This is what happens when finals are over…

As promised, I will give a brief run-through of my final couple of weeks in St Andrews, which–aside from exams–was more fun than should probably be allowed.

Exams at St Andrews are WAY more stressful than exams at Erskine.  Never in my life have I had one, much less three, exams that counted for 75% of my mark for a class!  And my fourth exam was 50% of my grade. Talk about pressure.  Another first for me: taking an exam with a few hundred students in one room of rows and rows of desks.  Talk about distracting.  And I refuse to admit how little sleep I got when I had 3 exams in 4 days.  Lots of prayer and the fantastic support of true friends got me through that week.  Fortunately, I then had a weekend plus two days to recover and study for the last one.  Grades were  released a couple of days ago, and I am quite happy with my results! 

My last final was the morning of Wednesday, 22 May.  St Andrews University has countless fun traditions (all of which I would be quite interested to know the origins of), one of which is Soakings.  Tradition states that as each leaver, normally graduating fourth-years, is absolutely drenched with buckets of water, water pistols, or whatever other means of soaking someone their friends can come up with.  In some cases, friends decide that postgraduate students and study abroad students also qualify for soakings, which is how I happened to get soaked after MY last final.  Fortunately, it was an absolutely gorgeous St Andrews day, which made it slightly less freezing walking back to my hall after about 10 friends dumped cold water on me.  As it was me, there is, of course, photographic evidence of the occasion [thanks to my friend Donald] which I  gladly share below.  I don’t think there was a dry square centimetre on me!

Top left: My "I'm so excited to be finished!" pose Centre: Getting a huge tub of water dumped on me by Aaron and Cory Top right: after everyone had finished dumping cold water on me. COLD! Bottom left: posing with my Swing Soc friends (L>>R: Sara, Alex, me, Martin, Lawrence) Bottom right: posing with some friends from Melville (L>>R:Adam, me, Aaron, Cory) [Thanks to Donald for taking photos!]

Top left: “I’m so excited to be finished!”
Centre: Getting a huge tub of water dumped on me by Aaron and Cory
Top right: after everyone had finished dumping cold water on me. Did I say cold yet? COLD.
Bottom left: posing with my Swing Soc friends (L>>R: Sara, Alex, me, Martin, Lawrence)
Bottom right: posing with some friends from Melville (L>>R:Adam, me, Aaron, Cory)

 I then spent the rest of the day with my academic mum and dad, Laura and Lawrence, whom I introduced in an earlier post.  We went to Laura’s house and cooked a delicious brunch of omelets and bagels, then took a walk along Lady Brae’s.  We stopped in the park and played on the swings, then Lawrence fell asleep in the grass while Laura and I made daisy chains and I danced around barefoot.  It was definitely a fabulous hippie moment.

Miscellaneous shots from our wanderings through the woods; it was truly a perfect day!

Miscellaneous shots from our wanderings through the woods; it was truly a perfect day!

We had so much fun in the park! Who said swings were just for kids?

We had so much fun in the park! Who said swings were just for kids?

We continued to town for a few things, then made our way to West Sands and met up with some friends from Swing Soc and the Gilbert & Sullivan Society.  We spent a fun afternoon talking, snacking, and playing cricket on the beach while the sounds of a bagpipe corps drifted over on the breeze.  I felt quintessentially British.

Here is a collection of the photos I took during our afternoon on West Sands; ignoring the cricket and bagpipes, it was the most like Charleston St Andrews ever felt!

Here is a collection of the photos I took during our afternoon on West Sands; ignoring the cricket and bagpipes, it was the most like Charleston St Andrews ever felt!

 Upon adding photographs, albeit collages, I just realised that to continue with an entire week’s worth of stories would make this an exceptionally long post.  To be continued in a later entry…

Memories of March (first half)

It is almost impossible to believe that it has been a month since my last blog entry! Granted, my last 2 weeks were spent travelling Europe over the Easter holiday, but even still I am reminded yet again of how quickly my time here is passing.  However, there is good news from this: I have so many photographs and stories from the past two weeks that I will have no problem writing at least half a dozen blog entries.

But for now, there is so much to write about: where to begin?!  I celebrated my 21st birthday on March 10 by spending the weekend with friends in hall and in town.  Though my birthday was Sunday, I stayed up entirely too late on Friday and Saturday nights talking and having fun.  Every college student knows how great late-night conversations are, whether they turn silly, intellectual, introspective, or some combination of those.  Saturday night we also had a party in the Melville MCR (middle common room), complete with speakers for the music and a friend who volunteered to DJ.  After that we went out to the Union and I enjoyed a lovely rendition of the Happy Birthday song in my honor at midnight.

My beautiful friend, Molly! She's another JSA from the South (by way of Chapel Hill).

My beautiful friend, Molly! She’s another JSA from the South (by way of Chapel Hill).

