Living Away From Home

In my four years at Hope, I have met only a handful of people that are more obsessed with their hometown than I am. I’ve been more and more aware lately of how early in my first conversation with someone I tell them, “I’m from Petoskey!” The love I have for the little laketown I grew up in, and the community that still loves me so well from afar, will never be taken for granted. I love Northern Michigan, and I love my home. 

As you can imagine, this hometown I love was very difficult for me to leave when I moved into Dykstra Hall my Freshman year. For many, the move to college is a long-anticipated new beginning. The drama of high school is washed away, and you are presented with a brand new start. Yet, for some–myself included–that fresh start is what felt so intimidating to me. No one knew me. Even though I was excited to meet new people and forge new friendships, I missed the ease and familiarity of friendships at home. 

Aside from the growing pains of forging new relationships, I also just really missed my family. The thought of my brothers and parents sitting at the dinner table without me was unthinkable, and it was hard that I knew they missed me too. In my own personal experience, homesickness is less like the flu and more like food poisoning. It comes when you’re least expecting it, and also leaves almost as abruptly as it starts. Freshman year, but Sophomore year as well, I would have unexpected hard days where homesickness would slam me out of nowhere. But the sadness would never last as long as I thought, and before I knew it, I was back to laughing about something with my roommates. 

One of the anomalies of Freshman year is how time seems to paradoxically speed up and slow down at the same time. I will never forget how I felt after going home for the first time that first fall break in October. I had only been away from home for a month and a half, and it did feel like it had gone by fast; but at the very same time, it felt like I had been at school for years. So much had happened already. 

Moving away to college, along with forming new relationships and missing old ones, also presented a handful of more obvious and tangible challenges. In my first semester at Hope, I remember struggling to manage my time, calling my dad (so many more times than I’d like to admit) because I had locked my keys in my car, learning how to take good notes, and learning which sweaters you can put through the dryer and which you definitely shouldn’t. Moving away from home is a brand new experience, and one with many learning curves. But the best part is that you have about 900 other freshmen around you that are trying to figure it all out too. 

So to the incoming freshman reading this, embrace each new challenge with grace for yourself and an excitement to learn. Freshman year, although it’s full of so many new challenges, is really, really fun. Courageously make new friends, call your mom, figure out the person you want to be, and begin the journey of becoming that person. Before you know it, Hope will become another home you love, and another you will have to say goodbye to. And home is never quite as far away as it feels.

Student Life at Hope

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to try, but have never gotten the chance to? Do you have a hobby that you love? Do you want to spend some time on an activity that isn’t homework? If so, I have excellent news for you. Hope has a ton of ways to get involved on campus, and I’m here to highlight them. 

Clubs

There are a ton of clubs on campus. There’s a pretty comprehensive list on Hope’s website, but you’ll also see them advertised around campus. I’ve been to events for Pre-Law Society, Geek Life, Hope Taekwondo, Nykerk, Prism, and Hope Catholics, but there’s even more to choose from. If you’re interested in an organization but don’t know if you can fit it into your schedule, no worries! Many clubs on campus allow you to come and go as you’re able to, so there’s no pressure. Clubs will also have events that are open to everyone, so you can check it out even if you aren’t associated with the organization at all.  

Faith Life

Faith life at Hope is vibrant! Chapel is held in Dimnent on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30-10:52. There’s also an event held on Sundays at 8 pm called the Gathering. If you’re looking for a more personal way to deepen your faith, I recommend joining a bible study. They usually run for about 6 weeks and there are tons of options to choose from. Last semester, I did the Bible Study for Skeptics and I highly recommend it if you’re a person with a lot of questions. Besides those, campus ministries will hold other events from time to time, so keep an eye out. 

Other Activities

If you’re looking for something to do, there are always events happening on campus. On Hope’s website there is a calendar tab, where all upcoming events are listed. There will also be events listed on the bulletin boards around campus, on the screens in the Bultman Student Center (BSC) and Phelps, and in the This Week at Hope newsletter to students. One recurring event to keep an eye out for is Something Every Tuesday, which is put on by the Student Activities Committee. Every Tuesday in the BSC there’s a different activity held. I highly recommend checking it out. 

