Worrying About the “What If?”

Female Hope Student
Chandler Alberda is a junior from Austin, Texas

Deciding where to go to college was just as stressful and scary as it was exciting. What if I made the wrong choice and I missed out on an entirely different experience at a different school? I wanted someone else to decide for me so I didn’t have to think about it. My whole mindset changed once I went on college visits. As I visited different campuses I began to envision what it would look like to live there.

Being on Hope’s campus, I could feel the supportive and lively community even though I was only in Holland for a couple of days. Seeing the campus, talking to the students and sitting in on classes made my decision very clear. I saw myself as a student at Hope. Buying my dorm stuff, meeting my roommate and signing up for classes was all fun but the hard decisions didn’t just stop once I decided to go to Hope. All of a sudden, I had to choose a major.

At Hope, many new students come in as “undecided.” This was refreshing because I didn’t know exactly what field I wanted to go into. With the liberal arts education, I was able to take classes in the musical arts, political science, communication and business, all in my freshman year of college. This way I wasn’t picking a degree out of the blue but I could test out the waters.

I met so many people when I came to Hope and at least half of them were all deciding on their major too. One of the first classes every student takes is the First Year Seminar (FYS). In this class, you and other first-year students discover what your passions are and can transition into college together. We also took personality tests that would tell us what our strengths are. I was Woo, Communication, Activator, Maximizer, and Futuristic.

I met with faculty and advisors to find out what Hope could offer me, and I discovered the types of classes I enjoy. Once I paired my passions with my strengths, I felt confident in declaring my major. I became a Communication major and I fell in love with the upper-level classes that I was taking even though I thought that declaring a major could prohibit me from experiencing other classes that Hope had to offer. Through the general education requirements and electives, I still got to take classes that taught me skills outside of communication.

Decisions are hard and college can be scary. What is comforting is that there are many students that have gone through the same trials. Everyone else that shows up on move-in day will be figuring it out just like you. A huge part of college is discovering what you love to do and making your passions a part of your everyday life. Hope College has so many resources available to discern those passions. Take advantage of the advising programs and technology that Hope has.

Lastly, transitioning from high school to college is going to put you out of your comfort zone. Try new things and take chances. You never know what opportunities can arise in places you would least expect. Deciding on a college and picking a major are both hard decisions. But they are easier made if you take the time to explore your options. An overnight visit to a college and a class in a subject you’ve never studied can be intimidating but you may come across your new favorite thing.

FYS Part 2: What is an FYS?

I remember it like it was just this summer, because it was just this summer. I’d been eagerly awaiting Hope emails since April when I’d committed – to sign up for classes, fill out my roommate information, etc. Eventually, I was given some sort of course guide for my fall semester so that I could send in my preferences.

But wait, what’s this? A required seminar for all freshmen… I groaned. This meant that I was going to be pushed out of my comfort zone and into my proximal zone of development and ohmygod why would I ever want that?

I’ve since disposed of my foolish ways, and I’m here to tell you exactly why a lot of freshmen, including myself, would want to take a First Year Seminar (FYS) class. I’m here to talk about the Hope College FYS.

So here is… Part 2 of FYS: What is an FYS?

To keep this post shorter, I’m going to do this in question and answer form!

Question: What exactly is a First Year Seminar? And what is its purpose?

Kerri: It’s a required class for all first year students; the objective is to introduce students to college in a small classroom setting. You do get to know your advisor, so it’s really beneficial to first year students because you’re not just a name on a paper.

Dee: A large focus is helping students to become acclimated to the college as well as assist them in making a successful transition. You’re not just a name on a piece of paper, you become close with your advisors and peers, and critical thinking is introduced early on. Your professor(s) for this class become your academic advisor(s) until you declare a major.

Question: Do you wish you had one when you were a freshman in college? Why?

Dee: I definitely do. It’s also a class outside of the description of most classes.

Kerri: The program didn’t start until the early 2000s [Kerri actually went to Hope!]. I think we both wish we would have. It’s a great way to get to know professors and other students. When I went to hope they just assigned us an advisor based on your major.

