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)

To Ireland and Back Again

This January, a group of Erskine students is exploring Ireland with Professor of Psychology Robert Elsner.  So far they’ve kissed the Blarney Stone, tasted fantastic local cuisine, and explored castles that have stood for centuries.

If you’d like to follow along with their adventures, the class is posting regular updates to a blog:
There And Back Again

J-term is campus slang for Winter Term, a special 3-week term in January of each year.  Students select one course from among a wide variety of faculty interests and hobbies, or they can travel abroad or schedule an internship/externship experience within their major field.  Classes range widely depending on the year, giving faculty the chance to show off areas of expertise that otherwise might not fit the standard curriculum. And students benefit from sitting in class next to people from outside their discipline.  It’s a great way to kick off a new year of intellectual pursuit!

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

The castle in Limerick, Ireland, as seen by Erskine students traveling for J-term

An AMAZING Academic Experience!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in one of the best academic experiences I have had as an Erskine student. And considering that Erskine is a highly academic college, and I have been here for four years and had a lot of academic experiences, that is a pretty strong statement!

So what did Holly do that was so fab???, you may be asking yourself. Let me tell you! Last weekend Dr. Elsner, another student called Christine, and I went to the Alpha Chi National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a three day conference for the Alpha Chi National Honor Society which takes place every year! Students from all over the country gather together to present their research, listen to speakers, and enjoy exploring the city together.

 

Ready to explore the city!

Ready to explore the city!

If you are ever experiencing low self esteem as a student, I recommend that you attend an academic conference. At a conference, all of the students are treated like serious scholars. While we were there, everyone wore nice clothes and dressed up all of the time. We stayed at an extremely nice hotel in St. Louis and were served fine foods. As Christine and I clicked everywhere in our heels, she commented to me exactly what I was feeling, I have never felt so professional!

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

I make weird facial expressions as a present my topic! :p

Besides presenting some of the research that we have done in our majors (I presented on a paradox in game theory known as the Traveler’s Dilemma and Christine presented on a study she is conducting concerning the effects of seating on attention), we were given the whole of Friday afternoon to explore the city of St. Louis. What a fabulous time we had! Dr. Elsner is possibly one of the most fun college professors that has ever been! We spent the afternoon eating out at a nice restaurant, walking around downtown, and exploring the city! We even got to go to the top of the St. Louis arch!

 

Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

Dr. Elsner at the top of the arch!

I suppose that after we went to the top of the arch, we got stuck in picture taking mode. If you think about it, that makes sense. When you do something super awesome, like go to the top of the St. Louis arch, you tend to start taking a lot of pictures. And then when you get down, you think to yourself: that was really fun! I want to take some more really fun pictures! And then you end up walking around St. Louis attempting to pose next to random statues you find all around the city!

 

Duck lips??

Duck lips??

 

We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!

We pretended it was a chocolate bunny!

 

Christine's scary face is much better than mine!

Christine’s scary face is much better than mine!

One of the coolest parts of the trip took place on Friday night. Dr. Elsner, Christine, and I were invited over to spend time with two students who graduated from Erskine several years ago. They heard that we were in town and invited us over to enjoy some chocolate cookies and great conversation! One of the phrases that it often used to describe the Erskine Experience is Forever Connected. Having the opportunity to meet two awesome alumni simply because we were in town and they wanted to meet us, I think, is a perfect example of how this statement rings true.

 

Service Learning at the DreamCenter (Men’s Volleyball)

The Erskine men’s volleyball team just returned home from a trip to California that included a couple matches at West Coast colleges plus five full days of service at the DreamCenter in Los Angeles.

The DreamCenter is an organization staffed by volunteers who serve thousands of individuals and families in the LA area via humanitarian outreaches, education, and community programs.

The volleyball team spent 5 days working at the DC, and pitched in to help with everything from child care to loading the food truck, doing construction, talking to folks, and picking up trash from local streets. Their days were jam-packed with activity, led by DreamCenter volunteers who themselves have often been recipients of help and care from the DC.

