From Holland to Detroit to Las Vegas… and Back

This past weekend (plus Monday and Tuesday) my family and I took a trip to Las Vegas. Hope students had the two extra days off for Winter Break and my mom wanted to take advantage of what might be the last time my family is (mostly) all able to get together for a family vacation.

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We flew out on Friday night, which ended up about three in the morning Detroit time in Las Vegas.

That Saturday we visited the Strip, which is the long stretch of hotels, casinos, shops and restaurants. At night it feels a lot like Times Square.

The hotel lobbies in Las Vegas are extravagant. I found myself looking at the scenes of replicated cities, monuments, places and wondering whose idea was this?

I’m sure whoever decided that Las Vegas would be what it is today had money on their mind.

The next day we visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Hoover Dam on the way back. Those are two landmarks that simply awe you in their presence. One land-made and one man-made, I couldn’t help but wonder how it all happened.

I also got to see a Cirque Du Soleil show that night… and you bet I was wondering the exact same questions as I did when I saw the Strip, the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam.

On our last day, Monday, we sat by the pool and explored a more rural Las Vegas at a local mall. The contrast between the bustling downtown and the quiet mall was strong. It felt just like an outdoor mall back at home.

Our plane was scheduled to leave that Monday night, but ended up getting delayed and canceled at three in the morning Las Vegas time. We finally got a ride back the next afternoon, and my mom dropped me off at Hope this morning, just in time.

While my last 24 hours have been exhausting, the trip was well worth it. Las Vegas isn’t really my city, but it’s definitely an experience that you should have. The same goes for the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. (And the Cirque Du Soleil. It’s on my list of top ten favorite things, ever).

Thanks for reading,


Weekend Preface

Six weeks in.

I’ve been going to classes in Ireland for six weeks already. I’m baffled, I’m incredulous, I’m flabbergasted! The time has slithered past me quickly and in the most wonderful way, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m ready for a break. Luckily for me, in my time of need (as in any), God provides – this coming week is midterm break for the IES Program! Praise! This is a week where there are absolutely no classes and the week is mine to use for whatever I like.

In another stroke of luck, what I’d like to do is hang out with people who love me, specifically my family and guess what?! I’m happy to announce that my loving family is visiting me and my sister over break! We are so blessed to have them come and visit us and be apart of the Dublin culture we’ve become so used to over the past months.

This is my family! We are very close and I couldn't be happier that they're visiting me here in Dublin soon!
This is my family! We are very close and I couldn’t be happier that they’re visiting me here in Dublin soon!

This is just a little preface to what is coming: my family and I traveling around Ireland for a bit, then heading to Salzburg, Austria. My parents are HUGE Sound of Music fans, and that is where most of the film takes place. So, readers, be on the lookout for future blog posts because I’ll have tons of pictures, words to share, and most likely lessons that I’ve learned throughout this time of rest and relaxation.

Make this weekend a great one!

Until next time.

Family – Grateful to Have Something Worth Missing

For most people who leave home when going to college, family becomes something different. It’s hard to describe, because they’re the same people they were when you left, but you’re not seeing each other every morning in passing on the way to work or school anymore, or eating family meals together, and you’re not getting into little arguments over laundry or other chores anymore; you’re not together anymore. In some ways, this is beneficial to your relationships, because a lot of the aspects that drove you nuts about them are out of the picture. In other ways, it creates a deep longing for home, the support system that goes along with it, the memories, and the little things that happen on a daily basis with people you trust and can tell anything to.

In college you learn to rely on yourself instead of your mom, dad, or guardian of any sort. It isn’t easy at first, and just because it happens doesn’t mean you love your family any less. I miss mine all the time, but I know that this is the time for me to grow out of my home-sized shell and into a world-sized shell, one that prepares me for life on my own even outside of Hope’s campus.

All of this being said, when I get time with my family I try to make the most of it. My mom came up to Hope this weekend for Family Weekend. There was a lot going on, but we chose to stick to our own schedule for a majority of the time. On Friday we went to a parents lunch with my sorority, shopped downtown, ate at Mizu Sushi, did some more shopping at Target and Barnes and Noble, and then went back to the hotel. We ate snacks, watched TV, talked, and I got to read a bit of a new book I bought (for fun, not for classes!). In the morning we ate brunch, went to the Family Weekend worship service at Dimnent Chapel, and then got lunch together.