Go Get Involved!

Hope has many great ways to get involved on campus, whether it’s through a club, campus ministries, or other events. Also, if there’s something you’re looking for that isn’t currently offered, it’s super easy to start your own club. So what are you waiting for? Go get involved!

My Top 5 For Hope

Why did I chose Hope College? What lead me to making this final decision that would control where the next four years of my life would go? I have personally done some self-reflection and came up with 5 reasons as to why I chose Hope.

Size

As someone who loves meeting new people as well as being able to say “hi” to people wherever I go; the size of Hope College’s campus was a big plus. Before going on my first tour of Hope while in high school I really hadn’t thought much about the size of the college or university I wanted.

Then, I got onto Hope’s campus and I was in shock. First of all, it was fall, my favorite season and the Pine Grove was gorgeous. I felt at home. My tour guide seemed to know everyone and I realized that was something I wanted. That sense of community. I also don’t care much for large crowds.

I wanted a personal relationship with my professors as well. Being able to visit them during their office hours and not have to worry about being judged was a bonus. I found comfort in the understanding that most of the professors at Hope wanted to get to know me. Not just as a student, but as a person. That meant a lot to me, and realizing that Hope’s professors wanted these kinds of relationships with their students because the class sizes were at a max of 40 students helped me realize that college size really mattered to me.

Location

Hope College is located in the beautiful downtown area of Holland, MI. A gorgeous city near Lake Michigan. Balmy summers and brisk winters. I grew up in Holland, well, Zeeland, but it’s close enough that I spent most of time in Holland. I was not interested in staying in Holland for college. I was going to be the child who went somewhere far away.

But here I am, at Hope College in Holland, MI. And I can’t complain. I spend a lot of time wandering downtown, just looking at the shops, eating at the many restaurants or just going to grab coffee.

While I am close to home, I enjoy being able to call Hope my home as well. I love it at Hope more than high school me ever thought I could love college. There is comfort in the location of Hope College.

Community

I am a social butterfly. While I don’t like large crowds, I do enjoy creating relationships. Hope has a strong community of students. I go to events that are being hosted and always feel included even if I don’t know anyone.

Community was shown to me on my first tour. I will always talk about this experience as it was one of the main reasons that Hope made it to the top of my list. Everyone would say hello to my tour guide and myself. He knew everyone. I wanted that. I wanted to walk around campus and be able to greet those that I knew, whether from class, clubs, or living areas.

Hope gives students the ability to make lifelong friendships and beneficial relationships during their time here. Whether that is through the clubs that are offered, the summer programs or sports. There is something for everyone to get involved in and feel welcomed.

Programs

As a freshman, I was pretty convinced I was going to be a Psychology Major with a Minor in Studio Art. I am still a Minor in Studio Art but I now have an English Major with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Big difference. Yet, I would not have been able to make the self-discovery that lead me to change my major if I hadn’t been at Hope. I am convinced of that.

While looking for a college to go to I always made sure they had a psychology department and an art department. There were plenty of colleges that had both, but none seemed to fit. Some had amazing psychology departments but were lacking in the art department, other were well-developed in the arts but didn’t offer much in psychology. Then Hope came along and offered amazing programs in both departments.

Even though I am no longer a Psychology Major, the programs that Hope offers are very diverse. Especially due to the Liberal Arts aspect. I have friends with majors or minors that are combinations of a bunch of different departments, and Hope was the reason they were able to create a major or minor tuned to their interests.

Liberal Arts

I never thought this would be a reason I would have given as to why I am at Hope. But here we are. The diverse education I am receiving through the Liberal Arts is very beneficial. While it can be time-consuming and seem like an inconvenience when you have to take a class that does not pertain to your major, it’s worth it. At least to me it is.

As a writer and an artist I accept the ability that Hope has given me to use a range of topics in my creativity. I have taken a psychology class that has helped me develop a deeper understanding of my own characters. I have taken religion courses that allow me to create scenes and characters who are diverse from my own beliefs. There are classes that I have had to take for gen-eds that I was not a fan of, math being one of those. I am not a math person, never have been. Yet, those courses were more beneficial than I thought.

