Weekend in Switzerland

Sharon Creech is one of my favorite authors. Of all of her books I read in the library growing up, one of my favorites is BloomabilityThe novel follows Dinnie as she navigates living with her aunt and uncle in a new country and attending an American boarding school in Lugano, Switzerland. She tackles homesickness, goes on adventures, and makes friends who come from all over the world. One friend, Keisuke, creates some of his own words while learning English, including “bloomability,” his twist to the word “possibility.”

Back then, this book inspired me to add Switzerland to my list of places to visit. Now, the concept of “bloomability,” the opportunity to grow, is one of the many ways to describe studying abroad. My friend Emma, who studied in Chile this fall, gave me a scrapbook for Christmas labeled, “Erin’s Bloomability Book.” She explained how studying abroad really is a time where you will “bloom,” grow in ways you wouldn’t in your comfort zone at home.

While I have weeks of bloomability ahead of me, this weekend I had the chance to travel to Switzerland. Though I did not visit Lugano, I found the same peaceful beauty in Interlaken.

Me standing in front of Lake Brienz with the Swiss Alps snow covered in the background
Lake Brienz. Yes, it really is that blue!

I went with three girls from my apartment and a few other students from my program. We traveled through a company called Bus2Alps that designs trips specifically for students studying abroad. So we got on a bus around 8:00 p.m. on Thursday night and arrived in Interlaken around 7:00 a.m. Friday morning.

I went on a snowshoe tour guided by Peter who’s a fan of Pittsburgh because Jaromir Jagr played for the Pens. He’s from the Czech Republic and lives in Bali teaching surfing most of the year except for a few months in the winter spent in Interlaken teaching snowboarding, skiing, and leading tours. We took a cable car from Isenfluh to Sulwald where we hiked up the mountain listening to stories about the farmers that live there and the towns that can be seen down in the valley below. The second part of the hike, running and falling into the fresh powder on the way down the slope back to Sulwald, was the most fun I’ve had in awhile.

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Saturday we went on a day trip to Zurich. This is definitely the most calm city I have ever visited. And I have never seen a river running through a city be so clear that you can see the rocks and lost phones beneath the water. We climbed to the top of one of the towers of the Grossmünster church for an incredible view of the city.

Back in Interlaken we went out for cheese fondue and bought chocolate. Interlaken is probably not alone in their pride of Swiss dairy products that is highlighted by the presence of cows for decoration throughout the town.

In the morning I walked to Lake Brienze with a friend, bought some chocolate to take home, and had hot chocolate before getting on the bus back to Rome.

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Overall, Switzerland’s beauty was unreal. The peace and calm of of Interlaken was a welcome break from the hustle of life in Rome. I am looking forward to the bloomability of traveling there again someday.

Thanks for reading,

Senior Struggle #4: Being Prepared

Happy Monday, Readers! Welcome back to talking about topics that seniors struggle with especially during these last few months before graduation. This week’s topic: being prepared.

Whether its being prepared for class by having your homework done, being prepared for the days you don’t get home until after 12 hours, or being prepared for what comes after college, I’ve noticed that being prepared is something that every senior is worried about. For myself, I know that if on Sunday nights I haven’t done my homework up until Wednesday and picked out my blog post theme, I am not prepared for the week and am left picking up the pieces throughout the week. I feel like that’s the case for many people, and if you add looking for a job for after graduation (so that you can be prepared for after college), all the looking ahead and preparedness is overwhelming.

One way to curb this overwhelming feeling is what I like to call “spreading out and staying on top.” Many of you probably know this tactic, but I wanted to reiterate it now because this semester, I’ve benefited from sticking to it greatly. The way to master this technique is to list everything you have to do for the week. Write it down. It physically helps to see what you have to do when it’s written down. Once you see what you have to do, make a game plan and break those tasks down into maybe five chunks. All those tasks at once and in whole chunks are overwhelming, but if you divide them up and spread them out throughout your week it makes you feel more accomplished. Another thing that helps is, if you’ve finished all of your tasks for one day, continuing to work ahead so that you can take some of the pressure off other days. I used to think, “now that I’m done with today’s tasks, I can relax!” While that might be a good way for some people to function, what helps take my stress away is working ahead.

