May Term Mems

Pine Ridge, South Dakota 

One of the unique academic experiences that Hope College offers students is to study over the summer months through May, June and July terms. For many Hope students, this is a chance to travel or spend some more time in lovely Holland and build a deeper community with the members of one class.

In May 2016, myself, a group of Hope women and an extraordinary Religion professor packed into a twelve-passenger van and drove off into the Badlands of South Dakota. Our goal was to engage and learn about the Oglala Lakota Tribe on Pine Ridge Reservation. As the professor mapped out the ride, we took turns sleeping and passing snacks as we anticipated the adventure ahead. What would the third poorest county in the country look like? What work would we be doing to help a culture with such a long history of oppression? What would the Natives think of such a strange group of Midwestern college students walking through their shops and communities?

Prior to the trip, the class met for three hours in the morning for a week in Holland to prep ourselves for the journey. My professor, Dr. Hoogerwerf, opened his doors to us and a couple of us stayed with him and his wife for the entire week. We had night chats over dinner and rode together to class in the mornings. Our side of the deal instead of rent was to babysit grandson Miles, which was never a problem. We learned about the history of the Oglala tribe and the tragedies committed to Native Americans by Colonial militias and American forces in United States History. The Lakota Tribe was forced on reservations like Pine Ridge and taken from their sacred Black Hills that now contain four faces of American presidents carved side by side. My favorite book we read was called Neither Wolf Nor Dog written by a white man who interviews Lakota Indians on the reservation and records their stories. There were many experiences on the trip that have some of the top memories of my Hope experience so far. To keep this story short, I’ll talk about my top three:

Volunteering with Remember

Our housing for the trip was offered by a nonprofit organization working with the Oglala Lakota tribe called Remember. The organization focuses on helping members of the community by building outhouses, skirting trailers, gardening and other hands-on immediate needs and relief. Meanwhile, as students, church groups, and other volunteers offer their time and skills Remember educates visitors about the tribe’s troubling past, but more importantly their rich culture. They also employ members of the tribal community to speak in the evenings and share their stories with guests. I loved meeting the speakers and hearing their experiences.

Cheesin’ after hiking the Badlands

Hiking with Ineila

Professor Dr. Hoogerwerf

One such speaker at Remember has had a relationship with our professor for years. He offers year after year to lead a hike through the Badlands and share with us the discoveries left behind by World War II machine guns and the critters that lived there before. The Badlands were formed by a salt-lake that dried up and left behind fossilized turtle shells and neat patterns of dirt and rocks. It’s a beautiful hike — but an even greater look into why the tribe treasures the land taken from them.

The group hiking through

 

 

We did it!
Ineila (our guide) and Rachel looking at turtle shell fossils

 

 

 

 

Sweat Lodge

My all-time favorite moment of our trip was also the moment I wished I could dive into a pool of ice cubes. Sweat Lodge is a traditional ceremony that “cleansed” the soul and when the men of the tribe would meet with Wakan Tanka (their deity). Another speaker at Remember, lead us through this ceremony and shared his sacred songs. The heat was intense and all twelve of us sat together under a dome made of animal skins and blankets surrounded by hot rocks that sizzled with the humidity of the air. We were also invited to share a meal with them and we sat in their trailer eating soups out of spare cups and bowls. The way they opened their arms to us was a unique and genuine gesture, and it reminded me of the way the church should also open its arms.

Example of what a lodge looks like

These memories have driven my studies back at Hope and will continue to shape my future goals. I love to fix myself in new cultures and learn from stories there. I would encourage students to volunteer and travel in their time at Hope. If not for a semester, then for a May, June, or July Term. If not for these then go on an immersion trip through Campus Ministries! There are many ways to travel, serve and learn from others and the opportunities are plentiful at Hope.

Learn Lakota: “Mitakuye Oyasin” – we are all related

 

 

Can’t you just tell me?: Musings on Being Undecided

By: Alley LoPrete

One of the most daunting parts of choosing a college for me was wondering if I would make the right choice. How do I know my school is the right one? It brought me back to middle school dreams of my future husband and asking my mom “How do you know he is the ONE?” So, I chose a school where I could find lots of options; Hope College. Perfect! I found a liberal arts school where I can take classes in multiple areas to fit all my interests. It wasn’t a cop-out. Rather, I felt that Hope College would help me stay well rounded and flexible so that I could do all the things I love for four more years.

As a result, my schedule freshman year was a melting pot for my mind:  Basic Painting: yes I love to be creative! Encounter with Cultures: awesome, I love learning people’s stories!, Communication: nice, this is an important skill. Then, the most terrifying email came into my inbox from my advisor. The subject line: DECLARE A MAJOR! A major, as in one subject, one degree, one department. Here I was faced with another choice and I was again too overwhelmed with ideas to make it. My biggest fear was that I would choose a career path that I would tire of, or that my degree would limit me later in life. I also felt that I needed to choose a major that would follow God’s calling for me. Thus, I was forced to turn inward and reflect on what I knew about myself.

This reflection was a large part of my First Year Seminar at Hope and through the class and the Career Development Center I took a StrengthsQuest test. This test is aimed at finding your top strengths through a series of self-reflection questions. Everyone passes this test and ends up with your top five strengths! Mine are: Includer, Adaptability, Connectedness, Empathy, Achiever. These traits pointed to a career in relationship building, so I signed up for a sociology class the next semester. Turns out, I love the social sciences and particularly the study of communities.

I also met with a religion professor after taking a religion course freshman year. I learned about all the careers that one can have in studying humanities and realized how options grow based upon your passions. I also read a book called Acts of Faith in my First Year Seminar class and I learned how much religion effects the world and how the social justice elements of my faith could be used for a greater good. I soon realized that my passions for serving others could be built into what I study at school. I can work for a nonprofit, serve, and still make a living.

In the end, I changed my major at least three times and ended up with not one, but two majors: Sociology and Religion. Through mentors, resources and experiences in the classroom my interests were channeled into potential jobs and the majors to go with. I am now looking forward to attending Seminary or Graduate school and working as a chaplain or for a nonprofit in the future. Even within my majors, I do not feel limited as I feared. In attending a liberal arts school, I can still go in and out of departments and continue learning! But, I do know now that my future is bright and I have a direction for my studies and a plethora of job options in the future.

Here are some points of advice that I will leave you with:

  • Reflect on your life experiences and what brings you joy: these often help you determine what you want to pursue doing in the future, because you loved them in the past.
  • Use your resources: family, friends, mentors, career centers and advisors, Strengths Quest and more can help you make good choices and consider more options that you may know about now.
  • Step out of comfort zone: your major may not be the most practical initially, but in talking to professors and doing research you may find more career possibilities.
  • Mix it up: Try out different classes, go to lectures outside your major. You may run into a topic you didn’t know you had a passion for and may end up with a minor!
  • Think of others: Everyone is given skills that are unique, think about how you will not only be helping yourself in choosing a major, but also keep in mind how what you’re studying can help others as well.