It was a really relaxing weekend, and I’m really glad my mom came, but the sadness of her leaving still hits me, even as a sophomore. I don’t think it’s anything to feel embarrassed about. When you love people, you miss them, and sometimes that feeling can hurt. Other times, it reminds you of why you miss them so much in the first place – because they’re important to you, and how lovely it is to have someone worth missing so much. Whenever I feel sad when missing my family, I try to miss them in a grateful way instead.

Thanks for reading!


Mid-Winter Break Excursions

This week sure flew by! I’ve spent more time in Chicago this week than Michigan, mainly because it was our mid-winter break. Instead of sitting around Holland while all of my friends went home, I decided to make my own plans with friends and family. This was probably one of the most jam-packed weekends I’ve had in a while, so I have quite a bit to relay on to you.

Friday: I was able to get a ride into Chicago from my friends David and John, which was really nice because the only other way I was to get there was by taking the train a day later. Once I made it to Chicago, I met up with my friend Shannon (who I grew up in California with) and we got together with a bunch of her roommates and friends and went out to dinner. It was probably one of the most relaxed places I have ever been and the owner was hilarious, so that was a definite bonus. After we ate, Shannon and I were pretty tired since we got a really late dinner, so we headed back to her apartment and had girl talk until we both fell asleep.

Saturday: When Shannon and I woke up, she had to go volunteer for a couple of hours but upon her return we went out to brunch at a super cute restaurant called Jam n’ Honey. I’ve never been so excited for an omlet before in my life! Since Shannon had to study the rest of the day for a midterm, I headed over to my brother’s apartment for the remainder of the weekend. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas, so it was fun catching up and having deep conversations about most areas of our lives. It was especially nice because it was his birthday this past weekend and I loved getting to spend it with him! After talking up a storm, we went to Target and got some groceries and decided to make a dinner that my mom makes back at home. As the dinner was cooking we thought it would be fun to watch some throwback shows such as “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Man, I miss that show!

After eating, we watched a movie and then headed to a comedy show that night. I had never been to a comedy show before so this was quite the experience. It was a non-profit one that was created by people in their 20s and it all took place in what felt like a joined apartment. The really cool thing that happened was that each person with a ticket rolled a dice and whichever number it landed on was the amount of money you got back from your ticket. The show ended up being an hour long and it covered a bunch of different types of comedy but I was starting to fade because I was so exhausted (I nearly fell asleep on the CTA… yikes!). Once we got back, Brian and I were too tired to even function, so we went to bed. His couch had never been so welcoming and comfortable!

Sunday: When we both woke up we decided to make waffles/pancakes and continue watching some old television shows. This time we opted for “Even Stevens” and “Lizzy McGuire” and I’m glad we did because they brought back some great memories. Brian and I thought it would be beneficial if we got some homework done so the rest of the morning and early afternoon was dedicated to just that. After getting our fill on academic stuff, we took the Metra up to Kenilworth and had a birthday dinner with my aunt, uncle, three cousins and their significant others. The last time I was there was freshman year, so it was really nice to visit and see everybody! We had veal, fettuccine, salad and angel food cake. I’ve never had veal before, but I wouldn’t be opposed to eating that again. When the evening was wrapping up, Brian and I went back to his apartment and Skyped with my parents because we hadn’t talked to them in a while. It’s always nice to have a chat with them and have a family conversation, even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

Monday: Brian had to work so I was on my own making plans. Luckily, my friend Kristi was in Chicago as well so I made my way over to her place. We caught up for a bit and got some food at Whole Foods (which was amazing by the way). Since it was a relatively nice day we walked around the city, going in and out of shops and just had a relaxing afternoon. It was much overdue! Fortunately Kristi has a car, so she was able to drop me off at Union Station where I took the train back to Holland to wrap up my long weekend.

