crossing the pond and looking back

This is my first post from the States in over four months!  Jet lag and reverse culture shock are still hitting me, the latter more than the former.  I landed in Charleston on Saturday night , and somehow it still has not completely sunk in that I am back in the States or that I do not know when I will get to return to Scotland.  As I write this, I am sipping English breakfast tea out of a mug with the South Carolina palmetto moon on it, which makes me feel like a traitor somehow.  Also, considering that the highest temperature I experienced over the semester was 20 degrees (~68 Fahrenheit), to come back to a humid 30 degrees (~86 Fahrenheit) in Charleston is rather miserable.  Air conditioning and ceiling fans are definite blessings right now.

Charleston has been welcoming me back by storming every day for the past few days; I woke up to thunder on Monday morning and realised that that was the first thunder I had heard since before I left.  Despite the inconvenience of trying to run errands around thunderstorms, I was definitely excited.  I love Scottish weather–rain and wind and bitter cold included–far more than Southern weather, but I did miss thunderstorms.  The rain reminds me of my last day in Scotland; it was an absolutely gorgeous day, the kind that St. Andrews is famous for, until that evening when it started raining as I was packing.  The weather matched my mood, except for the moment when I found a huge piece of bubble wrap.  When I’m a counsellor some day, I will keep a stock of bubble wrap because I truly believe that popping little plastic bubbles somehow makes any bad day better.

I found it while packing. all of it is getting popped.

Here is the massive piece of bubble wrap I found while packing: now that I am home it is ALL getting popped.

my entire semester packed into suitcases and a backpack. so sad :(

My entire semester packed into two suitcases and a backpack. So sad 😦

But back to being home.  Between sleeping a ton, appointments, doing washing, and catching up with friends on both sides of the ocean, I am still in the process of unpacking.  (I promise my room will be cleaned up soon, Mom!)  Unpacking is almost as heartbreaking as packing up my room in Melville was, but I am [mostly] saved from tears by the wonderful memories that come from stumbling upon each memento and note that I brought back with me.  I have always been teased for being too sentimental, but I would never wish to change this about myself.  I consider it a blessing to be able to love so deeply, even when it brings me heartache.  Saying goodbye to all of my friends in Scotland was more difficult than leaving the States in January, because I do not know when I will see any of them again.  I am sincerely grateful for Facebook and Skype which allow us to keep in contact and see each other.  And I am truly grateful for each person I was blessed to meet over the course of the semester, both in St Andrews and across Europe.  I met truly interesting, kind, and inspirational people from over thirty countries (yes, 30) and all over the United States and I have truly been changed for the better as a result.

It is really strange being home, much as I am happy to see my family.  I am a wee bit envious of my sister, Aimée, who is leaving in the morning for a two-week opera programme in Brighton, England.  Remember her? Extremely talented singer and performer who graduated from Erskine a year ago? Yep. She’s pretty awesome.  I’m really excited to hear how the programme goes.

Despite the sadness at being home, there are many things I’m excited for this summer.  The most recent of these already happened: my parents bought me a car, a Scion xD, as a [very] belated high school graduation present.  I am overwhelmingly grateful for such a gift; I am paying my own way through school and it is a huge blessing to have parents who have the ability to support me this way.

I've named him Hamish. yes, that's a Scottish name. Three guesses why it's Scottish.

I’ve named him Hamish. yes, that’s a Scottish name. Three guesses why.

I am excited to start working again.  I am returning to work at Chick-fil-A, where I worked before starting Erskine.  It is a fun place to work and I like being useful.
I am excited to finish giving gifts to my family! I’ve given my parents and brother the things that I got them abroad, but not my sisters and brother-in-law. Being able to give them their gifts also means that I get to see them in person, which is a happy occasion as well.
I am excited to be able to sing in my church choir again! I have been singing with them for at least seven years and I really missed it while I was gone.
I am excited for July, when I will be a bridesmaid in my friend Megan’s wedding.  Megan was my room mate freshman year at Erskine and I am so happy to be a part of her special day!  And remember my friend/academic dad, Lawrence? He is coming up from Miami to see Charleston and to be my guest at the wedding.  Happy day!