When I was in the classes I wasn’t fond of I had a lot of anxiety, but my professors were extremely helpful. Now, looking back, I see how much those classes helped me. I realized that math is actually kind of helpful to understand, and understanding nature through my GEMS (General Education Mathematics and Science) class I took Freshman year has given me a different outlook.

In the End

There are a ton of reasons to chose Hope College, but those are just my personal Top 5. You may have different ones, or you may disagree with mine and that’s okay. We are all different. Yet, I know that I will be encouraging people to look into Hope College for the rest of my life after I graduate.

Working as a Student

Once the stress of moving into college ends, the next thing on the minds of many students is “how on earth do I get a job?” Luckily, Hope makes it easy to apply for on-campus employment, and I’m here to break the process down.

My Job

I work for Hope’s Public Affairs and Marketing department. I found the job listed on Handshake, which is where most job listings are going to be. Set the filters to look for part–time employment at Hope and you’ll find loads of potential jobs. You can also sign up to get email notifications whenever a new job is listed. If you don’t see any jobs that catch your eye on Handshake, don’t worry! Some jobs are posted on the digital screens around campus, so keep an eye on those, too. 

The Application Process

I applied for my current job around mid-August, and heard back in September. I got brought in for an interview, and got a job offer the same day. However, everyone’s experience will look slightly different. Just know that sometimes it takes a little bit to hear back, so don’t give up if you don’t hear anything for a while. Also, apply to any job that appeals to you, even if you don’t meet 100% of the requirements. My job asked for a positive recommendation from a writing, business, or communications faculty member, which I did not have as an incoming freshman. So instead, I put down my high school yearbook advisor as a recommendation on my resume. Even if that hadn’t been enough, the worst that could have happened is not getting the job, so there wasn’t anything to lose by applying. 

After Getting Hired

You have a job now. Great! Here are a few things to do now that you’re employed on campus:

  • Sign up for direct deposit. Seriously, do it. None of my prior jobs ever had direct deposit, so getting my paycheck in my bank account without having to manually deposit it feels like magic. Plus, it’s super easy, and they give you the instructions on how to do it after you fill out the student employee paperwork. 
  • Sign up for digital tax forms. It’s the same deal as direct deposit. This is one thing I forgot to do this year. While it wasn’t terribly inconvenient to get it in paper form, digital is a lot better. 
  • Set reminders to fill out and submit your time sheet by the due date. It can be rectified if you forget, but it’s better to just remember.

If you ever have any other questions, don’t be afraid to ask someone. Your employer and fellow student employees are more than willing to help you. Student jobs are meant to be learning experiences, so nobody expects you to know everything. Good luck on the job search!

Kindness, An Innate Trait of Hope College

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “Why Hope?”, I think I would have at least 100 dollars. But for as many times as I’ve been asked, I never get tired of telling my story.

It all started back in 6th grade, when I went to a summer camp in Wisconsin. I spent the entire week getting to know my camp counselor Sam, and being impacted by her kindness in a way I had never seen displayed before. By the end she felt like the older sister I never had. I went home with her email and reached out to her every week for a year. Heard about her life, college, her friends, and in turn I shared as much as a 6th grader could share about her life.

The last email I sent to Sam was in 2014, and it was the first email I had ever sent Sam without receiving a response. My 13-year-old heart was broken, as I thought about what I could have done that led her to stop contacting me. Life moved on, and although I never heard from Sam today, her impact was greater than I ever could have imagined.

One day during my senior year, my mom got an email from my high school saying that an admissions representative from Hope College was visiting. After receiving this email, she asked, “Didn’t you have a camp counselor who went here?” At this point in time, I had almost forgotten about Sam, but knew that I still had our email exchanges back from 2014. After finding the last email I sent to her, I saw that her email address ended with “@hope.edu” and confirmed that she indeed went to Hope. I figured, well, if a person as amazing and inspirational as Sam went to Hope, it must be worth checking out.

My last email to Sam

So I went to the meeting with my admissions representative, Nate Haveman, thinking that there would be about 3-4 other students there, but finding myself to be the only one in the room with this stranger. I remember being nervous at the beginning, but the one-on-one conversation I was able to have with Nate was something that stuck with me during my college search. I appreciated that he not only took time to talk about Hope with me, but also tried to get to know me as an individual. The small act of kindness went a long way, and after our meeting I figured, well, if a person as amazing and kind as Nate works at Hope, it must be worth checking out.