A bunch happened, right? Even though I may not have gotten a ton of sleep this weekend, it was definitely worth it and I loved getting to see people that I rarely see during the year. It was a total treat and I hope it happens again soon! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week and try to stay warm (I hear it’s going to be in the low-teens this weekend!)

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @hopeleslie15.

Reflections From Home

Being home makes me wish I were still in high school. I guess that’s just because I have such an awesome family and I want to be around them more. I still love Hope… just hear me out ’till the end, trust me.

So maybe you’re a senior in high school, which is who I’m thinking of as I write this, but maybe you’re not. This is still something to think about.

Home is where warm candles are lit, where vanilla scents waft up my senses constantly, and fuzzy blankets are always there to snuggle under and watch a TV program while munching on my mom’s homemade popcorn. Home is my cat and dog, cuddling into me at any moment they can. It’s my mom’s cooking: real, fresh food. Home is my brothers and my step-sisters laughing, my step-dad cracking the jokes, and my mom rolling her eyes behind it all.

Home is comforting; everything about it screams, “Stay here!”

What if I did?

Whenever I get the feeling that home is a better place than anywhere else, I ask myself this. I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have so far, learned as much about myself as I have, and learned as much about others as I have. Home is cool and all, but nothing compares to the beauty of Holland. The lakes, trees, and hills, keep me grounded. Not to mention the fresh set of friendly people that surround me.

While home may be comforting, it’s important to get out there in the world, and push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit. Without that, growth would never come. Without growth, I’d just be a stagnant person, munching on my mom’s popcorn and listening to my step-dads same corny jokes until I get old and can’t hear him anymore.

I’m exaggerating. But still.

Home is where the heart is but Hope is where my heart grows. While I wish I could have more time here, I know it’s time to get back to the books and friends that are waiting for me in Holland. Every day there is an adventure, and I need to continue mine.

Seniors: I hope that as you think about college and where you’re going to end up next year you remember to enjoy the moments you have at home right now. It’s sad but true that you will get less and less of them as time goes on. The good part is that a new chapter in your book is about to start, and whoever is at home is hopefully ready to cheer you on.

Until next time,


If you have any questions for me you can contact me at, through Hope on Facebook, or my twitter @hopebrooke18! I’d love to answer them!

Friends or Family?

Welcome back, Hope College!

I hope you all had a wonderful break and are ready to start a new semester fresh!

If you’re like me, it was bittersweet coming back to school. You’ve just spent all of your much-deserved vacation bonding with your family over Christmas dinner and mingling with your high school friends while ringing in the New Year. In other words, it’s hard to go! To leave all of those comfortable people and come back to…what? What, or who, are we coming back to?

In my eyes, when I left the comfort of my family at home, I was coming back to not only my friends, but my family here at Hope. Because if you really think about it, you see the people in your residence hall, your classes, and even the cafeteria more months out of the year than you see your biological family, and that says a lot. You might be leaving your family back at home, but you’re rejoining your family when coming back to Hope.

I didn’t see it like that freshman year, but that’s only because I hadn’t grown close to the people around me. As the year wore on, I grew closer to my roommate, my cluster mates (I lived in Dykstra) and even the constant flow of people I saw en route to my morning classes. They slowly but surely became my little family – my home away from home, as they say. I came to miss them when I went home during the year. As last year melted into this year, breaks like the one we just had have turned into nice rejuvenation periods to reconnect with loved ones, but coming back to Hope I know that I truly have missed the friends I now call family.

I’m sure that as my upcoming years at Hope pass, I’ll grow even closer to this family. I will be sad to see them go, come graduation, but as my college years turn into adult years, I’ll be able to look back and reminisce on the family that got me though some of the best years of my life.

Start this semester off great, everyone, and appreciate the people around you as you start classes. Until next time, readers!

Post-Thanksgiving Coma

Happy Black Friday to all!

Now that I am slowly waking up from my Thanksgiving coma from last night, I thought I’d write about my experiences you all. First off, Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays (other than Christmas, of course). This year in particular, I am extremely thankful for my family. Even though we had our ups and downs, I know I have them always, which is incredibly comforting. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy!