I think this is a long enough post for now.  Sufficient to say, the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion and a reminder of how blessed I am.  Many more posts to come! I have not forgotten to finish telling you about my Easter travels, and then there is the second half of the semester to talk about!  Until then, God bless and keep you!

also, congratulations to the Erskine College class of 2013! I wish I could have been at graduation.

Good Morning– It’s Tour!

Sarah and I on the bus

I’ve got a confession to make. It takes me an inordinately long amount of time to wake up and get ready in the morning. By college standards, at least, a full hour and fifteen minutes—during which I get ready, have devotions, eat breakfast, and straighten my room before departing—is quite extravagant. I don’t seem to be able to successfully mirror the vast majority of college students who roll out of bed, throw on clothes, and are ready to meet the world with a  smile—or a least a somewhat pleasant-I’m-essentially-awake look—within fifteen to twenty  minutes. My roommate is one such person, and, especially since she highly dislikes waking up, she knows how to squeeze every possible minute of sleep from the morning before jumping out of bed to look chipper and lovely within minutes.

Orchid in the Botanic Garden in D.C.

It takes me, on the other hand, at least an hour to wake up and render myself presentable. And heaven forbid I not have time for breakfast or leave my bed unmade. Until, that is, a morning last week when, for the first time in my college career…my alarm didn’t ring. Ironically enough, that morning happened to be the only day of the year when an entire bus full of people was waiting on me to get ready. Yes, I didn’t wake up the morning of choir tour.

Schadell, Aimee, Hannah and I with our first host family. They welcomed us warmly into their home with ice cream, Oreos, and good conversation, followed by a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, cinnamon rolls, and fruit the next day. Mmm.

You see, each year the Choraleers leave on Thursday morning for tour. Since midterms and classes don’t end until the Friday before Spring Break, this departure time means that the week before tour is a rather hectic time of scurrying to take tests early and write papers due on Thursday and Friday. I stayed up until about 1:30 a.m. –not bad, really, in a setting where all-nighters aren’t uncommon—packing for the trip and completing a paper that was due Friday. Then, I blithely set my alarm for 6:40 p.m. (whoops!) and went to bed.

Stopping for a meal en route

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my alarm ringing insistently. When, bleary-eyed and blind (praise God for contacts!), I reached to turn it off, I discovered that I was, in fact, receiving an incoming call from my friend Aimee. And it was 8:35 a.m. What?! Frantically recalling the injunction to arrive in the Due West ARP parking lot at 8:00 or 8:15, ready to roll out at 8:30, I half-shouted into the phone in half-awake disbelief: “Aimee, Is it really time to go?!” (I’m devastatingly witty in the mornings.) Aimee calmly told me just to come as quickly as possible and that she would send someone to help carry my luggage.

Within ten minutes, I was walking onto the bus to the good-naturedly joking welcome of friends who had been on the bus for the last thirty minutes or so. I may have looked and felt frazzled, but an in-bus breakfast and en route devotion soon restored me. At any rate, it was quite an exciting start to tour! Though one I don’t hope to soon repeat…

Tips on Flourishing

After an extraordinarily busy week of concerts, events, and exams, I think it might be appropriate to deviate a bit from my typical blog-writing template to give a list of some of the things which I’ve found to be helpful in my life as a college student.

The thirty-minute cat nap. The length of such naps may vary, but the art of snatching a few minutes of sleep in between classes, or after a particularly stressful exam is a vital tool for survival in college and a great aid in getting through the day and ensuring alert engagement in the classroom.

Regular exercise. At the beginning of freshman year, exercise was the thing that I often pushed to the back burner when I was especially busy. What I’ve discovered, however, is that simply making the time to run over to the gym three times a week helps prevent me from becoming overly stressed and serves as an excellent study break—a healthy de-stressor which I need most during exam time!

