Intro To Summer Research

Some people use the summer to relax at the beach or on a cruise; others find a summer job at a camp or in their hometown in order to make some extra cash.

I returned to Erskine, as one of three students who are working underneath the Biology Department to study the toxic effects of titania nanoparticles on freshwater organisms. The other two students, Zach Bowens and Reid Windmiller, are studying the common water flea Daphnia magna, the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, and a microscopic animal called Philodina acuticornis. My research is on four different algae species that are frequently found in North American freshwater environments. This past week, I am simply culturing the algae and finding each species’s exponential growth period during which I can conduct the actual test that includes titanium dioxide.


The algae is cultured in Erlenmeyer flasks kept under a light table.


Using a spectrophotometer to track algal growth.

This kind of work may seem mundane, but in reality, I find myself enjoying almost every aspect of my time here. I was afraid that being the only girl in the student group would be depressing and lonely, but Reid and Zach, as well as other students who are at Erskine for Chemistry research, always keep me in high spirits, both inside and outside of the lab. We have so much fun together, whether we’re grocery shopping together, ambitiously singing the Australian national anthem in Australian accents, or cashing in free sandwiches at Chickfila.


From left: Reid Windmiller, Rebecca Reiter (me), and Zach Bowens

I have only been back at Erskine for a week, and so many things have exceeded my expectations. As the summer progresses, I will be sure to keep you updated!

when worlds collide

I have plenty more blogs to write about Scotland and travels, but since I am BACK at Erskine now (welcome to the class of 2017!), I want to write about my first time back at Erskine since I returned from Scotland. [Note: unless otherwise stated, all photos in this post are by The Mondays Photography, LLC.]

My roommate from freshman year, Megan, married her high school sweetheart on 13 July and I was blessed to be a part of the day as a bridesmaid.  Megan lives in Honea Path, about 15 minutes from Due West, so when I came up for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, I stayed at Erskine.  [Fun fact: Erskine has guest rooms for you to stay in when you’re visiting! They are quite inexpensive, too.]

My guest for the wedding was none other than my academic dad, Lawrence (yes, the Belgian one).  He was in Miami for the summer doing research at a university and flew up to Charleston to visit me for a long weekend.  He got to meet my family, and I had company for my first time driving to Erskine in my new car.

Lawrence and I danced a lot at the reception: no surprise there.

Lawrence and I danced a lot at the reception: no surprise there.

Taking a break from setting up the reception to say "cheese" for the camera.

Taking a break from setting up the reception to say “cheese” for the camera. [Photo by Pepper Shrock]

When we got to town on Friday, Lawrence and I headed to Theo’s–one of two restaurants in DW–for lunch with my favourite professor, Dr. Elsner.  I was so excited to see Elsner after such a long time! Our lunch turned into the three of us talking for 4 hours, until I finally looked at my watch and realised that we were late for getting ready to go to the rehearsal dinner.  Elsner and Lawrence got along so well and I really enjoyed catching up with both of them.

The rehearsal dinner was my first time seeing Megan in almost a year! I didn’t know many people there (and Lawrence knew none) but I felt right at home.  Megan and Michael, her husband, both have super friendly, close-knit families.

Friends since freshman year, and now this lovely lady is married! Guess she has a new roommate now, haha.

Friends since freshman year, and now this lovely lady is married! Guess she has a new roommate now, haha.

I caught the toss bouquet! be fair, though, I was one of the only eligible ladies there.  I'm not getting married any time soon!

I caught the toss bouquet! …to be fair, I was one of the only eligible ladies there. I’m not getting married any time soon!

The wedding was Saturday evening, so that morning I gave Lawrence a tour of Erskine.  This will be my fourth year as an Ambassador for the college, and Lawrence laughed at me a few times because I was slipping into Ambassador mode on the tour.  He really enjoyed the campus, though, and seeing all of the places that I would tell him about when we were in St Andrews.  At one point we were sitting on the swing outside of Moffatt Dining Hall and Lawrence remarked, “Now I understand why St Andrews was so exciting for you!”  He was referring to how quiet and rural DW is compared to St Andrews, Brussels, and Miami.  Of course, DW has a lot going for it despite its small size, and the campus and town community is some of the strongest and friendliest I have ever encountered.

