Ready to Grow

Hope’s campus is back to life with students, classes, and activities as usual, but I am still at home waiting for my semester to begin. This spring I will be studying abroad in Rome, Italy, with IES. Orientation week begins on January 30.

It’s weird talking with my friends at Hope, knowing exactly what I’m missing there, while I’m in this period of waiting and anticipation for this semester filled with unknowns.

At Hope I know I’d be settling into my new, but familiar routine. Most of my classes would be in Martha Miller, the home to the Communication and Modern and Classical Language Departments. I’d go to Chapel three times a week, grab a to-go box from Phelps for lunch between classes, and go for runs in the Dow to hide from the Michigan winter outside. I’d be living in a house with my friends, cooking dinner, and having movie nights on the weekend.

Instead my room is somewhat controlled chaos as I try to figure out what to pack. I’m slowly learning a little more Italian (Duolingo is my friend) and gathering tips from friends and family who have been to Rome or studied abroad.

And as exciting as it is to think about the classes I will take, the internship I will do, and the incredible history I will be surrounded by, my emotions no longer reflect the, “Wow that’s so cool!” reactions I get from those I tell about what I am doing this semester.

What the most daunting aspect of studying abroad right now is also what will, at the end of the semester, be the most rewarding. Currently, it scares me to be leaving my comfort zone and support system at Hope. Ultimately, however, I know that taking classes, doing an internship, and learning to live and interact within a foreign country is going to lead me to grow in ways that I could not otherwise. To sum those thoughts up eloquently, here is a quotation by psychologist James Hillman:=

Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.

—James Hillman

This studying abroad experience is kind of daunting right now and will surely become somewhat overwhelming as I learn to adjust to life in Rome. However, choosing to force myself out of my comfort zone like this will no doubt open up many opportunities for new growth and learning. So while I move through this period of waiting my goal is to keep Hillman’s quotation in my mind to remember that the very things that scare me now are the same things that I will be thankful for in a few months’ time.

Thanks for reading,
Erin

Senior Struggle #1: Time for the Breakdown Chair

Happy Monday, friends! It’s a good day to stay inside and read a book, watch some Netflix or perhaps… write a blog!

In case you don’t know, the theme of my blogs for this semester is “Senior Fears/Struggles” and the more I’ve been dwelling on this theme, the more fears/struggles I can think of. The predominant one for this week? The concept of time.

My housemates and I have been struggling with this a lot this week; so much so that we have designated a chair in our living room as “the breakdown chair”. (If you couldn’t guess, it’s the chair where people go to cry if they’re having a life-crisis.) It’s actually really fun – we take a picture of every visitor to the chair and are going to make a collage at the end of the semester. So far we have had two visits to the breakdown chair and that’s only this week.

Need a good cry? Come over and take a sit in The Breakdown Chair.

The origin of both breakdowns has been due to busyness and lack thereof. One of my housemates, Britta Hageness, finds herself in the non-busy category and comments on her situation as follows.

I feel like all seniors are in one of two boats. They are either jam-packed busy – finishing up a full course load while also applying for jobs or grad school, working multiple part-time jobs, and taking on huge leadership roles on campus – or, there are seniors who only have one or two classes left and are left with an abnormal amount of time in their day-to-day lives.

I [Britta] am the second one, and I think I’ve been having a mini identity crisis about it. I think my past three years of college have been a balancing act of trying to be the “perfect” amount of busy. I’ve tried to not over commit myself to clubs and other activities because a) I want to be able to finish my homework and b) I like my sleep. But I also want my schedule to be full enough to feel like I have a specific purpose on this campus and to avoid boredom.

This semester, my “perfect balancing” system has gone out of whack because I have too much time. I’m only taking one class at Hope, along with one class online. Grad school applications have been sent out, so that’s also off the to-do list. Having too much time is a unique problem for a college student. I truly don’t think I’ve ever been bored for the last three and a half years, not even for an hour. Now I’m trying to avoid boredom on a daily basis. I’m trying to make the most of it by reading books for pleasure and by actually being prepared for class. Maybe I’ll take up a new hobby like sewing or figure skating… haha.

I guess it’s a nice transition into the real world where we won’t find our identity in our major/ classes/ studies. However, it doesn’t feel like the college life that I’m used to.