Question: How/Why do you like teaching a first year seminar?

Dee: Its unique that Kerri and I have to opportunity to teach together. Hopefully this is a benefit to the students because they have two opportunities to connect to someone.

Kerri: Yes, we like it. I like the small class setting and getting to know the students on the personal level. Choosing your own curriculum is interesting, sometimes it’s challenging to get people to talk or make something interesting.

Question: How did you design the seminar? Is it going how you planned?

Dee: The flexibility was very intentional, because we really had no sense for how the students in the class would connect. If students weren’t willing to be vulnerable we could have adapted that.

Kerri: I think that we found a topic that we thought was really relevant to college students, as well as when we were in your shoes. We designed it and it’s going well, but we’re trying to be flexible in terms of the students needs. Overall we’re getting the objectives met.

Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dee: Go FYS!

At the end of the interview, both Kerri and Dee admitted that they were both quiet in class and wish they would have been more assertive. Hearing this was helpful to me, as I tend to be quieter in classroom settings.

It’s safe to say that the FYS is designed to help students, and it sure is helping me adjust to college life! Hopefully you learned a little bit more about this required course for all first year students!

Thanks for reading!


Learning about being a Sushi.

This year I have a fabulous opportunity to be a teacher’s assistant for one of my good friends, Professor Linda Strouf. Her First-Year Seminar class is entitled: “Who am I? and Who are the others?”. The focus of the course is for first-year students to think about finding the “other” within themselves and to wrestle with the contradictions of identity.

The first “module” of the course was about Islam. Being a private, Christian college in the northern midwestern United States, the Islamic population of Hope College is fairly small. Though Muslims do attend Hope, their numbers are not great. To learn more about Islam, we read the book The Muslim Next Door, which I highly recommend for anyone beginning to explore Islamic traditions. For most of the students in our class, it was a brand new experience.

We wrapped up the content by taking a visit to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, MI. Just a short, 3-hour trip for us — we took a Saturday and went!

I, personally, learned a lot about Islam, though I feel I had a decent understanding of their religious traditions to begin with. Our tour guide, Eide Alwain, was ever-gracious and welcomed us and our Christian traditions with open arms. He called himself a “Sushi” – a self proclaimed mix of Sunni and Shiite Islamic traditions, so as to show others that he does not judge based on your sect of religion. He encourages interfaith discipleship and works closely with the churches in his area to learn more about other religious traditions.

Of course, my bestie Marv came along for the ride, as Linda, Marv and I are all BFFs. It was really eye-opening for him as well. Marvin happened to be the only male along for the trip (a coincidence I swear), and part of the Islamic tradition is for the two genders not to touch. Men and women do not shake hands, do not brush up against each other, etc. This was VERY hard for us to get used to inside the mosque, as (being besties) we push, shove, laugh, brush, kick, etc each other ALL THE TIME. I practically had to tie my hands down. PLUS. I really was used to the tradition of shaking hands after a visit. So as Eide wrapped up his talk, I ALMOST extended my hand to shake his. Thankfully, I caught myself in time.

Our discussion of Islam and our trip was very interesting from the perspective of a Hope student. Though we live in a very diverse city (Holland), we too often get stuck in the Hope bubble. Though we have have some diversity here, the majority of students are from the same background. It is comfortable to hang out with people of your same race and religion, simply because they are VERY LIKE you. But guess what. Everyone is like EVERYONE. Look at a prime example in my story: My bestie Marv is a Philipino, and I’m as white as they come! I joined a multicultural sorority where white is the MINORITY, and I absolutely LOVE IT. It doesn’t have to span across races, religions, sexual orientations or genders though. Coming up, I’ll talk about my trip to Wisconsin with my roommate, Hannah. She is Irish (pretty white!) though her childhood experience in Wisconsin was completely different from mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

OK OK OK. A long blog story to wrap up an easy point: GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. They may look the same or different from you. They may think the same things, or maybe they have different ideas. Learn about them, absorb their culture and their traditions, and GROW. You will become an exponentially more interesting, well-rounded, and HAPPY person.

I mean, look at all the fun we had in these pictures:

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