On a bigger scale, another way to become prepared for life after college is to be prepared when it comes to looking for and securing jobs. The biggest time to feel unprepared is during a job interview, but if you can master your answers for most questions beforehand, you’ll feel better prepared and less nervous. A resource students can use to help prepare them for job interviews is setting up a mock interview at the Career Development Center. In doing this, students will be asked questions normally asked at job interviews and will be given feedback on their answers. This will help students be less nervous going into an interview and to help them know what’s coming.

Being prepared is something everyone needs to learn to do. Hopefully these points have helped to alleviate some stress about it!

Until next time!

How many people feel all the time.

Rome: First Impressions

It’s hard to sum up one week of a somewhat overwhelming amount of new things, but I’ll use pictures to make up for a lack of words.

After three hours of sitting on the plane waiting for Delta’s computer system to come back online, the flight from Atlanta to Rome went smoothly. Even from the air, Italy was a stunning sight to take in and it still hasn’t stopped impressing me. A little less than 9 hours later and I was walking through Rome’s Fiumicino airport with two other students in my IES program. We waited for a shuttle that took us to our respective apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome.

Just while walking to the IES Center from my apartment I pass Castel Sant’Angelo, get a view of the Vatican, and cross the Tiber River. It’s not just the sights that are impressive but, of course, the food is as well.

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Tomorrow we will go on a walking tour of Rome for a few hours and Monday classes will begin. Tuesday I have a meeting with the company I will be interning for and my apartment spontaneously booked a trip to Switzerland next weekend! There’s a lot of exciting new adventure ahead this week alone and I can’t wait to see what this semester holds.


Senior Struggle #3: Saying Goodbye to my Email Signature

Happy Monday, readers! Miraculously, after writing last week’s blog, I feel a lot better about being busy this semester. I feel like writing that blog post put a lot of things in perspective for me and I’m at terms with my workload for the semester. My new goal is to get most of my homework done during the weekends so that my weeks are a little less hectic. All it took was some rehashing to figure out how to do that!

The new thought that has been on my mind since I last wrote is the fact that I am scared out of my mind to leave this safe little bubble of Hope I’ve called home for the past four years. Thinking back on it, Hope has been my safe haven. It has given me an education, put amazing people in my life, and most importantly fostered my faith for the past four years. Everything has been made easily accessible to me and has been extremely convenient. It’s been easy to get involved, see friends when I need to, and go to church without straying too far from campus. The way I tend to think about this convenient bubble is in terms of my email signature. It looks like this:

Hope College, Class of 2017

English Major and Management Minor
Career Development Office, Career Advisor
Student Blogger, Hope College Admissions
Hope College Student Ambassador
Hope College Student Congress Representative
Nykerk Cup Executive Board Member, Treasurer

Adaptability | Positivity | Empathy | Developer | Futuristic

How I feel about my email signature…

To me, my email signature shows that I’m accomplished here at Hope and how easy it was to make those accomplishments happen. Once I graduate though, that signature will disappear and that thought is extremely scary to me. All my accomplishments will be gone! I will have to start from scratch building up my email signature with involvements and activities. How will I even begin to do that if I’m not within the comfortable bubble of Hope? How will I find activities to be involved in and make a new normal for myself?

One way to alleviate some of this stress about graduating and creating a new normal is by preparing for life after graduation. For me, that means to start thinking about it. A way that I’m going to start this conversation is by attending the event series “Life After College” which is put on by the Career Development Center, Campus Ministries, and the Senior Seminar program. Every week the series will be covering a different topic that seniors will have to face after graduation. This week on Wednesday from 3 p.m.–5 p.m., or Thursday from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. in the first floor rotunda of Martha Miller the topic that will be covered is finding a church. As a faith-driven person, that topic is very important to me and something I want to invest in. Other topics range from faith in the workplace to friends and fiancé’s after college – whatever the topic I know I need to start thinking about it!

Hopefully you all have started thinking about what life holds for you after graduation, but if you’re like me and haven’t even started, just know that Hope has amazing resources like the Career Development Center to help you start that conversation.

Until next time!

When (Not Yet) In Rome

While I wait for my semester abroad to begin, I thought I might as well share some of what I love about Hope with you all. When I chose to study abroad there were some things I knew I would miss: my friends, downtown Holland, Hope’s campus, etc. In addition to those things that were obvious to me, here are a few other things at Hope that I’ll be missing this semester.

