Thanksgiving break was a much needed “energy boost” to get me through these next couple weeks. I got to spend time and celebrate with my family, eat delicious home-cooked food and play with my dog who was ecstatic to have our whole family, my sister, myself and my parents finally all home at the same time for a few days.
However, Thanksgiving break is now over, leaving these last two weeks before Christmas break to be full of projects, studying and lots of coffee. As of now I feel pretty good about being able to get everything done and done well in these next two weeks but only time will tell.
There are some fun things happening within these last two weeks though that will be good breaks from all the studying. The first happens tomorrow! Tomorrow my Women’s Chorus class has the opportunity to go Christmas caroling to different places around Newton. I love singing and I love Christmas carols so that will be a lot of fun for me. Also, after the caroling our professor has invited us to his house for dinner which I am sure will be as delicious as it was last year!
Another event that is happening that will be a whole lot of fun is this Friday. This Friday is the “Winter Gala.” For those of you who do not know what that is, it is basically the “prom” of Bethel College. Everyone who chooses to attend (which it is free for all students so why wouldn’t you?) get to dress up, a lot of people wear old prom dresses that are in the back of our closets because we don’t have any use for them anymore. Then we attend a fancy dinner put on by the cafeteria and the professors are the servers! After the dinner there are horse carraige rides if you want to do that and then there is a dance. There is also not the pressure of a prom for the gala because you aren’t expected to have a date! If you would like to have a date then you can go with one but otherwise you just go with friends!
Although these next two weeks before Christmas break will be busy and stressful, I am excited for the fun activites and am ready and motivated to get everything done and to go home!
Let me start this off by saying that I am a VERY sentimental person. Little things mean so much to me. As a senior, I keep finding things that are on my “List of Lasts.” For example, “This is the last time I will do _______.” With each last comes much excitement as well as sadness.
Well, on Sunday afternoon, I had a “last” that was and will be very difficult for me. I sang in my last formal concert with the Bethel College Concert Choir. While one half of me is saying, “Woohoo! That means it’s almost time for student teaching!,” the other half of me is torn. Two and a half years ago, when I started singing with the choir, I had no clue how great of an impact this group would be for me. They’ve become a family to me and when I see them each day, I know I can always laugh with friends or get hugs on the rough days. They are a group of people that holds each other accountable. They are a gracious group that is so fun to travel with. But most importantly, they are a group that makes beautiful music together. The sounds that have been produced by this group are remarkable; sounds that give me chills or put tears in my eyes. Each day from 12:00-12:45 PM, I get to gather with these people and make this amazing music. While, my last concert is over, I still have one more week of rehearsal left with this group. However, I have no doubt that I will end up shedding some tears next Thursday, the day of the last rehearsal for me (and my two other friends who are student teaching). I will cry because of the profound impact that this group has had on my life and my college experience.
My time at Bethel would not have been complete without the Concert Choir. I love my big, musical family.
Over the last three weeks, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see two of my friends from Bethel who are also studying abroad this semester. At the beginning of the month, my friend Natalie, currently studying in Belgium, came to visit Athens (the above picture is us at the Parthenon) and just this past weekend I was able to travel to Barcelona, Spain and see my friend Nicole (who also writes for this blog). Although each visit was different, they came with a number of shared realizations.
1) Despite the fact that I’m having an amazing experience here, I do miss home and Bethel. Getting to see friends, regardless of how close to them you are or not, can be a welcome relief. Even just reminiscing about school for a half hour can do wonders for getting past any homesickness.
2) One of the things I wish I could change about my experience but cannot is the fact that I can’t share all of my adventures with the people I love firsthand. There are so many people I wish I could share my time abroad with and have them here with me and even getting to do that for just a little while with Natalie and Nicole was really nice. We can blog and post pictures and skype all we want, but there’s nothing quite like being around in first person.
3) As my return date to the U.S. looms ever nearer, the harder it is to imagine going back to daily life in the states, at home or at school. After being on my own in a different country, a concept that was overwhelming and foreign and hard to image when my journey first began, it’s even hard to image going back to my “normal". But seeing my fellow Bethel friends who are studying abroad has reminded me, I’m not the only one who is having trouble picturing going home and that when I get back to school, I won’t be the only one trying to adjust back into a life that was so familiar and comfortable, but now sees a tad strange.
