A Christmas-Themed Study Playlist

Studying is hard. Studying at the end of the semester is really hard. Studying at the end of the semester right before Christmas is really, really hard. To make the task a little less painful, I made a playlist of some mellow, festive tunes that you can play in the background while you study in your room, the library, or anywhere else. Some of my favorite artists are on this playlist, including Norah Jones, The Head and the Heart, She and Him, Sara Bareillis, and Hope grad Sufjan Stevens. I make playlists all the time but I think this is one of my all-time favorites. Enjoy, and happy studying!

Christmas Study Tunes

-Rachael

I’m Going to France!!!

Hi everyone!

Sorry I have been MIA the last couple of weeks. My life has been crazy with classes, extracurriculars, and getting ready to go abroad.

That’s right! Next semester I will be in Nantes, France!!!

Nantes
Nantes

Nantes is about two and a half hours away from Paris by train, and is the 6th largest city in France with almost 900,000 residents. As much as I would have loved to go to Paris, I chose to go to Nantes because the population of native English speakers is very small. This means that I will be forced to use French all of the time; if not in the city, then at home with my host family!

While there, I will be taking classes (en français, bien sur!) at the IES program center in the middle of the city. I applied for an internship to teach English au lycee to high school-aged students, so I might be doing that as well!

The main reason I am going abroad is because it is required for my studies. As a French education major, it is important that I have a solid background in French and authentic experiences to bring into my future classroom. Luckily, Hope and my program IES have been wonderful in helping me prepare for my trip. I went to a study abroad orientation with the 100 other students from Hope who will be abroad next semester, and have been in constant communication with my IES program representative for the past several months. The process has been long and somewhat stressful but well worth it. My forms are in, and I have my visa and plane ticket!

I will leave for France on January 7 and will return on May 11. During that time, I will be blogging and tweeting about my adventures, so check back for updates often! I can’t wait to fill you in on what I will be doing!

A bientot!

Rachael

A Semester in Review

WOW.

I cannot even believe that it is DECEMBER already! Where did the semester go??

It would be impossible for me to sum up three months in one blog post, so instead I will focus on some highlights!

My Field Placement

My education classes this semester required a field placement, which I completed at a local area high school in a French class. It was my first time in a high school placement and I initially I was really worried about whether or not the students would see me as an authority figure. My fears went away as soon as the they started asking me for help and called me “mademoiselle”. It was great to see the concepts I learned in my colleges class applied to a real high school classroom. It made me for the day when I will have my own classroom!

Orientation

I wrote a post about Orientation earlier in the semester, but I’m going to write about it again because it was seriously the best time. My semester would have completely different had I not done Orientation. I made several new friendships and have been able to maintain them. I’m so thankful for the great times we had together and so happy that we were able to put on a successful Orientation program for the freshmen and their families.

The 2013 Orientation Staff
The 2013 Orientation Staff

Nykerk

Fall at Hope College would not be fall without Nykerk. The crazy 3 1/2 weeks of rehearsals are always worth it. Being a coach is much different than being a participant but is just as fun. It was awesome to make new friends, help Gabby create her speech, and of course win the cup!

What were some of the things you did this semester? Tell me on Twitter or in a comment!

-Rachael

Nykerk Odd Year Coach Pictures

A few weeks ago, all of us Odd Year coaches had a mini-reunion for some laughs and pictures. The following are what came out of our time together. Taking coach pictures is an Odd Year tradition, and I was so happy to continue it with the wonderful Song and Play coaches. Shout out to the very talented Brooke for taking our pictures!

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Hope you enjoyed them! Happy Friday!

-Rachael

Review of “Modern Vampires of the City”!

Hi Everyone! For my post, I’m going to review a recently released album by one of my favorite bands, Vampire Weekend.

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Modern Vampires of the City Album Cover

Vampire Weekend formed in the mid-2000s when the four members met at Columbia University. Their earlier albums, Vampire Weekend and Contra, have a distinguishable up-beat, afro-pop sound coupled with witty, intelligent lyrics. They keep their lyrical charm on their newest album Modern Vampires of the City while moving towards a more philosophical, dark sound.