Focus and urgency. Sometimes, juggling a formidably long list of assignments, tests, and other commitments is a bit overwhelming. Nevertheless, I find that diving first into the task which seems most difficult and working as efficiently as possible comprise the best strategy for managing the college workload. Using a stopwatch to time my completion of assignments also helps to give me a sense of urgency and a heightened focus.

Random hugs from friends. As I was writing this list, my friend Shannon came into my room to give me—you guessed it—a random hug…and she said I ought to add such hugs to the list. Undoubtedly, the encouragement and support of friends here at Erskine has been essential to my ability to flourish in college! And besides, who doesn’t love a random hug?

Spiritual nourishment. I have to confess that, when life becomes hectic, I’m very prone to neglecting that which I most need—time spent with the Lord and in His Word. I’ve learned, however, that no matter how overwhelmed I may feel, taking the time to be filled and renewed by God’s Word and by reading authors like Spurgeon, Thomas à Kempis, and Elisabeth Elliot always leaves me restored and better-equipped to work “with all [my] heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

And there you have…just a few of the components of a full, flourishing college life.

Let’s Get FIT!!

fruitSustainability, eco-friendly environment, and healthier food choices have been added to the Erskine community attributes over the past year. One more healthy addition to campus is Fit4Spring!! The 8 week program is geared towards improving the health of the Erskine community. Structured by team motivation of 2-5 people per team to keep each other accountable and to give support for maximum health results!! Not only are we looking to increase in physical activity, but healthy eating. We posted “Fit4Spring Approved” tags to enhance the healthy living experience. After the first week of the program, the weight rooms and gyms have been packed with people eager to extend those New Year’s Resolutions that have may have fizzled out, m
aintain their exercise habits or start the journey to healthy lifestyle. Everyone is on a “runner’s high”; I hope it doesn’t crash!
Team work starts now!!

Team work starts now!!

What is my part in this healthy lifestyle promoting program?? I am the director! I never thought I could manage an operation like Fit4Spring. But, thanks to teamwork (Fit4Spring committee and sponsors, I’m talking about you!!) and hard work with the goal of giving the Erskine community the resources to succeed for their health’s sake! It has been a learning experience. I have gained skills that will help me in my future, whether it is the work force or graduate school. I also learned the hard way that I need 6-8 hours of sleep every night; I need my brain to function! Another beneficial experience is the team work aspect. I have been part of a team for over half of my life. However, I learned even more about teamwork and distribution of tasks to people’s strengths though the preparation for Fit4Spring. I can’t do it all; I need my peers!

I get to compete too. I am part of “Team Richard Simmons” crew 🙂 We are all excited! We are going to ‘Party off the Pounds!!’ Richard Simmons ‘Party off the Pounds!’

Now that I am the public eye of Fit4Spring, I have to dot my i’s and cross my t’s. So, that means no more sweets and must work out at least once a day. But most importantly, being an example of living an overall healthy lifestyle that is tangible for others to reach is key. This is actually really good for me. I thoroughly enjoy my chocolate, sweet breads and ice cream, but everyone is keeping me accountable. People might be sneaking a peek at my plate in the cafeteria, checking to see if I have sweat beads running down my face in the weight room and not being out and about too late at night. Not only is this program good for the rest of Erskine, but me as well!

Sleep… Who does that?

All right, so even though this is probably going to be just a short paragraph of a post, I would just like to take a moment to relate to you one of the most exciting things a college student can ever say – I got 7-8 hours of sleep for six out of seven nights in the past week.  Is this possible?!  Not to brag, but this is something to celebrate in college, especially at Erskine, and as an upperclassman!  It certainly made everything much more pleasant, because I only felt sleepy or caught myself daydreaming perhaps two or three times this week when I was supposed to be paying attention – not that I would ever give a speaker or professor anything other than my entire, intense concentration, even after a long, tiring week.  Ahem.  Of course not.  But it is nice to see that when I am actually able to do what I’m supposed to do, it does, in fact, work like it’s supposed to.  Go figure.  I guess this sleep thing is something I should real
ly give a fair chance after all.