While many seniors are in Britta’s situation, there are also many seniors that are packing it all in. That would be me.

I’ve found that I’m barely treading water this year what with being enrolled in 16 credits that I need to graduate, working three jobs, and being in more clubs than I can count. On top of that I still need to come out of this busy season with a job so that I’m not completely lost after graduation. Most days I wonder how I’m going to come out of college in one piece.

While Britta and I are both struggling with managing our time, the idea to be taken away from both our situations is balance. After college there will be an adjustment period for sure, but as long as we know ourselves and how much we can handle (or not handle) the natural balance of work, friends, and life in general will fall into place.

So whether you’re feeling the busy burn or waiting for life to pick up, know that college is all about finding out who you are and discovering your balance. Take a deep breath, everything is going to be ok. (Said more for my own assurance than yours I’m sure.)

Stay tuned for more Senior Struggles next week!

A Michigan Winter

It’s been a while since I have written a blog, but when I do decide to write, there have been multiple consistent themes. Soccer, school, family, etc. However, there is one theme, not as heavily touched on as others, that has always worked its way into my writing one way or another: Michigan winters. From the moment I even considered coming to Hope, I have heard, “Look out for the winters!”, or “Do you ski? They get plenty of the white stuff!”, or my personal favorite, “Why would you do that to yourself?” No, I do not ski, by trade I am the farthest thing from an outdoorsman, yet here I am, almost two years into my time living in Western Michigan, as an advocate for the Winter.

It can be dreary, it can be cold (it usually is actually), and yes, the skeptics are right, Western Michigan does see quite a bit of snow. But when you talk to the locals, above all else, Winter here is beautiful. After all, winter means Christmas, hot chocolate, and Hope Basketball… What’s not to love?

Now today in particular, was a winter day well spent. It started at Engedi for 9 a.m. church service, followed by brunch with my closest friends, a walk on Lake Michigan (the frozen water, not the beach), and will conclude (hopefully) with a Steelers playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, today – today was a good day.

Short and sweet from me tonight, but here’s the deal. Enjoy where you’re at. Even if where you’re at is Holland, Michigan, in the middle of January. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own after all, so take a deep breath and live today. Sometimes, that’s all you can do. If you do it right, you might even find yourself enjoying it. Crazy stuff, I know.

Worried about coming to Hope due to the harsh winters? Don’t be. I can confidently state there’s no other place I’d rather be. And that’s coming from a kid who formerly hated the cold, snow, slush, wind, and anything else that Winter could throw at me. Living in a snow globe isn’t too bad after all, here’s some proof:

And yes, that is the lake. No, none of those good-looking dudes are me, those are my friends.

That’s all from me for now, keep it real, stay warm, smile, and I’ll be in touch soon. Go Steelers!

With Love,
Steve

My Sentiment is Showing.

Happy first day of class, readers! It’s time to get back into the swing of things after a hopefully restful and relaxing Christmas break. Are you ready?!

Now, I’m not usually a sentimental person, but as a senior graduating this May, I’m starting to see that there are a lot of sentimental moments that my last semester will be offering me. Let’s take today, for example. Today was the last first day of class. It was the last first day of my undergraduate degree where my only job and expectation is to learn from my professors. At no other time in my life will my job be to sit back, relax, and absorb knowledge. Once graduation rolls around, my job is to do.

Today was also the official end to my three-week Christmas break – something that I won’t get again in my life (unless I’m planning on being a teacher, which I’m not). At no other point in my life, at least in the foreseeable future, will I get a break that long with absolutely nothing to do. In my mind, that’s something to be sentimental about. Possibly even mournful.

These moments combined with the fact that real life is starting in four short months makes me just a little nervous for the present and the future. Here are a few questions that are haunting me at the moment:

  • How can I make this the best semester ever and not miss out on a single activity?
  • What will I be doing after I graduate?
  • How do I stay in contact with old friends and make new friends once college is over?
  • What are my passions and how do I incorporate those into my career choice?
  • What will I eat once I graduate if I don’t know how to cook? (Probably the most important question of all.)

If any of you have any answers to these questions, please let me know. While you all are getting back to me though, I am going to be exploring these ‘senior fears and questions’ in each of my blog posts. I’m hopeful I’ll get to interview my peers as well as some of my coworkers at the Career Development Center to see what they have to say about some of these topics.