From the moment that I met Nate, I felt supported, and this support was not only a sentiment, but a reality I had never experienced during my college application process. He encouraged me to apply for the Covenant Scholarship, assuring me that he was confident in my potential to get it. When I was called in to interview, Nate was with me before and after, reassuring me and providing words of encouragement. When I got the scholarship, Nate shared the news and later came down to Ohio to hand me the contract personally. 

Nate and my family in Ohio

Weeks after my interview and overnight visit, Nate was the one to call me with the news that I was awarded the Covenant Scholarship. Months after that call, he came to my residential hall to say, “hi” on Move-In Day. Years have gone by, and every semester we catch up about life and future goals. He is one of the kindest people you will ever meet, and one of my biggest supporters on campus. 

The kindness that I first witnessed in Sam and later through Nate is tangible in the Hope community. People who are willing to open up their hearts, support you, and push you to excel in everything you do. There are many people I could name that have displayed this kindness that seems to be innate, but Sam and Nate were the first who acted on this kindness, and transformed my life in ways I could have never imagined.

So, if you ask me, “Why Hope?” My simple answer would be kindness. But the essence of this kindness can only be understood through a camp counselor who cared for me, and an admissions representative who uplifted me. 

From Lagos, Nigeria, to Holland, Michigan

One of my biggest concerns when moving to the United States for college had to do with living in Holland, Michigan. As an individual from the largest city in Africa with over 20 million people, I was a bit worried about the change of pace and context that I would encounter during college. This difference, though sometimes significant, has been something that I have come to enjoy. I have actually, in moments when I have left Holland for breaks, found myself looking forward to the distinct pace it provides. Here’s a few reasons why: 

Downtown Holland during our Tulip Time Festival
  1. I now enjoy, at least to some degree, the change of seasons that comes with Holland. Though there are moments when I would trade a million dollars for a glimpse of the summer sun, having this sort of seasonal weather is a part of college that I have come to enjoy. In my home city, Lagos, the temperature never drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and we have only dry and rainy seasons. It has, therefore, been exciting to live through the fall, spring, summer and winter while enjoying the different activities that come with them. 
  2. In larger cities or college towns, it is a bit too easy to disappear into anonymity. Though this is something I enjoy and look forward to, I have grown to appreciate the kind smiles that are exchanged when one is in Holland. I appreciate the ways in which strangers stop at the coffee shop to ask about my day or tell me how they went to Hope a couple of years ago. I now enjoy the ways in which one can build lasting relationships with one’s neighbors as opposed to the constant fast paced nature of big cities. 
  3. Hope College and Downtown Holland are so mixed into each other and this benefits college students in incredible ways. With downtown being physically right next to campus, I was able to take my brother to dinner for his birthday a couple of weeks ago. A lot of students are also able to get part-time jobs that they balance with their classes and some students even live in the apartments above some of the stores. This relationship that Hope College has cultivated with the city and local community allows students to lean into all sorts of deals, discounts and opportunities which might not otherwise be available.
  4. The beach being a 10-minute drive from campus is a fact that I cannot but emphasize. Lake Michigan’s beautiful body of water allows Hope students to catch some pretty amazing sunsets. This proximity from campus to the beach also allows students to live in Holland warmth during summer research and work.
A Group of Hope College Students at the Beach

Mentors at Hope College

A big part of my excitement about attending Hope College was related to the internship and mentoring opportunities. As a student of Political Science and Philosophy who is planning to work in Development and Business in my home country, Nigeria, it was important to me that I felt supported throughout my four years. Fortunately, Hope has been on top of the game. 

I started off my first year with so many pillars of support. From my first year academic advisor, Professor Charles Green, to my mentor, Professor David Myers, and my host parents, Paul and Alyssa Cheadle Pearson. These individuals, who I leaned into for different needs, helped me survive my first year at college, six thousand miles away from home. This was especially true when the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic hit and myself and other international students were stuck on campus. Their freshman year mentors, thoughtful about my wellbeing, banded together to make sure I had all the groceries I needed to survive. Together, these mentors and myself also set up a virtual book club so that we could all stay connected and engaged even though global uncertainty raged on.