Toward the end of the tour I showed him Memorial Hall and we spent about 15 minutes swing dancing on stage.  The floor in there is excellent for dancing, in case  you were wondering.  I also sang a little bit so he could get a feel for the acoustics (also great).

Megan and Michael’s wedding was the first wedding Lawrence had ever been to!  We had to get there pretty early for preparations and photos, but Lawrence was such a good sport about it.  He brought a book and read helped however he could.  Despite having to dodge some rain, it was a beautiful day with a beautiful group of people.

Michael and Megan: look at those smiles!  It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad I got to share it with them.

Michael and Megan: look at those smiles! It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad I got to share it with them.

Megan with her bridesmaids.  What a fun group of people!

Megan with her bridesmaids. What a fun group of people!

I loved getting to see such a great friend from St Andrews.  Being at Erskine with Lawrence was an almost surreal experience: it was like two worlds, or two separate lives, colliding.  It was wonderful to be able to introduce him to my families, both my actual family and some of my Erskine family.  We also ended up having an unexpected extra day together due to some airport logistics (but that wasn’t too much of a disappointment).

One last photo before I drove Lawrence to the airport. I am beyond blessed to have such a wonderful friend, and to know that friendship endures even over an ocean.

One last photo before I drove Lawrence to the airport. I am beyond blessed to have such a wonderful friend, and to know that friendship endures even over an ocean. [Photo by me]

That weekend with amazing friends was probably the highlight of my summer.  I hope to be able to introduce others to Erskine and I cannot wait to be able to see others from St Andrews in the future.  Well, back to SLA duties and creating more memories of my Erskine experience.  Today is move-in day for upperclassmen as well! So many sweet reunions to be had, and memories to be made!

Bonclarken & Baby Dinosaurs

Tomorrow is my last day working at Bonclarken for the summer.

If you do not know what Bonclarken is, then you are probably not a member of an ARP church. (Don’t worry, I think about less than 1/3 of the students at Erskine are members!) Bonclarken Conference Center is the conference center for the ARP Denomination located in East Flat Rock, NC. ARP churches and non ARP churches alike often schedule week-long or weekend retreats for relaxation and restoration in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Bonclarken hosts hundreds of groups and churches every year.

Every summer about 30 students from Erskine go up to Bonclarken as members of the summer staff, working full-time as a member of one of the departments: kitchen staff, recreation staff, housekeeping, guest services, or in the front office. Students live in buildings that are a lot like dorms, with bunk beds and roommates. When they are off work they all hang out in the lobby and do a lot of late night random things together like any good group of college students would!

This summer has been my second summer working in the front office at Bonclarken, and I must admit it has been rather fun! Another girl, Amanda, who will also be a senior this year at Erskine, has worked with me in the front office this year. We work hard greeting guests, answering the phone, and organizing mounds of documents but we also like to have a little fun when we are not working quite so hard!

One of my favorite things in the entire world is a baby dinosaur. You may have noticed that there are not too many of those walking around these days (something about a volcano or a meteor, who knows??) so I cannot have one as a pet! 😦 I try to make up for this rather sad fact by pretending that I am a baby dinosaur, and so are all of my friends. My coworkers at Bonclarken have also been rather sympathetic to my cause by giving me gifts of stuffed baby dinosaurs, water baby dinosaurs, and this week a set of plastic baby dinosaurs.

A stuffed Baby Dinosaur from Betty, her name is Desdemona :)

A stuffed Baby Dinosaur from Betty, her name is Desdemona 🙂

Of course, since my plastic baby dinosaurs were given to me by Betty (one of the sweetest people ever who works in the front office), I had to bring them to the office to play with them. This was meant to show her that I really liked her gift: everyone knows that if someone gives you a set of plastic baby dinosaurs you have to let them see you playing with them! DUH! So I brought them to the office and then hid them all over my boss’ office! Good thing Lynn has a sense of humor! When I got back from lunch they were hidden all over my desk for me to find! 🙂 The worst part about this story is everyone found all of the plastic baby dinosaurs in about five minutes, except for me who took twenty-five minutes to find them!