This will help me process my fears/questions as well as give you an accurate representation of what it’s like to be a graduating senior at Hope College. It’s a win win situation, really. Be prepared for a wild ride.

I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you, readers. Until next time!

This is me not being prepared for all the sentimental moments this semester
This is me not being prepared for all the sentimental moments this semester

Transitioning From Study Abroad (Off-Campus Study) to Hope College

The transition is from Chile to Hope is actually quite extensive. I will spend two days in Hope College and both of them will be full of meetings.

Firstly, I will have to talk to Registrant office about transferring all 16 credits from University de Chile to Hope College. I have to fill out bunch of paperwork to manage which credits will count to which degree, etc. Secondly, I need signature of all department chairs and advisor.

Secondly, I am meeting with my advisor to register for spring semester classes and major changes.

Thirdly, I am meeting with housing regarding my room and board situation. I have already received an email and preregistered to Cook Hall, but I have to make a decision. This means I will meet with my potential roommate, residential director and if I like it, I will fill out another paperwork. Also, if the room will be available, I will try to move in, so I have less work to do when I come back.

Fourthly, I am meeting with a ice hockey head coach, to talk about the second semester.

Fifthly, I am meeting with the Career Development Center regarding my cover letter and CV.

Lastly, I am meeting my admissions representative for a lunch.

It is a lot of work, paperwork, but it is completely worth it for the experience for study abroad.

The Reflection of My Study Abroad in Santiago, Chile

On November 25, my study abroad was ending and I am heading home. A lot of happened during 180 days at Chile here are couple thoughts to perspective students why study abroad was a great choice.

I went to a Chile, which is a country with completely different values and culture because I wanted to experience a completely different behavior and mindset. It worked out great. Looking back, I had more of a culture adapting to Chile, than when I was adapting to United States culture from Europe. It was even worse for me because generally Chilean have completely opposite character than I, but completely worth it. Dealing and working with people and culture that is so different and opposite of my personality, was one of the most valuable experiences than from my study abroad. If you are deciding to study abroad, you should definitely go to country like than. It does not necessary has to be Chile. There are plenty other countries like that, Japan, Argentina, Brazil. If you are an American going to Europe, than yes you will have amazing time and everything, but you do not get to experience what I did, which is an extremely valuable experience to have in the long term.

Secondly, the language. My Spanish went up. When I come back to Hope, I will be taking Spanish V or VI, which is pretty good for not taking any Spanish classes at Hope College (I took Spanish for 3 years in high school). This also, saves me a lot of time and credits because if I will pass Spanish V, I am going to get credits for Spanish I, II, III, IV, and V, which is 20 credits. That is not a bad deal for having an amazing time in Chile, right? It allows me to take another language, which will be Russian.

Lastly, it was eye-opening experience. I tasted different food. Met with people all around the world. I met first people for Australia. I saw different nature. I lived a different culture, which greatly benefits the view on my own culture. Simply put, I got to experience something completely different.

Overall, I feel extremely positive and blessed that I did it. I would recommend study abroad to anyone.

My Journey Home

Everything great in life comes with sacrifices, and my study abroad is not an exception. Since I am an international student from the Czech Republic, I had mixed up all my flights, which resulted in extremely long journey home. I am very sure that I am not only one who has to travel 40 hours home. I fly from Santiago to Detroit via Atlanta and then from Grand Rapids to Prague via Chicago and London.  So as you can see below, being international student and studying abroad comes with some sacrifices. Below I did the math and I will travel almost half of the equator length to go home.

  • Santiago to Atlanta = 7616 km; Atlanta to Detroit = 963 km; Grand Rapids to Chicago = 201 km; Chicago to London = 6360 km; and London to Prague = 1036 km
  • Total of : 16,176 km or 10,051.3 miles, which is like a direct flight from Rome, Italy to Sydney, Australia
  • Length of Equator: 40,075 km
  • 850 km/h (average speed of airplane) / 16,176 km = 19.0305 hours in plane.
  • 40 hours in the air, at the airport or in the car.
  • Out of 120 hours, I will spend 40 of them on my travel.
  • On the good side, I have a lot of time to read and write blog posts.
Aircraft landing on runway
Aircraft landing on runway