Dinner with my brother and mentors who I met my Freshman Year.

Throughout the rest of my years at Hope, I would add more individuals to my list of mentors. These people would come from all corners of the campus and would even end up including President Scogin who has gone as far as to support me in my graduate school applications. In this way, I think that Hope College is unique because the staff and faculty here really do care for the whole student and are not simply concerned about grades. They want to walk beside you through any aspect of college life that you let them into and it is a walk I have been excited to take with their enormous support.

Life as a Phelps Scholar

Going into college, I knew I wanted to go beyond the typical experience. I wanted something that challenged my preconceived notions of the world and allowed me to encounter things I’ve never experienced before. That’s why I applied to be a Phelps Scholar.

The Phelps Scholars at the beginning of the school year. See anyone you know?

What’s a Phelps Scholar?

The Phelps Scholars are a living-learning community for first-year students. We are based in Scott Hall, but that’s just one part of being in the program. In the fall semester, all Phelps Scholars take the same First Year Seminar (FYS). We do readings written by people from all walks of life and have in-depth discussions about what we’re learning. Our FYS culminates in a presentation on an organization that shares the values that the Phelps Scholars hold. Examples include the IWW, School of the Americas Watch, and the Catholic Workers Movement. During this semester, we also have volunteering placements that allow us to become a part of the greater Holland community. In the spring, the Phelps Scholars take a class that continues the themes from our FYS. While it can vary, this year our options are Encounter with Cultures, which explores cultures outside of America, or Intro to American Ethnic Studies, which explores diversity in the United States. Throughout the year, we have various trips and events that expose us to different cultures and round us out as students.

Our Professionalism & Presentation with Professor Pocock event. He taught us a lot!

My Experience So Far

While it’s certainly lived up to the expectations I had going into the school year, the Phelps Scholars program has given me so much more that I didn’t expect. Namely, the Phelps Scholar community is greater than I ever could have imagined it being. From impromptu movie nights to euchre tournaments, it feels like there’s always opportunities to grow closer to the people around you. Especially now that it’s the spring semester, I feel like I see friends everywhere I go, which is in large part because of the program. Even though the Phelps Scholars program only lasts through your first year, I can tell that I’ve made friendships that will last for a lifetime.

Cookie decorating at the dorm Christmas party

Interested?

Check out our web page to learn more about what the program offers. Then, you can apply by submitting an application online. I highly recommend submitting an application, it’s easy and totally worth it!

From Cleaning to Presenting: My Hope College Research Experience

Before coming to Hope, I had the realization that it was going to be hard to be able to gain a lot of experience in research within the Biology field. As an international student from the Philippines, I barely had any research experience and I was not able to either shadow or intern within other institutions prior to going to college. Yet, I had the passion and drive to pursue a career in research as I loved the fields of Microbiology at that time. That all changed within the Spring 2021.

Starting as a Laboratory Technician

I must admit that I was not someone who was really enthusiastic about being an international during that time as I had so many things going on. From adjusting to the weather and new culture to being far away from my family, I think it was a major struggle for me to be part of the Hope College community. As I was finding on-campus jobs at Hope College, I was offered to be a laboratory technician within the McDonough-Stukey Laboratory during my freshman year. As a laboratory technician, I was cleaning glassware and preparing the the necessary reagents and equipment needed for all the research students and their professors within the laboratory. I remember thinking to myself that I really wanted to be one of those researchers during my time at Hope. I thought that the Science they were doing was so cool.

Undergraduate Research Program

As I figured out what to do during the summer of 2021, I applied to the Hope College Undergraduate Research Program with my top choice being Dr. Stukey’s bacteriophage research. I remember hoping so much that I would get this opportunity. On a regular Thursday, I was washing test tubes and Dr. Stukey approached me and asked if he could explain his research to me and I immediately burst into joy. As he was explaining his research, there were definitely some aspects that I immediately was able to get and some that I did not. Yet as I learned over the years, it is valid for you to ask questions along the way and he definitely pushed me to think critically and outside of the box.