Coach Derek Schmitt writes in his final entry about the trip,

We closed our week [at the DreamCenter] with some $5 Hot-n-Ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s as each of us talked about how we are different from when we checked in to the DreamCenter on Monday afternoon.  There were a lot of great things shared including spending more time in prayer and in the Bible, having more of a servant mentality, being more appreciative of the things we have, having more faith in God and His power, and much more.  It has been exciting to see the guys invest in the DreamCenter this week and the impact it is having on each one of them.  

Read more from Coach Schmitt about the guys’ experience at the DreamCenter:

First day at the DreamCenter

Day 2 at the DreamCenter

Day 3 at the DreamCenter

Day 4 at the DreamCenter

Last Day at the DreamCenter for Men’s Volleyball.

Living Lent: 22 years of gratitude and counting…

Wow!  Starting a blog series right before midterms week was poor timing on my apart.  I apologize for taking so long to start writing again!  I am not going to publicly admit how many days last week I napped in the Student Center rather than getting a proper night’s sleep.  This was one of my most overwhelming midterm weeks ever, especially considering that I had no midterms in St Andrews…

Speaking of St Andrews: I was in Paris, France, a year ago today! My, how the time has flown.  I miss so much about Europe and am looking forward to visiting again some day.

But on to my post for today.  A week ago I turned 22 (which feels sort of old when you live in a dorm full of 18- and 19-year-olds…) and despite my hectic and stressful week, so many little things along the way reminded me just how blessed I am.  Lent is a time of reflection, preparation, and gratitude, so today’s post is 22 things for which I am grateful.

1. Faith
I am grateful for my Faith in God, in His love and mercy.  I have faith and hope for forgiveness and salvation.  My faith has strengthened me and saved me in my darkest moments.  I have faith in people, in love, in goodness, in the future.  Faith is all-encompassing in life and the anchor for my soul.

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimee; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

One of my all-time favorite photos of the 3 of us! Me, Luke, and Aimée; photo taken by my other sister, Nicole

family photo from Nicole's & Jeremy's wedding, June 2012

family photo from Nicole’s & Jeremy’s wedding, June 2012 (photo ©Marni Rothschild Pictures, LLC)

2. Family
We are by no means perfect, but my parents and siblings are my biggest support and encouragement.  I am so blessed to call my mom one of my best friends.  I appreciate [though I do not say it nearly enough] that I can sit and talk to my parents for hours about literally anything.  I am so grateful to have a little brother with Down syndrome.  Growing up with a special needs sibling has taught me countless valuable life lessons and given me a completely different outlook on life.  I know no one who embodies unconditional love the way that Luke does.

3. Erskine
Though originally I had no intention of going to Erskine (who wants to attend college where her sister goes?!), I am so glad that God led me here.  I have learned so much, been challenged in ways I never expected. made amazing friends, travelled so many fun places, gained valuable life lessons and mentors, and become more certain of the path which God desires me to follow.

4. St Andrews
St Andrews CastleJust as Erskine has shaped me and changed me for the better, my study abroad experience is probably the single experience of my life that has most helped me to realize who I am and gain confidence in myself.  I left last January knowing not a single person, and left 1 June with scores of great friends and countless life-changing experiences.  I have a stronger faith and a different perspective of the world from studying in Scotland and travelling around Europe.  Of course, I now have what feels like an insatiable desire for travel and adventure…I am so excited to see what my next opportunity will be!