The band’s main lyricist, lead singer Ezra Koenig, does not talk often about his private life but based on his lyrics, it is evident that he has been thinking about religion, aging, and death. One of the album’s more upbeat songs, “Unbelievers”, chronicles Ezra’s inner conflict with God’s imminent punishment through lyrics such as “the fire awaits unbelievers/ all of the sinners the same” and “Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?” One of the album’s crowning jewels, “Ya Hey” attempts to wrestle with questions that have Ezra, and many others, stumped: Why is God shrouded in anonymity? Why should God continue to love a country like America that is gradually moving away from Christianity? The chorus of “Ya Hey” draws heavily from Isaiah 43:2-3:

When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you, for I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior

Here is the chorus:

Through the fire and through the flames

You won’t even say your name

Through the fire and through the flames

You won’t even say your name

Only “I Am that I Am”

But who could ever live that way?

The eery, mysterious “Hudson Bay” recounts the death of “Hudson”, while “Everlasting Arms” expresses doubt in God and the human desire to live forever; in this sense, in Heaven. Several others song like “Step” and “Worship You” continue the conversation on these topics.

I would pick a few songs to recommend from this album, but honestly I can’t pick just a few! Modern Vampires is most beautiful and lyrical as a cohesive whole, so I recommend that you listen to the album in it’s entirety.

Do you listen to Vampire Weekend? What do you think of Modern Vampires of the City? Let me know in a comment or on Twitter!

-Rachael

The Class of 2017 wins Nykerk!

As many of you know, the annual Hope tradition Nykerk occurred last weekend. I know that my words could never completely describe Nykerk, so take a look at some pictures, all of which, and more, can be found on Hope’s website!

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Winning was awesome, but I was more proud of how everyone performed. Both songs were BEYOND AMAZING (If you don’t believe me, check out the sophomore song here and the freshman song here) and the plays were hilarious, as always. Rosemary, the sophomore orator, also did a fabulous job.

I was especially proud of how the orator I have been coaching, Gabby, performed. She went up on stage and delivered her speech with poise, confidence, and a smile. Claire and I could not have been happier with the way she performed. The last few days of practice, Claire and I let her rehearse her speech over and over again to feel comfortable with it. It was during that time when the speech transformed from a memorized, choreographed three and a half-page essay into a visual and audible piece of art.

Through the whole process, Gabby was gracious, hard-working, and flexible. We cut out some parts of the speech three days before Nykerk and made some minor voice inflection changes the night before, and Gabby didn’t complain once. She has been such a joy and light in my life these past few weeks and I already miss spending time with her!

I could not have asked for a better Nykerk season. I would like to say a big thank you to the executive board for all of their hard work, my fellow odd year coaches and the even year coaches for their support, and of course all of the participants for making the 79th Nykerk Cup the best one yet!

-Rachael

Questions for a Nykerk Coach

nykerk cup

Hi everyone!

One of my favorite posts last year was answering a bunch of questions that people asked me about bring the Nykerk orator. I thought that once I became a coach the questions would stop, but they have actually increased! So here again are the most frequent questions I have been asked since the Nykerk season began:

  1. Who is the Nykerk orator this year? The odd year Nykerk orator I am coaching this year is Gabby Gazall, a.k.a. G-baby, who is such a blessing and joy to work with. The sophomore orator being coached by senior oration coaches Jordan and Alyssa is Rosemary Walsh. I happen to be friends with Rosemay and could not be more thrilled for her!
  2. Wait, you’re a coach? How did that happen? Let me start by saying that each category in Nykerk (song, play, oration) except song and play morale has two coaches. The song and play coaches interview for their position at the end of their sophomore Nykerk season. Oration differs from this process because the two orators, one from freshman year and one from sophomore year, become the oration coaches. Because Claire Tally was the orator freshman year for our class of 2015 and I was the orator sophomore year, we are both oration coaches for the class of 2017. It is against the Nykerk rules for a girl to be chosen as the orator twice, so there will always be two coaches.
  3. What if someone doesn’t want to be a coach, or they transfer/study abroad? Though it’s rare, this kind of situation has happened before. If an oration coach cannot fulfill her coaching duties, a replacement is chosen. Typically, the replacement is an English or communications major with substantial writing and performing experience. This isn’t ideal because only an oration coach knows what it is like to go through the process and can give the most help. It is made clear to all girls who auditions that oration is a three-year commitment.
  4. What is the Nykerk theme this year? There is no longer a Nykerk theme! Traditionally, an overarching theme has been chosen for Nykerk each year, but this year’s general chair Erin decided to have the theme only apply to oration. This changes nothing about how Nykerk is run or how the songs are chosen and the plays are written. All it means is that instead of Nykerk the event having a theme, only the category of oration will have a theme. This year’s oration theme is Dynamic!
  5. How was the theme chosen? Me, my co-coach Claire, Jordan, Alyssa, and Erin all sat down together and spent an afternoon brainstorming. We felt that the themes for the last few years had been restricting, and consequently wanted to choose something that was quite abstract and could be interpreted many different ways.
  6. What do you do as an oration coach? My role as a coach is very different from my role as an orator. The biggest difference is that I do not have to write the speech. The two oration speeches you will hear on Saturday night are the original works of the orators themselves, not the coaches. As an orator, I had my time to write whatever I wanted and be heard. As an oration coach, it is my job to make sure that Gabby communicates her speech effectively. This means helping her brainstorm ideas, editing the speech, and coming up with motions. Claire and I work together to provide Gabby with all the tools she will need to be successful on Nykerk night! At this point in the season, our job is basically over; it is now up to Gabby to perfect the speech.

I can’t believe Nykerk is only two days away!!!! AHHH!!!! I’m so excited to see G-baby perform her speech, as well as seeing all of the other performances! I will be sure to give you a complete update of how it goes!

-Rachael

#sNOw

If you have been following me or any of the other Hope bloggers on Twitter, you are probably aware of what happened on Thursday. If this is sounding new, let me bring you up to speed: it snowed.

I repeat, it SNOWED. In OCTOBER.

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This is not what Hope looks like! This is simply a beautiful picture of snow I found

As a Kansas-born, Michigan-bred girl, I am no stranger to winter weather conditions. The word “snow” don’t make me panic or cower, and I even enjoy it when appropriate. Key word: appropriate. Late October is in no way, shape, or form, appropriate weather for snow.

Like I just said, I was raised in Michigan, so this is not my first time seeing snow in October. I even ran a cross country in snow in October once in high school. The difference between then and now is that now I’m in college.

Snow in college poses several difficulties:

  1. Field placements/student teaching. For my education field placement this semester, I am placed at a local high school. Luckily, the high school is not too far away from campus, but snowy conditions means that I have to wake up earlier to allow myself more driving time, and I have to take off whatever mountain of show accumulated on my the day before. Not so much fun to do at 6:45 AM.
  2. Walking. Unlike high school, where the closest you get to snow during the school day is the window, you have to walk everywhere in college. Hope’s small campus means that my walks aren’t very far, but I still spend a significant about of time outside. If I had to estimate, I would say that I spend at least one hour per day walking around campus. With gusting winds, heavy snow fall, and cold temperatures, my enjoyable fall walks become detestable in winter. Also, a snow day in college is as rare as a 70-degree day in November; it almost never happens (in case you were wondering, the last time Hope closed for a snow day was in 2011). So no matter how much it snows or how cold it gets, I still have to go outside.
  3. Mental Preparation. Though I enjoy seeing the beauty of all four seasons, summer is by far the best time of the year for me. After it ends, I go through a mourning and denial period, a.k.a fall, where I still try to wear my summer clothes for as long as I can. The few months of fall allow me to reminisce over summer while preparing for the upcoming winter. The unexpectedly short fall this year has not given me enough time to get myself into the right mindset for snow, which has consequently led me to my current state of shock, confusion, anger, and sadness.