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Every year, my family goes to our uncle’s house for a hearty meal. Per usual, I ate more than I usually do in any given day. But, this is the only time during the year that it is acceptable to gorge on food. Random side note, my favorite Thanksgiving food is stuffing. Anyway, after stuffing my mouth, I had left no room for dessert which was quite sad. But a few hours later once my food started to digest, I ate pie. I needed the pie because after dinner, my family did something crazy. WE SHOPPED FOR THE BEST DEALS.

A lot of the stores opened at 5 PM on Thanksgiving, but we only started an hour after. The country might as well call it Black Thursday rather than Friday because all of the deals were primarily for Thanksgiving Day. Although there are many who don’t believe in the shopping during Thanksgiving, to each their own, right? I had ample time to spend with my family prior to shopping, but we also made the shopping itself a family affair!

We went to so many stores. The people were just crazy, and this is an understatement. Some of the stores we hit up were Macy’s, Kohl’s, GAP, Old Navy, American Eagle, PacSun, and Target. Each store had amazing deals. I mean who doesn’t like buy 1, get 1 free? IT RARELY HAPPENS. For some stores, the sales and deals continue today, so I might have to check those stores out!

But as for today, its a perfect winter day to put up our Christmas tree, decorate the house, eat Thanksgiving leftovers (hopefully another food coma), be with family, and do homework. That’s all for now, friends! Keep checking for more posts this upcoming week!! The semester is really coming to an end!!

Thankful for more than just Thanksgiving

There’s something about being a college student that has taken me from being half-full thankful to overflowing thankful. Maybe it’s the friends I’ve made, the professors I’ve had, or the fact that my family is so far away (which makes seeing them that much more important!) Regardless, I know my experience as a college student has contributed to the gratitude I feel for my parents for providing me with the education and the opportunities Hope provides.

Of course, I’m partially biased here — but I’m in love with everything Hope has to offer. The helpfulness of the professors, the difficulty of classes, friendships; and beyond academics, the most important part of me — my faith — have contributed to finding my passion and purpose in life in the short amount of time I’ve been here.

Although being thankful is naturally amplified at Thanksgiving, I’m thankful year-round for my family. This weekend, they came up to visit me here at Hope and we made the half-hour trek up to the Grand Rapids area to stay with my aunt, uncle, and cousins for the weekend! We had a blast making cookies, eating delicious food, and taking goofy pictures. I also learned how to knit and knitted a whole scarf in one day!

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A common theme of my brother, Harrison, and I being together is taking an unbelievable amount of embarrassing “selfies.” I’ve picked out a couple to share. 🙂

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Time spent with my family means the most to me. I thought that maybe I would wish I was home with them instead, but I realized that it doesn’t matter where we are as long as we’re together. Cliché, perhaps, but it’s for real. Regardless of where we are, it’s always fun to catch up with what’s happening in our lives.

What are you thankful for? Comment below or tweet at me @hopesophie17. Want to know more about what’s it’s like to be an out-of-state student or just want to hear more about life at Hope? Send me an email at

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

State of Emergency

For all of you out there, you may have heard through the media that a super typhoon nearly destroyed my beloved homeland, the Philippines. I just wanted to post about it because the Philippines is so close and dear to me. Before I continue, let’s clear the air on a few things:

  • Hurricanes and typhoons are the SAME. They are termed differently because of location. Hurricanes = Atlantic Ocean / Typhoons = Pacific Ocean.
  • Hurricanes and typhoons are categorized in the same way.
  • The World Meteorological Organization names typhoons, so it can be classified internationally, but many countries name them differently.

Ok, back on topic. Last Friday, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) hit the central geographical location of the country. This region is also called Visayas (In the US, we have The Midwest, The Appalachians, etc…). It was also called a super typhoon because it exceeding the classifications of the strongest given category. Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) had consistent winds of 195 mph and gusts that reached 235 mph. Now, I know it seems as if I’m teaching, but I want to give you the facts. Now that we have them, let’s further explore the damage that this disaster caused.

Do you see that mass of white? That's the typhoon, and it is engulfing The Philippines.
Do you see that mass of white? That’s the typhoon, and it is engulfing The Philippines.