4) Places change you. When Natalie came to visit Athens, there were a number of strikes and demonstrations going on in the city because a new austerity deal was being reviewed in Parliament. (For those of you who don’t know what’s going on with Greece’s economy, this will give you a general overview of recent legislation and why it was needed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/11/greek-austerity-budget-approved-by-parliament_n_2114890.html). While we were walking through the streets on our way to visit a popular neighborhood, we passed a number of buses that transport riot police and are often used to block streets during protests. She thought it was a little intense, while we barely noticed them. We’ve gotten so used to their presence everywhere that we barely process them anymore. Walking through a big protest doesn’t shake me anymore, it’s just a regular thing here, and I didn’t even realize that to some it’s scary and that I’d gotten so used to it. I realized places force you to adapt and even the strangest things can become common.
5) What I found to be the most interesting, though, was how similar some of our experiences have been despite being in different countries. Nicole is currently studying in Barcelona, which is also in the midst of a financial crisis very similar to Greece’s. The people of Spain are very unhappy, just like the people of Greece, and austerity measures make citizens take to the street and strike more and more frequently. I’ve seen this so much in Greece that I wasn’t surprised to hear about it in Spain, nor did she see that surprised by Greece. It just sees like the typical thing to do nowadays. Actually, the fact that Americans rarely choose to exercise their right to protest seems odd to me now. Governmental discontent is a worldwide event and rarely are separate occurrences unrecognizable.
I have loved getting to see some of my Bethel friends, but at the same time, it’s also helped me realize how much I’ve come to love the place I am and the people I’m with. There’s a bond I’ve formed with my Athens friends and the city itself that will exist for years to come, which I can’t say about many of my experiences before this semester.
During this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to sing Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Once a year for the past three years, the Bethel Concert Choir has been asked to join with WSO for a concert. It’s always a huge privilege and something I really enjoy! Out of the three years that I’ve been in the Concert Choir and had the opportunity to do this, “Carmina Burana” is by far my favorite piece that we have done.
There are twenty five movements in the piece. Probably my favorite thing about it is that there is SO much variation. Some of the movements are slower and more lullaby-like while others are quicker and you feel like you barely have enough time to spit out the foreign language text. There is a full orchestra that sounds absolutely remarkable. I can’t help but smile huge when I watch all of the bows moving up and down and a rapid pace, all in unison or when I hear the large fortissimo sound right before the cutoff at the end of a movement. Like most symphonic pieces, there are professional soloists that are brought in, but the thing that makes “Carmina” special is the fact that it also includes a children’s choir.
The Concert Choir has spent the last couple of weeks rehearsing notes and text in a foreign language, and trying to get the movements up to full speed. We’ve finally achieved it and boy, does it sound amazing! On Tuesday, we rehearsed with just the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus, no orchestra. Tonight, we traveled back to Wichita for the final dress rehearsal with full orchestra, soloists, and children’s choir. Oh. my. word. I was in heaven. The overall sound was absolutely incredible. The Bethel choir will be singing in the Sunday afternoon performance, which I’m really looking forward to.
Finally, the thing that makes singing with WSO so fun is the fact that their conductor, Daniel Hege, is a Bethel College alum. Recently, he was the Music Director of the Syracuse Symphony Orchesta in New York, and in 2010, he began as the Music Director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. He passion for music is so evident and it’s really fun to work with him, as he is also passionate about Bethel College and the music that we make here.
If you get a chance, you should look up “Carmina Burana” on youtube or somewhere. It’s a real treat and you’ll be glad that you did!
With the holiday season coming up I thought I would talk about the host family program and how host families can serve as an alternate place to go if you’re not able to go home. The program consists of single or married families who provide a home away from home, home-cooked meals, a place to go on weekends, and welcomes Bethel students to the community.
Students who sign up for the program fill out a survey and are then matched with a family that they feel comfortable with. Once a match is found the student and their family will meet the host family and start getting to know them.
While the host family program is primarily for out of state students, some Kansas residents such as myself have one. Although I live about an hour from BC, I joined the program to have a connection within the community and a place I could escape to if I ever needed to get away from campus.
My host family is very supportive of me playing basketball and they try to attend all the games they can. Not only do I have a fan base at games, but I also have the opportunity to meet new people. Through my host family I have made several new friends and have built a lasting relationship.
I am frequently invited over to have dinner and they encourage me to bring friends and we usually end up playing games while getting a free home-cooked meal. During the holidays many students are not able to travel home so a host family will sometimes offer to let them stay at their homes. This is an another added benefit of the program.
Not only is having a host familly nice because you build a relationship with them, but if they have other host students you get the chance to meet students you might not otherwise. I have made several friends with fellow students because we share the same host family.
Overall the program is a great service for students and a helpful way for them to make lasting connections within the surrounding community. Visit this link http://www.bethelks.edu/student-life/services/host-family-program if you are interested in joining the program or if you would like more information.
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