AHH! I'm turning 21!  I really appreciate that I have friends who are as silly as I am, and I love any chance to goof off with them! (pictured with me are my Polish friend, Martin, and my Scottish friend, Aaron.)

AHH! I’m turning 21! I really appreciate that I have friends who are as silly as I am, and I love any chance to goof off with them! (pictured with me are my Polish friend, Martin, and my Scottish friend, Aaron.)

One of my best friends here, Vyome. He's my favorite Indian.

One of my best friends here, Vyome. He really never fails to make me smile, and although he loves to joke around he often surprises us with very introspective questions or observations. I will never be able to hear an Indian accent without thinking of him.

Although I have spent the last few years away from home on my birthday, it was still a bit difficult to be so far away from my family on a big day like that.  I think the first homesickness I felt was a few days before my birthday when I was just sitting down to lunch in the dining hall.  I had picked up 2 cards from my post box on the way up to eat and decided to open them at the table.  Seeing my families’ handwriting and reading their words sent a pang straight to my heart and I couldn’t help but shed a few tears.  Of course, as a result of this my friends inquired and upon realizing that my birthday was soon, made plans to help me celebrate.  Despite being away from home, I was surrounded by people that I love and who love me and I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Another fantastic part of my birthday: it snowed!!  Okay, so there were really only flurries on my birthday, but the next morning we woke up to several inches of gorgeous white covering.  It continued to snow throughout the day, which was glorious.  On Sunday, though, the weather was … well, there’s really no other way to describe it than “crazy.”  There were clouds and there was sun.  It snowed, hailed, sleeted, and precipitated little white balls that reminded all of us Americans of Dippin’ Dots.  We walked into town and were covered in snow by the time we arrived, yet in town it was sunny and no one had snowflakes covering their coats and hair.  The wind was quite lively that day as well.  Every time I looked outside I got giddy like a child.  This Southern girl loves snow (and experiencing unusual weather patterns)!

Going back in time a bit, the weekend before my birthday was quite enjoyable as well.  Friday night (1 March) I was feeling quite blue because I received an email telling me that I was not accepted for a summer internship that I was really hoping to do.  One of my best friends at St Andrews saw me looking sad and decided that I needed to come have fun that night, so we went with a group from Melville to the Geek Bop at the Student Union.  The Union hosts a Bop every Friday night, sometimes themed and sometimes not.  Let me tell you: St Andrews students are some of the biggest geeks you will ever meet, and they are quite creative at coming up with costumes.  I danced for probably 4 hours that night and had a really great time.  I am amazed that I was able to do so, considering that the night before I had gone to an event hosted by Swing Dance Society and danced there for about 6 hours straight.  One of the things I miss most when I’m at Erskine is being able to dance a lot, so I am grateful for every opportunity here to dance (and there are SO MANY!).

BATMAN! taken by my friend Cory Faniel.

BATMAN! taken by my friend Cory Faniel.

Saturday I spent the afternoon exploring the Cathedral ruins with my friend Aaron and two adorable little boys that we met there; we then continued along to Castle Sands, which is the beach below the Castle ruins.  I accidentally got my Toms soaked in the North Sea–it was frigid but worth it!  (The water was freezing, but it was less than 10°C that day and I was quite warm in just a sweater.  This Southern girl is acclimating to the cold quite well!) We then returned to Melville and made possibly the best enchiladas I have ever tasted.

I just like this picture, and I love the Cathedral.

I just like this picture, and I love the Cathedral.

This gives you a slight idea of the massive size of this Cathedral; I'm so glad that some of it remains standing even today.  I get chills walking along where the aisle would have been, imagining hundreds gathered to worship our Saviour.

This gives you a slight idea of the massive size of this Cathedral; I’m so glad that some of it remains standing even today. I get chills walking along where the aisle would have been, imagining hundreds gathered to worship our Saviour.

I just think this is a cool picture; Aaron and I had fun clambering around and on the ruins and exploring.

I just think this is a cool picture; Aaron and I had fun clambering around and on the ruins and exploring.

taken looking up through the branches at St Rules tower, the oldest part of the Cathedral.  It's staggering to think about how much history happened in the footsteps where I now walk.

taken looking up through the branches at St Rules tower, the oldest part of the Cathedral. It’s staggering to think about how much history happened in the footsteps where I now walk.

I've truly never seen anything that compares to the skies of Scotland; this view from the Cathedral is no exception.  What a gorgeous masterpiece--thank you Lord for your artistry!

I’ve truly never seen anything that compares to the skies of Scotland; this view from the Cathedral is no exception. What a gorgeous masterpiece–thank you Lord for your artistry!

I wear my Toms everywhere, and I know that countless Erskine-ites do as well.  Here is proof that they have walked through ancient ruins.