Haiyan (Yolanda) before landfall put over 10 million Filipinos at risk. Since landfall, it was also estimated that more than 10,000 lives had been lost. This makes Haiyan (Yolanda), the deadliest tropical storm to ever strike the Philippines. So, why am I giving more facts? It’s important to know, especially when we’re on the other side of the ocean. Just because there’s a geographical disconnect between the United States and the Philippines, this could make us feel “sorry” or “terrible” that such an event happened. As people of God, and citizens of the United States, it should be important to help the Philippines out in every way. Another interesting fact; The Filipino economy was the fastest-growing economy in Asia, surpassing developed countries such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. But, because of this storm, all operations came to a halt, again affecting the country negatively.

How do I relate to this? My family and friends were affected by the storm. For a few days, there was a consistent stress and worry because we could not get into contact with them due to loss of power. As of Monday, we finally heard from my family and they are all safe. Thanks again to those with the prayers and words of encouragement. And a special shoutout to my friends for being so supportive!

Now, the proud nation of the Philippines is in a state of emergency. As you may have noticed, on Facebook, there is the option to donate money through the American Red Cross to help the disaster in the Philippines. I urge every single one of you to donate if you are able to do so. Doing so provides shelters for those without one, food, clean drinking water, and necessities for everyday like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. The American Red Cross in partnership with the American Red Cross are doing everything in their power to help the Filipino citizens. Click here to go to the donation page. If you do not have the means to donate, simply pray. Pray for the nation, it’s government, and its people. There is so much out there on the media with ways you can help. Click here for other ways to help out my beloved nation of The Philippines.

Sorry I blogged so late folks, but for real, expect another one very soon. Make sure you share and tell those around you the significance of this event.

“The Filipino spirit is stronger than any typhoon.”

Everyone’s Favorite Day!

Despite many exams, assignments, and projects being due on Friday, everyone still loves Friday. I can guarantee it is everyone’s favorite day (in the weekday of course!) If you’re reading this, give yourself a pat on the back. You made it through this week. I know for some, it was just such a draining week. I know it was for me. This week, I didn’t have any big exams, but I had so much busy work. Talk about redundant. Anyway, with all of that said, I’m glad I made it to Friday. Maybe I’ll play “Friday” by Rebecca Black…

Anyways, I’m so glad this week is over. All of my assignments are done, I took care of myself, and I didn’t get sick! I feel like everyone is coming down with something. I ran twice this week, which also made me feel great despite my heavy load of work!


On Tuesday, I ran 7 miles, because I could. It was such a nice day for a run because it was beautiful, warm, and sunny. I also beat a PR of mine, which was even more encouraging. I know this sounds CRAZY but the following day, I ran 3.22 miles with a friend.

3.22 Miles!
3.22 Miles!

So all in all, I ran a little more than 10 miles this week! And on top of that, I wake up early to workout in the mornings. Seriously though, I recommend just getting active and moving around. You’ll feel great, be more energized, and less stressed! Speaking of which, if you haven’t read my blog on stress, you should! CLICK HERE! Anyways, today is a very special day for three reasons. 1) IT’S NOVEMBER! 2) IT’S CHELSEA’S 22nd BIRTHDAY and 3) IT’S NATE’S BIRTHDAY! Ok, so I am a little biased, they’re some of my amazing friends, but today is going to be all about them! You might know Chelsea because she is a fellow blogger! CLICK HERE to go to her blog page! It’s got great content, I definitely recommend it! Anyways, I can’t wait until my classes are done because we are going to spend some time together celebrating.

It's Chelsea and me!
It’s Chelsea and me!
Nate and me, and this sums up our friendship!
Nate and me, and this sums up our friendship!

I’m so thankful it’s Friday. If you want to read more about other Hope College students, make sure you check out the Life in Orange and Blue Blog Page. There are some great posts and college advice and life. Time for me to get ready so I can tackle the day. If you get a chance today, make sure you just stop, breathe, and think for a moment. Be thankful for life, family, and friends. Count your blessings, and give thanks for the little things! That really get’s me motivated! If you haven’t done so already read some of my other blogs! Follow me on TWITTER! Feel free to ask questions about anything. I’m here to help! Also, spread the word about this post! Have a great Friday!