So you see, I’m not complaining over nothing. I have legitimate reasons to be upset over the snow. However, not all hope it lost. As I’m typing these final words, the sun is starting to peak out from behind the clouds and the snow patches are melting into snow puddles.

God really does answer prayers.

-Rachael

P.S.-Feel the same way? Let me know in a comment or on Twitter!

A Fun Fall Break!

Hello all 🙂

I was fortunate enough to go home to Iowa over fall break, which started last Friday and ended on Wednesday morning.

My first activity at home was going to my sister Priscilla’s high school football game on Friday night. She had told me earlier that there is a superstar player on the team. I was reluctant to trust her, but after he scored SIX touchdowns and helped the team to win 77-0, I had to believe it.

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Priscilla and I at the Ugandan party

On Saturday night, I went with Priscilla, my brother Elijah, and my parents to a celebration for Uganda’s 51st independence day which was on October 9. My parents grew up in Uganda and lived there until 1991, so Ugandan culture is a big part of our lives. We spent the night in Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines, talking and dancing with about 40 other Ugandans. Even though my family has lived in Iowa for only two years, I already feel like I have found a family in our Ugandan community.

On Sunday, I was blessed to participate in a volunteer activity with my church. Each year since 2009, we have set aside one day to bag 100,000 meals as a congregation for people in Zimbabwe, a country hit hard by poverty and AIDS. In Zimbabwe, there are 1,000,000 AIDS orphans under the age of 18, and 68% of the general population earns $1 a day. Using 1 John 3:18 as a guide, my church decided to show our love to the people there by feeding them.

Dear children, let us not love with our words or speech but with actions and in truth- 1 John 3:18

The meals we packaged contained rice with vitamins and spices. We poured the ingredients into little plastic bags and had to make sure that each bag weighed the same amount. After filling and weighing 36 bags, they went into a large cardboard box. Over the course of an hour, the group I was in filled six large boxes. Since each plastic bag held six meals, and a large box held 36 bags, my group made over 1,200 meals! All 100,000 meals will be shipped to an orphanage for children and adults who have lost parents to AIDS and/or have AIDS next month, along with clothes and books.

Break is always a great time to catch up with family and friends. I’m so glad I got to do that, and help out some people in Zimbabwe!

Rachael

NYKERK!!!

I can barely contain my excitement.

After almost a year of waiting (I started counting down the days the day after it occurred last year), my favorite time of the year is upon us.

NYKERK TIME.

Nykerk is a competition between the freshman and sophomore women in three categories: song, play and oration. It was started in 1935 by then Professor John Nykerk as the women’s alternative to The Pull. It has changed over the years, but the basic premise has remained (still a little confused? go here for more information).

What makes Nykerk different for me this year is that I am an oration coach! As a member of the Nykerk committee, I get an inside look at the behind the scenes work of Nykerk. As a freshman or sophomore participant, you aren’t aware of the work that the coaches and executive board do outside of practice to make Nykerk possible. Now that I have some insight into what goes on, I have gained so much more respect for my song and oration coaches (shout out to Alicia, Mara, Cara, and Zoey!).

The kickoff for the Nykerk season, the rally, was last Wednesday. Seeing the sophomores so excited and watching the freshmen get excited was so much fun. Even though Nykerk is a competition, the love and spirit of Nykerk is shared by all who participate!

To introduce the three areas of competition, the coaches perform skits or make videos. Check out this hilarious video, made by the freshman play coaches!

Practices for song, play and oration started this past week. From conversations I’ve had with other coaches, it seems to be going well so far!!

I’m purposefully keeping this post sparse on details, because I will be writing lots more on Nykerk in the coming weeks. I can’t help it; I have to let you all know how ODD-mazing Nykerk is! 😉

Are you in Nykerk? Let me know how it is going for you so far! Tweet at me or leave a comment!

-Rachael