5. Singing
I by no means have the best voice in the world, but I truly love singing and that voice that God DID give me has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in so many different choral ensembles, from my church choir to high school chorus and show choir to several groups at Erskine.  I am a veteran member of the Erskine Choraleers and have also sang with Bella Voce and the Chamber Singers.  I am grateful for the ministry that music provides in my personal life as well as the opportunity to use music as my ministry in church.

the finale pose from my sister's senior music project, "All That Jazz." (photo by Whitney Adkins)

the finale pose from my sister’s senior music project, “All That Jazz.” (photo by Whitney Adkins)

6. Dance

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews--such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

some of my SwingSoc family from St Andrews–such talented dancers from all across the UK & Europe! (photo by Henry Legg)

From the time I knew what one was, I wanted to be a ballerina.  When we played dress up as kids, 9 times out of 10 I wore the tutu.  When I was 6 or so years old, we hosted a French exchange student who taught me how to do a pirouette and I practiced until I was too dizzy to walk.  My family moved to SC when I was 8 years old, and within a year I started taking ballet lessons.  I continued for 6 or 7 years, even progressing to learning pointe (yes, dancing on your toes. yes, OUCH).  High school afforded me the opportunity to branch out and learn some different dance forms, as well as the art of singing AND dancing–a.k.a. show choir.  Since I’ve been in college, and especially since studying abroad, I have fallen in love with all things swing dance related: traditional, Charleston, lindy hop, blues…[Speaking of which, if you have never seen the I Charleston St Andrews that we in the St Andrews Swing Dance Society made last year, you should definitely watch it!]
Dance is a part of my heart, a part of who I am and how I relate to the world.  I am grateful for any and every opportunity to practice and share my love.

7. Theatre

with Tillary Blackman ('13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I've ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

with Tillary Blackman (’13) in Arsenic and Old Lace: possibly my favorite scene I’ve ever acted. (photo by Katie Putnam)

No, I am not going to list every art form that I can possibly think of (though I am definitely grateful for all of them!).  Singing, dancing, and acting, though, are all art forms which I especially love.  I truly enjoy acting on stage, doing tech work or working back stage, and watching performances.  I love the challenge of learning a new character and bringing her/him/it to life, the challenge of improvisation, the chaos of tech week and opening night, the feeling of pride earned by a successful performance.  Long rehearsals test patience, energy, and relationships but ultimately strengthen all of these.  I know that my participation in theatre will only help me in my life.

8. Freedom
Sounds cheesy, or cliché, I know.  But how many countries actively persecute Christians? How many countries severely limit the rights of women?  Yes, we can sit here and debate the meaning and context of the word “freedom,” but I am grateful for the opportunities that growing up in the United States has afforded me.

9. Sleep
If college has taught me anything, it is the value of sleep.  I think back now to when I hated going to bed as a child, or when I used to wake up at 4AM and go to the basement to read or play by myself while everyone else slept.  The 22-year-old me wants to ask the 6-year-old me, “WHY?!”  It is so easy to make other things a higher priority than sleep, but it really is essential to proper functioning and good moods.  I truly am grateful for the times that I get a good/full night’s sleep.  Nap time, anyone…?

10. Food
Along the same lines, who doesn’t like food?  It’s delicious.  It’s satisfying.  It’s strengthening.  It makes you feel happy, body and soul.  Nothing says home and love like Mom’s home-cooked dinner.  Food is a common denominator of our social gatherings.  Food encompasses culture, tradition, seasons, memories, creativity (yeah, that art thing again…), nature, and love.  Though I cannot say that I love every food I have ever tried, food is definitely one of the ways I know for a fact that God loves us.

11. Social Media
“Aha! Another Facebook addict!”  I know you’re thinking it. Yes, you.  And perhaps I am slightly guilty as charged, though I’m working on it.  While realizing the importance of maintaining a healthy balance, I do believe that most of these platforms can be very useful.  My primary use for Facebook is staying in contact with all of my friends from abroad and all over the United States.  We are using Pinterest as a common space to plan my sister’s bridal shower, and I use it to collect articles and information relevant to psychology and therapy.  I get the majority of my world news from Twitter.  Everything in moderation, but I really am grateful for these connections.

Odd place to stop for the day, but I’m halfway and this is quite a long post.  So…stay tuned tomorrow for part II! [I seem to like multi-part posts.]  Until then, I’d love some feedback!  Do you agree with some of the points that I made? Do you disagree with any? What are you most grateful for today?  What am I forgetting? How cute is my little brother? [Correct answer: the cutest!]

In Christ,
Christine

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 ❤