Jairus Meer ’24 at Western Michigan Regional Undergraduate Research Conference at the Van Andel Institute on November 2022

Five semesters and two summer research programs at Hope College later, I am currently a Hope College Biology Undergraduate researcher. I must admit that the journey was definitely not easy, yet I learned so much from the process.

When doing research at Hope College, I would definitely advise students to reach out to professors within their respective departments about such opportunities as Hope College professors love talking about their research. Whether it is research that may be outside of your box, it is something you should definitely consider as it might surprise you.

Learning from my Mistakes

If you think that being a researcher is always about being perfect and doing everything flawlessly, that is not always the case.

Believe me, I made so many mistakes along the way, yet my professors helped me realize these errors and learn from it. As a Hope College student, I just love that the professors here really do care for you and your future no matter what you go through.

Biology Department Symposium last August 2022

I also got to present within my own department and beyond. Though I did not see myself being a presenter, I think being able to explain your research so casually to anyone whether someone who is in your field of study or not was the best achievement I have ever made.

With the support from friends, family and faculty and the many realizations I have made along the way, my undergraduate research experience at Hope College has definitely changed the way I appreciate my field of study even more.

If you want to know more about my research, don’t be afraid to stop by Schapp Room 3009. It is the place I call home away from home. Dr. Stukey and Dr. McDonough-Stukey have been amazing career mentors during my time here at Hope College.

Summer Research 2022 McDonough-Stukey Laboratory Group

Don’t Question Studying Abroad, Do it.

On Admitted Students day of 2019, I listened in on a panel with staff from the Fried Center Global Engagement Office as they described the many opportunities that Hope offered to study abroad. I went home to my mom, and told her that I was considering studying abroad at Hope. Her response was simple: “Do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.” I had no idea how true her words would end up being. 

Arriving at Hope, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but didn’t know exactly where. All I knew was that for at least one semester, I wanted to study in South America to improve my Spanish and to go somewhere I had never been. I remember going to the office of one of the staff members with this criteria, but nothing more. Within the following two years after that meeting, he helped guide me through the process of selecting programs that not only met these preferences, but that also aligned with my degree in Political Science. 

Fast forward to Spring 2022, and rather than being on Hope’s campus, I am in Washington, DC, participating in the Washington Honors Semester. While I was nervous because I had never lived outside of the midwest a day in my life, I also remembered my mom’s advice and decided that I would take this as an opportunity to not only explore a new place, but to come one step closer in figuring out my academic interests and my post graduation plans. 

The semester was more than anything I could have anticipated. I met people from all walks of life, in different careers that I didn’t even know could possibly exist. I was able to discover myself and live independently, setting my schedule and discovering my passions. I made new lifelong friends and made so many new memories with classmates. I was able to explore the city and grow so accustomed to DC life that I now have decided to return post graduation to work for a gap year. But I didn’t want the studying abroad experience to end, and I still needed to meet my goal of studying abroad in South America. 

Visit to the White House

So, in Fall 2022, I found myself studying off campus once more, and arrived in Argentina with an anxious excitement that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Despite the nerves, I once again remembered my mom’s advice, and reminded myself that this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity I needed to take advantage of. And that’s exactly what I did. 

My program allowed me to further explore my passion for Latin American communities and development, while also allowing me to meet my goal of improving my Spanish. I was blessed with two friends to share all my memories with, program directors who provided me with academic guidance and support, and a host mom who loved me as if I were her own child. I was also blessed with the opportunity to not only live and take classes in Argentina, but to also learn in Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The possibilities felt endless while I was abroad, and even though I’m back in the US, I still feel as though I have so much room to grow and so much of the world to see.

Sunset in Uruguay

Studying abroad is not easy. Despite the highs of traveling, exploring, and making new connections, there are also the lows of loneliness, culture shock, and academic adjustment. In these low moments, I wanted nothing more than to go home, to be hugged by my loved ones, and to be in a place of familiarity. However, I also remembered my mom’s piece of advice, and followed it until the very end.

So, for those who are debating studying abroad, I leave you with my mom’s piece of advice. “Do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”