I wear my Toms everywhere, and I know that countless Erskine-ites do as well. Here is proof that they have walked through ancient ruins.

That is probably most of the main highlights from the first half of my March, albeit somewhat out of order.  I am amazed and grateful each day for the opportunities and experiences I have had here, the ways that God is challenging me each day, and the friendships that I have made and continue to strengthen.  I enjoy looking back and realizing the random circumstances that led me to different friends, but I cannot imagine my semester without any one of them.  I truly believe that I have learned more about myself in the past 2.5 months or so than I have in my first 2.5 years of college, which is saying something!  It breaks my heart to think about leaving in a couple of months and to remember that I will not be returning in the fall, but I try to avoid thinking about that if at all possible.

Well, I have lots of homework to do, and a ridiculous number of photos to sort through so that I can share holiday sights and stories with you in future posts!  My first  holiday blog will be about Paris, just to get you excited.  Until then, God bless and happy Easter season! Christ is risen–Alleluia!

Exam Time

The cake Admissions got for me…yum!

Whew—what a whirlwind the weeks leading up to midterms were! By about this time in the semester, everyone starts spending less time socializing at meals and rushes off to finish reviewing for that next big test that’s looming. One often sees students walking around with a book or flashcards, or people off in corners intently reciting history facts or Spanish vocabulary. I, for one, ended up regaling friends with History of the English Language notes while we waited in the lunch line. (Guess who’s going to avoid me the next time they see me coming with a notepad in hand?)

Another notable event of the week—at least in my grandmother’s eyes—was my twenty-second birthday. Unfortunately, I spent most of the day in frenetic study, and when friends asked me what I was doing to celebrate, a sort of garbled, “Please don’t throw me a party or anything that might take time away from studying” escaped my lips…but the day was special, in spite of all the homework, because of all the sweet notes, phone calls, and happy birthday wishes. One friend also made me sugar cookies, and another gave me a pair of earrings. The Admissions Office even got me a delicious cookie cake—I was so impressed that they remembered my birthday! ‘Twas a special day because of the wonderful people God has put in my life.

Hannah and Amanda enjoying a night of cookies and fellowship in Robinson kitchen a couple weekends ago.

During the intense couple of weeks leading up to Fall Break, the social life of most people on campus tends to effervesce into the realm of the wished-for-but-currently-nonexistent. Unless, of course, study groups count as socializing. Studying in a group can be extremely helpful—not least when the participants keep from devolving into bouts of hyperventilation (not that I would ever do that). But in all seriousness, especially in the midst of exam season, it’s important for me to step back and ask myself why I’m studying or working hard in the first place.

A lesson I seem to learn again and again is that, if my aim is to bring glory to self and to earn the praise of men, I just won’t be able to continue when my stamina is running low and I’m exhausted by the rigors of academic life. If self-aggrandizement is the goal in view, either failure will lead to despair or success will lead to disillusionment and pride, because nothing apart from Jesus Christ can ultimately satisfy. A challenging round of exams and essays often reminds me of this truth. Consequently, I Corinthians 10:31 is a verse I try to keep in mind continually: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Who ate all the cookies?

Though hardly on par with Scripture, a couple of Inklings quotes were also a help to me last week amidst the exam-craziness. Gandalf’s words to Frodo are, I think, quite relevant for the college student juggling massive amounts of reading and writing: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” In The Weight of Glory (an incredible book of essays that is a must-read), Lewis states that “the present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” Especially for those believers with perfectionist-tendencies, it’s important to be reminded that all we can do is seek to wisely the time we have, for the glory of the One who has called us. And for those of us who tend to be lazy or lackadaisical in our approach to the work God has placed before us, it’s important to remember that our time is not our own and that we serve a great King. If we really believed that, how would the way we spend our time look different?

Remember the “Good” of this Friday

I woke up this morning to an abnormally chilly day in Charleston (I don’t think it ever reached more than upper 50’s, and it’s April!), and I could not help but think. . . I have a lot of homework to do in the next couple of days.  I did realize that today is the last day of Lent; after forty days of preparation, today Christians somberly recognize the death of our savior almost two thousand years ago, bearing the weight of our sins.  However, as a college student enjoying a long weekend (one of the nice things about a Christian college is not having classes on Good Friday), do we appreciate this day?  Even though many of us go home this weekend to spend the holiday with our families, it is not a particularly long break, and there are still papers to be written, projects to be finished, pages to be read, events to plan for, and many aspects of daily life to complete.

Since normal life goes on, how should we observe and properly honor this important day?  This can be a tough question.  I admit that though I observed the Catholic ritual of no meat/partial-fasting, this is the most that I really thought about the significance of the day until late this afternoon.  Instead, I finished my French homework, did some of my reading, responded to a couple of e-mails, chatted with my sister, complained about having to wear long sleeves in April, and read a couple of news articles.  In short, like most Christians today, I had not taken the time to read the Bible, have a quiet moment of reflection and prayer, or – Heaven forbid! – even gone to church.