I feel like any workplace can be improved by some baby dinosaurs!

I feel like any workplace can be improved with some baby dinosaurs!

The funniest day was when one of my coworkers, Sheri, gave me some of the baby dinosaurs made of sponges. They were the kind that comes looking like little pills where you stick them in water and watch them grow. It is supposed to take about 4 hours for the baby dinosaurs to grow into big sized dinos that you can play with!

Well, let me tell you, my baby dinosaurs were having some trouble. It took them about an entire week to mature to full size! I put them in see through plastic cups in the center of the office during the week and encouraged all of the senior staff here to check on them as they passed through the office. They were like our little office pets, everyone who walked through the office stopped to give them a peak! And by the end of the week they were fully grown! 🙂

I was very excited, so my boss decided to pull a prank on me! She staged an escape for the baby dinosaurs making it looked they had escaped from their watery cages!! There were little water footprints walking away from the cups that led to the side of the filing cabinet, but after that there were no more clues! I had to track them down and see where she had hidden them! The whole thing was super hilarious and super fun! 🙂

We are happy to be working in the office! :)

We are happy to be working in the office! 🙂

If all of this sounds a little strange to you, if you are thinking that the office staff at Bonclarken sounds a little crazy to you, let me encourage you to direct your accusing thoughts towards the guest services staff. When they were bored this summer they all decided to capture a beetle/cockroach/bug thing and tied it to the leash. They then took turns taking the poor little thing on walks! (Leading me to come to grips with the fact that I do really work with a bunch of weirdos!)

But no one ever claimed that Erskine students are normal!

Theme song: Schools out foooorrrrEVER! …. maybe

Summertime brings a relaxing glow about everyone. Whether it is from the sun, less academic stress, being around friends and family or carefree summer jobs, summer brings a smile to my face. For the past 17 years of my life summer was interrupted by school in the fall. This year I must make my own plans for the fall. So this summer is a little different then most! I have to do some work!

Knowing that I do not have set plans of going back to school in the fall is a scary, yet thrilling! I like to have a plan, a schedule: stability. However, I’m taking a ride on the risky train. With no plans made; my schedule is open for opportunities to occur! Coming upon opportunity doesn’t just happen unfortunately. Research, studying, paper writing, applying, calling are just a few things I need to do to make opportunities possible. It can be hard work, but if I think of it as molding my future just the way I want it, it can be fun! Knowing that I can be ANYWHERE in the fall is sooo exciting.    

So how am I spending my summer?

– Studying the GRE (test date June 29th!)

            It is a general test to get into graduate school. Most programs require it (I haven’t found one that hasn’t). Students going to medical school take the MCAT or law students taking the LSAT. So students going into Business, Psychology, other sciences, etc require the GRE. And that’s that!

– Job search

              Aka: Soul Searching. What do I want to do?? I’m not thinking as a lifetime career because I plan on going to grad school in a year or so. However, I want a job that will give me career and life learning experience.

– Helping with odds and ends at home

                My favorites: Mowing lawn, cooking/baking and babysitting my nephews J

– Getting “Insane” with my friends and Sean T

              Take a glimpse at our daily routine! FYI: Insanity is “the toughest workouts on DVD!”

– Visiting friends and family!

             Now this is what I call summer! Going to the beach (lakeside), concerts, road trips, and spontaneous activities that happen to pop up for a study break!

Stress and anxiety will set in by August if my schedule is still blank. So I better get get to studying or soul searching so I too can be productive and contributing to society in the fall!

Summertime = Mountains

For me, the summer is about to begin for real.  Until this point, I have been living at home and bound by few responsibilities, but this afternoon I drove four hours up to my summer home-away-from-home: Bonclarken.

Prior to going to Erskine, I had never heard of this wonderful little place up in the mountains.  Prior to working here, I had only visited twice, for the winter retreat that Erskine has organized for the past few years in January.  However, after working and living here all last summer, I have come to love Bonclarken dearly.

