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I have been a student at Waynesburg University for four years now and one of the first things I would tell anyone interested in applying is that the faculty here are amazing. Waynesburg is a small university; therefore, its focus is to provide a personal learning experience to its students, which it does quite well.

A great example of Waynesburg’s personable faculty, from my own experience, occurred this past semester.

Before the fall 2013 term began, two of my scheduled courses were rescheduled for the following semester. I was anxious. I had no idea what I wanted to replace them with, and it was the start of my senior year. I needed more credits.

When I found an open seat in a Biblical ministries class titled “Wisdom Literature,” I quickly joined, not fully knowing what to expect.

Now, I have always been secure in my beliefs and understandings of faith, especially from what I have learned as a student here, but when I entered class on the first day, I shrunk down in my seat, my mind racing with insecurities. I had not taken many of the classes my classmates had and I was not a ministry major, like the majority of them. I felt insignificant and incompetent. Moreover, I felt like I didn’t belong.

Determined to drop the class out of fear of embarrassment and failure, I e-mailed the professor, describing to him my reasons for wanting to leave, though I didn’t need his permission. I had expected him to tell me “I understand and agree if you are uncomfortable, you should drop the course,” but the answer he gave was considerably different.

When I opened his correspondence, what he told me was “hang in there, enjoy, and feel free to stop by my office anytime for help. No bad questions.”

Through the course of the semester, we studied the Bible, primarily the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Each class period was spent reading aloud the book of study, then discussing its meaning as well as how it applied then and how it applies today.

After each class, the professor would ask me how I was doing and what questions, if any, I had. He sent me examples of things we would be doing for class such as blog posts and reading responses, knowing I was not accustomed to his teaching methods like many of my classmates. I couldn’t believe how much he cared.

As the semester unfolded, I found myself becoming engaged in the topics. What I had not allowed myself to recognize on that first day was that I had been given a unique opportunity to further my understanding of the Word of God in addition to furthering my overall education.

By the end of the course, the amount of questions I had shrunk significantly and I found myself branching off on my own, sharing my opinions and interests, thanks to the help of a professor who was willing to go above and beyond for one student’s understanding.

What I have learned through my college experience at Waynesburg is not only are people willing to help when you need it, they often will go out of their way to make a difference in your life, showing you what you are capable of even when you aren’t sure. To me, that alone speaks of the quality of education I am receiving.

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So, despite that I've been doing lots of sightseeing and traveling, and even though it often doesn't feel that way, I am, in fact, in Northern Ireland to study; that's what my visa says, anyway, so it must be true. So far, that part of life here has been, in itself, quite a different experience.

First, structurally, it's quite different from America, which isn't very easy to get used to. Each class has two hours of lecture and one hour of seminar  basically discussion of what we've been learning - throughout the week. Then the grading is primarily based on one 2,500 word paper and a final exam; I'm admittedly a little intimidated by that prospect. The credits are different, too, and so because of the way they transfer, I only take three classes. It's very strange for someone who's used to 18 and 19 credit semesters.

The content of the classes is really interesting to me, too. I'm taking an Irish government and politics class, Irish literature and society, and "Invented Traditions in Britain and Ireland." Despite being a history major and having taken many European history classes, there is so much that I've never learned about this country's history; there is just so much of Ireland's fascinating and tumultuous past that isn't covered in any of the classes I've taken in America. There are a lot of "basics" I've needed to look up outside of class, too, things that everyone here would already know, similar to how Americans just generally know things like who George Washington was; it's so interesting to me to see that aspect of another country, even if it does leave me feeling slightly confused occasionally during class.

I feel like I'm learning now, and I'm going to learn so much more. I'm being exposed to a view of the world unlike any that I've heard or studied before, because these people have such a different history and culture, and so therefore different ideas about things. Though I am absolutely loving seeing Ireland as a tourist, I'm also really excited that I get to experience it from an academic standpoint as well.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_resized.jpgThe first week here in Ireland, I and all of the other international students had lots of things to do. We had meetings to go to, classes to schedule, activities planned for us and shopping to complete. Meanwhile, we were all getting settled into our new home and conquering jet lag. 

However, after all of that, we were rewarded with the real reason we all really came to Ireland- a little bit of traveling.  Everywhere we've been has been incredible. There are artifacts in museums from B.C. that are really well preserved because of the boggy landscape of Ireland! There are artifacts from the 1600s and before, and it boggles my brain that the ones from the 1800s aren't as big of a deal here, when that would be the pinnacle of most American museums. 

Derry/Londonderry has a wall running through it that dates back to the sixteenth century! We visited a castle- a castle! And we were allowed to walk around and through it, to touch it and to take pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous and thrilled me through and through.  The history here is so well preserved and tangible and it's really easily accessible to the public, all of which has my little history-major-heart dancing. 