1. Chapel

stained glass window
The rose window in Dimnent Chapel

It’s going to be strange moving from a campus with services 4 times a week to a city that’s filled with churches worshiping God in a language I barely know. A friend told me that, for her, studying abroad became a time for growth in which she gained a new perspective of God and a fresh reminder of his divinity and our inability to truly understand him. Her story was encouraging, as well as the fact that I can always listen to Chapel and the Gathering online.

2. Career Development Center

This Hope resource has all kinds of services available to students. From résumé help to mock interviews, this is the place to go for help with moving towards your future after Hope. While I have been working on summer internship applications I have missed being able to drop in for advice on my application materials. Thankfully, plenty of résumé and cover letter advice, tips, and samples, are available online.

3. Spring Traditions

Students sitting in the grass on campus
Spring Fling is an event that always draws tons of students, freshmen to seniors alike.

Two of the many events that stick out to me when I think of spring semester are Dance Marathon and Spring Fling. First is Dance Marathon, a fundraising event for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. It’s a 24-hour event that a team of students spend the entire year planning, making decorations, and fundraising, all for the kids. Then Spring Fling is one of the final events of the year. On the last day of class the Pine Grove is filled up with inflatables, food, music, and students celebrating the end of another school year. You can line up early to get a free t-shirt, play laser tag, and line the sidewalk to watch The Push, a team shopping cart race.

While there are things I will miss at Hope, I cannot wait to study abroad this semester. However, thinking about how much I’ll miss is yet another reminder of how I really picked the right school for me. And I’m glad I have one more year to spend living at Hope.

Thanks for reading!

Senior Struggle #2: Priorities

Happy Monday, Readers! I hope your week is off to a good start and your weekend was restful and relaxing.

Floating back to last week’s blog, guess where I made a visit to this past weekend? You guessed it – the breakdown chair. Now, jumping right into the topic for this week, what do you think my breakdown was about? It was about how stretched I am this semester and where my priorities lie.

At some point (preferably soon), I’m going to have to accept the fact that I am busy and that my second semester of senior year won’t be a piece of cake. I have so many activities going on in my life while my friends don’t and that’s just the way it is. That’s the way the cookie crumbled. I’m done feeling sorry for myself, I’m done feeling jealous of things I can’t control.

Instead, I need to focus on the cards I’ve been dealt. I’ve been dealt 16 credits worth of classes and homework – many people have. I work jobs on campus – many people do. I’m involved in extracurriculars – many people are! In the grand scheme of things, I am no one special here on Hope’s campus. Many people do the same things that I do every single day. However, I have professors that care about me, bosses and jobs that I love, and amazing friends that push me to be the best I can be. Although in the grand scheme of things I may be no one special, in the everyday, fine fiber of Hope College, I am a valuable piece of the puzzle.

I don’t say that to be vain or boastful, mostly just to cope with my current situation. If I’ve learned one thing within the few short weeks of the semester, it is: in order to survive and thrive in what I’ve been dealt, I need to make priorities and be present in those priorities no matter what the cost. Here are the priorities I choose to focus on every day:

  1. Faith
  2. Self
  3. Academics
  4. People (Friends/Family/Relationship)
  5. Work
  6. Extracurriculars

While they may not always be numbered in this exact order, these are the things in my life that are important to me and I like to work hard at. I value relationships, doing well in school, and performing well at my respective jobs, and while all of these priorities are important, the one I forget about most often is the priority of myself.

Self-care should be one of the most important priorities in anyone’s life. Knowing yourself and your limits are extremely important and give shape to what you want your life to be. Being an introvert with extroverted tendencies, I tend to over book my days and not take enough time to rejuvenate myself in a healthy way. A perfect rejuvenation time for me would be reading a book, journaling, or just doing anything alone. Those things take a back seat when planning my days, though – my thought process is “I can always squeeze one more meeting or coffee date into this extra hour of time.” My goal for this week and the entire semester is to focus on myself and listening to what my brain and body need, whether that be a good reading session or just taking a nap. Part of focusing on myself is living into my priorities and being present when focusing on each of them.

As we hit the ground running this week, I encourage you all to figure out where your priorities lie and figure out how to stay true to them as your lives get busier and busier. I know it will help me through this busy time of my life and I hope it will help you too!

Until next time!

I’m with ya, Ron. This week I’ll try to live into my own priorities.

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,