksgiving is like!

It makes sense that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here. After, Thanksgiving is a celebration of a first harvest in the new world, and Scotland is certainly part of the old world. It’s a little more surprising that none of them seem to know what Thanksgiving is about, and many seem to guess that is has something to do with Lincoln. (A fact that I find quite interesting, Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holidays, but US citizens are more likely to think of pilgrims.) What really got me, though, was my friend Rachel declaring that she had never even heard of Thanksgiving! I wondered to myself, what do they DO in Northern Ireland??

Every Thursday evening here in St. Andrews, I take part in a wonderful small group with some of the best people I have met here in Scotland. The group is diverse; we have two Americans, one person from Singapore, three Northern Irish, as well as a healthy blend of Scottish and English students! 🙂 And of course, because small group occurs every Thursday, the two Americans (Vannah and I) realized fairly early on in the term that we needed to introduce our small group to a proper Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving actually happened the day before Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving eve. Vannah was super amazing, she was the one who really made it happened and organized everyone! She invited all of the guests: all I had to do was show up and help prepare. She and I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen! We made homemade pies, chickens (since most people don’t like turkey 😦 ), green bean casserole, dressing, and sweet tea. The kitchen was exploding with ingredients! I think the best way to describe to you how messy our kitchen was is to tell you there was a point where we LOST an ENTIRE CASSEROLE! That’s when we knew we needed to think about straightening up! J

The most hilarious thing was watching all of the British students see all of our food for the first time. None of them had ever had green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or even heard of dressing (stuffing!) They wondered at sweet tea and asked if they were supposed to add milk, or if it was alcoholic. They stared at their plates and made comments about how they had never had so many strange foods on their plate at the same time! It was basically hilarious! J  One of the best parts of the evening occurred at the end, when everyone around the table shared what they were most thankful for! It is always amazing to take time to give thanks to the Lord for all of His amazing blessings, and I certainly know I have MANY things to be grateful for!

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! :)

A wonderful meal with wonderful friends! 🙂

The BEST Foam Fight EVER!

The day after Raisin Sunday is Raisin Monday.

Read the BLOG about RAISIN SUNDAY!

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

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

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

Make sense to you? Yeah, me neither! 😛

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

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

Elisabeth dressed me as Donald Duck!

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

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

A family photo: My mum and her six kids 🙂

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

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! :)

Tiff was a member of the teletubby family! 🙂

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

Foam Fight!

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! :)

Family photo AFTER the foam fight! 🙂

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

I love my mum ❤

Paint Fight on the BEACH! (Raisin Sunday)

Last weekend I completed a photo scavenger hunt around town while tied to five other people, had a paint fight on the beach, was thrown into the sea, ate an almost an entire chocolate bar in two minutes (and had to drink an entire wineglass full of random kitchen ingredients because I did not finish on time!), and dressed up as Donald Duck to participate in a school wide shaving cream fight.

When I saw everyone participated in this foam fight, I mean EVERYONE!

When I saw everyone participated in this foam fight, I mean EVERYONE!

            Before you start wondering if I have gone mad and need to be rescued from this foreign land, let me remind you that this past weekend was Raisin Weekend at St. Andrews: one of the best and most fun traditions of the 600 year old university. The tradition goes something like this: every year new students are adopted by older (usually third year) students who become their “academic parents.” Academic dads and mums usually are not married and may have anywhere from two to fifteen children. These “academic families” usually meet several times per semester with their children to spend time hanging out, eating, and playing games. Academic families are not only fun, but a great way to make new friends! Keen students will even go around and find/meet their academic uncles/aunts/cousins/grandparents/etc. in order to build up their family tree!

I wrote a better explanation of academic families and St. Andrews traditions in this blog post 🙂

The biggest responsibility academic families have to their children to help them have a fabulous Raisin weekend. (The weekend is rumored to be called “Raisin Weekend’ because academic children would thank their parents for their hospitality by bringing them a pound of raisins.) Raisin Sunday starts as all of the academic children go over their mum’s house in the morning or early afternoon for a party. Usually they play games and have to complete challenges in order to avoid “forfeits.” (If, at any time, during Raisin weekend your parents decide you are not behaving to their standards or did not successfully complete a challenge, they can give you a drink called a forfeit which you MUST drink and can contain anything the parents decide sounds good.) After their mum’s party, children go over to their dad’s house for another party and more challenges (and forfeits!)

On Raisin Sunday we all had to be at our mum’s house at 1:11 pm. A minute early or a minute late, and we would have to drink a forfeit. Like total dorks we stood outside of their house right around the corner until exactly 1:11 (we didn’t want to start the day with a forfeit!) My academic mum, Elisabeth, had adopted five other children so she could have a family of six. She and four of her friends held their parties together so that we would all be sure to have plenty of siblings AND extended family at the party!

We started with a relay race. Members of the team had to complete challenges (eating a donut off of a string, carrying an egg around on a spoon with your mouth, smashing an egg on your forehead, etc.) Our parents then surprised us by dividing us into three teams and tying us together! Each team was given a list of fourteen things they had to find around town and photograph or film. We had to propose to strangers, dance in front of strangers, and plank in the most interesting places. After completing the checklist we had to rush back to the beach in time for a version of twister and a gigantic paint fight on the beach! After a little rest and warming up from being thrown into the sea, Tiffany and I started the process all over again with games and challenges at our academic dad’s house!

I could try to tell you all about these experiences, and how much fun they were, but everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words! I definitely do not think I could have asked for a better academic family, or a better Raisin Sunday!

Part of the scavenger hunt was to take pictures of yourself doing silly things around town!

Part of the scavenger hunt was to take pictures of yourself doing silly things around town!

 

Another challenge was to do a blank in the most daring place possible!

Another challenge was to do a blank in the most daring place possible!

 

For losing the relay race everyone on our team had to drink a forfeit... we decided to take it as a team....

For losing the relay race everyone on our team had to drink a forfeit… we decided to take it as a team….

 

... I think it is easy to tell how much we enjoyed this mixture! (Curdled milk, pesto, and lemon juice!)

… I think it is easy to tell how much we enjoyed this mixture! (Curdled milk, pesto, and lemon juice!)

 

 

We started the beach party with a new, food based, version of twister!

We started the beach party with a new, food based, version of twister!

 

Our mothers lined up a huge row of paint bottles along the beach!

Next, our mothers lined up a huge row of paint bottles along the beach!

 

We stood in a long line and then SPRINTED towards the paint!

We stood in a long line and then SPRINTED towards the paint!

 

War broke loose on the beach!

War broke loose on the beach!

 

Most of us took the paint fight quite seriously! :)

Most of us took the paint fight quite seriously! 🙂

 

Tiffany and I were certainly having a good time!! :)

Tiffany and I were certainly having a good time!! 🙂

 

Tiffany and I with our academic mums! :)

Tiffany and I with our academic mums! 🙂

 

We finished with a refreshing dip in the North Sea!

We finished with a refreshing dip in the North Sea!