Jesus after the passion - taken in a Cathedral that I visited in Barcelona, Spain.

Doing mundane tasks today does not make a bad Christian, but it seems to me that a failure to recognize Good Friday is a failure to appreciate Christ.  To someone who does not understand Christianity, it could seem morbid to term a day “Good” that marks the terrible death of one man for the sake of all sinners – all men.  However, we know that Jesus was the ultimate “Good” because he was the son of God – the source of all goodness – and that his death was the best “Good” that God could possibly have given us, in placing the burden of our sins on Jesus.

So, it is important to take just a moment to think about this greatest of blessings that God gave us before continuing with the rest of the day, inane activities and all.  After praying, or reading the Bible, or however you like to spend time with God, try to take the peace with you through everything else you have to do – I can tell you that it makes all the homework, housework, or whatever you have to do a lot more bearable.

Blessings to everyone this Good Friday!

Reflection

Once again I’ve underestimated just how much actually goes on at Erskine because as you know, I haven’t blogged all semester!

Between trying to figure out the best way to revive a student newspaper, 21 hours of classes (yes, 21 because music stuff counts too!!), working on a business project, attending concerts, visiting friends, etc, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about it all. Which is a shame, considering the fact that I’ve done so much since I’ve been here. But, I’m back now (whether you’ve missed me or not) to fill you all in on my Erskine experience.

Today let me share with you some random thoughts as I sit in my room on this rather chilly Tuesday afternoon…

I am blessed.

Now, before you just stop reading and say to yourself, “Here she goes getting all spiritual!” I encourage you to pause right now wherever you are and think about how blessed you are.

***insert long pause here in which you reflect on the facts:

1. you most likely have on clothes now

2. you obtained those clothes with money

3. to make money you probably have a job

4. in order to work efficiently and effectively you must be healthy

5. if you’re healthy that means you’re getting nutrition from food

6. you probably have more than one option for what kind of meal you want to have

7. most people can eat at a dining table

8. which is in a house

9. that you live in with your family

…well, the list could continue on & on but I think you are getting the picture.

So, hopefully by now you’ve reflected on all these things and aren’t you thankful for everything you’re blessed with?! I know its Novemeber (already?!) but just because this is the season of thanksgiving don’t become apathetic about it. In this life, it’s so easy to take everything we have for granted but do me a favor and please try (I will be trying myself) to just thank God for ONE simple blessing every morning when you wake up.

There’s nothing wrong with reflection. In fact I think reflecting allows you to just be still and think about life in general. Maybe its just cause it finally hit me that I’m a Junior in college (yikes!) and that I still have no idea what step to take after this…

Grad school? Pursue music? Work for a news station? Or even (dun dun dun…) come back to Erskine to work? (I call it one of the Christian College Problems…where the alumni try to come back to work there if all else fails, though there’s nothing wrong with that…ha)

There’s nothing wrong with not knowing.  I think its just hard for us to truly be okay with uncertainty. And isn’t that unfortunate when we know that Christ already has it all figured out?  All we have to do is take the time to seek out His will and actually OBEY it.

I don’t know what you may be going through right now, but I pray that you realize just how blessed you truly are. Its so easy to gravitate toward all the wrongs in our lives but know that just like Joseph in the Bible, God can take all of your wrongs and turn them into good!

Instead of focusing on how things could have been, focus on making things the way they aught to be.

The Mirror

Have you ever read a newspaper while drinking your morning coffee? news

Chances are if you’re close to my age, you probably haven’t. Instead, you probably get your news online via Twitter, Facebook, an RSS feed, or a mobile news website.

That’s why I was thrilled when Erskine asked me to head up the steering committee to bring back our student newspaper, The Mirror,  in an all online format.

Erskine’s newspaper was once the second best college newspaper in the state of South Carolina. So, I was definitely feeling the pressure to provide the student body, faculty/staff, and alumni, with a paper that would not only appeal to a different generation of news junkies, but also still be fair and balanced as possible, and full of stories that are factual and encourage students to observe what’s going on in and outside of the Erskine bubble.

We were all able to rally together to pull it off. We unveiled our brand new website May 6, 2011. For real though, I feel the best is yet to come. I’ve got all summer to plan exactly what the new Mirror will entail, but I definitely expect to deliver all that I mentioned above. I’d love to go into broadcast journalism one day if I don’t end up singing, so this paper is going to be a great experience for me. I’ve already had some challenges amongst leadership and with staff writers, but that’s the thing about being a student leader. You have to learn to roll with the punches. I’m just excited that I get to step up, create, and deliver something new to Erskine. It’s a way that I can leave a legacy for future Erskine students.

As for the website…

I’ll let it speak for itself: http://erskinemirror.com