I work in the office up here, but there is a whole group of us – mostly college students – who stay every year for the summer and work.  There is a recreation staff (Rec), guest services, and some food service workers, and we all live in two little buildings.  Part of the great experience is living with the people you work with; this means that you really get to know them.  Granted, most of the student workers go to or graduated from Erskine, so we all kind of know each other to begin with, but then you just get to know them in a whole new way.

Sunset on the lake at Bonclarken last summer, after spending the afternoon reading... ah, summer.

Sunset on the lake at Bonclarken last summer, after spending the afternoon reading... ah, summer.

Because we have no commute time, most meals are provided, and we all live together, we do a lot of things with each other outside of work, as well.  There are always lots of movies, excursions, activities around Bonclarken, and I think the guys have even set up a video game room in their building this year!  Plus, because we are in the mountains I love to spend time outside, going for walks, hiking, reading on the lake, or even just going downtown and poking around the little shops – it is definitely a great place to spend the summer!

The work is good, the location is beautiful, the people are so nice, there is lots of fun to be had, and it is a community of Christians. . . the summer is starting for real tomorrow when I go in for my first day of work, and I am looking forward to another rewarding few months, making memories and enjoying it all.

The End of the Year…and Summer Begins

Wow. I can hardly believe that my sophomore year of college is over. This year has been one full of learning, growth, and an abundance of blessings. And now, strangely enough, I’m delighted to be at home. I say “strangely enough” because, although I dearly love my home and family in Columbia, I so enjoyed the experience of living at Erskine (my “second home”) this year that I rarely wanted to leave, even for a weekend. There were always fun events to attend, dear friendships to cultivate, and—of course, unfailingly—there was intellectually stimulating and challenging homework to complete. And I was generally loath to leave all of that behind in order to spend four hours driving…even if the driving allowed me to visit my family for the weekend.

I say all of that as a caveat to avoid giving the impression that I don’t absolutely love Erskine–because I do. Consequently, I could not possibly have anticipated, during the school year, how refreshing and wonderful this summer season would be. What am I loving about summer thus far? Spending with my amazing family and friends here in Columbia, relishing my mother’s incredible cuisine, fitting back into rhythm of family life, and being surrounded by books, to name a few. (Perhaps that last comment about books doesn’t make much sense, considering that I just spent eight months at an academic institution…but you see, as much as I appreciated the material I read for classes this year, there’s nothing like wandering through a house full of books of every sort, ranging from child-friendly fiction to medical dictionaries and rich works of theology. A library, of course, is a close approximation, but there’s nothing like a house full of books hand-picked by those clos
est to you.)

I’m also enjoying—and, in the interest of full disclosure, being quite challenged by—the new job I began this Monday at a nearby law firm, Sweeney, Wingate, & Barrow. I’m both excited about my job as a “runner” (which includes everything from making coffee to filing stacks of case documents) and rather overwhelmed. I’m excited because I love the atmosphere there and am thankful to be a part of such a welcoming, close-knit community (an apropos setting after spending a year at a school like Erskine!). At the same time, I’m coming to realize that diving into the working world after years of doing little aside from either studying or mission work (during the summer) is, well, tough.

I give you full liberty to laugh and call me a wimp for admitting this, but um, even a seven-hour work day leaves me exhausted. Yep. Of course, most new things are difficult at first, and any work becomes easier over time. Even so, working regularly causes me to realize with renewed fervor that, while I’m still a student, I don’t want to take for granted the precious freedom I have to spend my time largely as I choose! My tendency during the school year is to think I’m terribly busy…which is often true, but ultimately, only to the extent to which I allow myself to be busy. In other words, although managing one’s time as a student may be challenging at times, as I taste “real life” a bit, I’m realizing how extraordinary is the freedom one has as a student to spend time reading and exploring intellectually—a freedom which will become increasingly elusive after graduation. Which is why I’m hoping to become a professor and stay in school forever…Kidding. Wel
l, only a little. At any rate, the summer has begun well and will, I trust, be a refreshing time of growth and fellowship before I head off to Spain in the fall. Until then, adios mis amigos!