However, as stupendous as the history is, it manages to pale in comparison to the land itself.  One of our most amazing trips was to the Causeway; it's a place that is so strange, unique and beautiful, unlike anything I have ever seen before. The cliffs of the Irish coastline, too, are absolutely breathtaking; they are something that you could just stare at forever and never tire of their allure. 

The inland is full of rolling hills and mountains, and the colors on a sunny day- or, you know, sunny 20 minute spurts- don't really seem real. They seem like something that someone photo shopped to make more vibrant. This country sometimes seems unreal; it takes my breath away.

 That's the point, I guess.  The manmade things are wonderful, and I really can't get enough of the towns and their histories. But the things that aren't man made, the things that God etched onto the world for our pleasure, are infinitely more magnificent. These things that He made are an incredible reminder of how man can do amazing things, but even then God is so much more powerful and awe-inspiring. It's slightly terrifying, actually, but at the same time an amazing comfort. 

 

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So I started my study abroad semester in Northern Ireland this week at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. It's something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I can't describe how thrilled and blessed I feel to have this opportunity. I'm not going to lie, when I realized last Saturday that I was leaving in a day, I was so overwhelmed that I was somewhere between crying for joy and throwing up. This didn't subside until I well into the flight - something else I've never done, flying. I was excited but at the same time sad to leave my family, and underneath it all I was a nervous wreck. I did all I could - followed my instructions and silently prayed for calm.

The view as we descended was spectacular, and I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures. It was totally stunning though.  I found out shortly before landing that I'd actually been sitting next to another International Ulster student the entire time. We were both relieved we had someone to share our feelings of excitement and exhaustion and support in the clueless-American department.  We got off the plane, met some other students, then onto the bus and headed to our new home; I was totally "knockered," as the Irish say. I had a little heart attack when I thought my power converter died on me, but other than that move-in went smoothly, and I passed out from 46-7:30, then 7:30-3AM, then made a shopping list, then 3:30-8. It was a weird little schedule that first night.

There's been lots of confusion and crazy and orientation and registration and running around and seeing and doing new things, and it's been overwhelming. Good, but overwhelming. I didn't realize how much I needed to be refreshed until I was. I finally got to speak to my family on Wednesday, then I spent some time reading 1 Corinthians. Verse 1:25 has always been a comfort to me, and especially here where I don't really know anyone and am far away from my comfort zone. "The foolishness of God is wiser than men's wisdom; the weakness of God is stronger than men's strength." I just like knowing that someone so incredible is protecting me.  After that, reading my Bible and speaking to my family, I felt renewed and ready to take on these next four months and whatever this gorgeous country has in store for me.

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Friday, Jan. 3, 2014

Today, snow drapes from the bare cover of oak tree branches that line the sidewalk behind Miller Hall. Christmas decorations still adorn the frosted brick buildings as I make my way to the office. Yet again, I am reminded of the settling fact that this will be my last winter break as a student worker at Waynesburg University.

Each year it seems this view becomes more beautiful than before, almost whimsical, even. The once rolling green hills that move through campus are now smooth snow caps chasing the sun as it rises above grey clouds. Only frenzied squirrel trails can be found within the white, powdery mix, but in a couple of weeks they will be joined by the dips and divots made by routine ambles to class and the occasional snowball fight.

I don’t feel lonely by the bareness of campus as I continue walking toward Miller Hall, though one might assume you would this time of year. Students will return and the buildings will once again wake to the sound of occupied classrooms and fellowship with friends. In the meantime, campus comes to life on its own in the quiet, still moments of the day, the moments many of us miss during the bustle of our daily routines.

As I take in the view, I realize I will greatly miss this place and the beautiful way God shares His creations through it, for Waynesburg is a sight during every season, not just this one.

Every fall, as the warm summer heat begins to fade, I find myself in this same area, on a bench below the oak trees, listening to the cries of squirrels and the pops of dropping acorns on the surrounding cement. The trees are heavy with vibrant red, orange and yellow tones, and the sidewalks are full with students, yet, as I sit there, I almost feel as though I am sitting in my own private corner of paradise, totally at peace.

In the spring, when the rest of the natural world awakes once more, walking to and from class often doubles as a runway show featuring a wide variety of colorful rain boots and umbrellas. I hear the complaints of students whose hair has begun to frizz and whose coats have soaked through, though I know we are all secretly relishing in the sweet, familiar smell of rain hitting the pavement.

Summer continues this trend with even more beauty. To me, summer is when campus truly comes into its own. In the morning, a golden haze lifts from the grass and the birds and squirrels, alike, call out across the lawn, taking shelter in the shade of the historic buildings. By mid-afternoon, as I push through the doors of Miller and step out into the open air, the sun warms my skin, bringing back the nostalgia of fun with friends and summer loves—the things we once had forgotten.

Even at night, the air just warm enough to enjoy, after admiring the deep pinks and purples of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed, I curl up beneath the soft light of a nearby lamp post, book in hand, listening to the soothing hum of insects, the slight crack of a moth hitting glass.

Here, I feel safe. Here, I am at home.

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