Don’t Come Down

Last Friday, my French professor led one of my favorite class discussions I have ever been a part of.

 

Dr. John Akers, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, started class with a French song and shared a few tidbits of French culture that he has witnessed firsthand. The song, “La Rage” by Keny Arkana, features a strong message of unrest and discontent. Dr. Akers went on to explain that French students are encouraged to think of the world as an unfinished product, something that they alone, the youth, can change. This led to a very interesting discussion about culture in general and the power of youth that is often under-appreciated.

First, he warned us not to judge other cultures without understanding them first. This way of thinking, he explained, can be harmful and limit our potential for knowledge. He added that there are more ways of thinking than the American way and challenged us to go see the parts of the world that aren’t marketed to tourist Americans such as parts of Africa or the rural towns in France. In our studies, he also encouraged us to live with a host family as we study abroad; this is when the true learning takes place, when we are out of our comfort zone and forced to sit down and have a meal and conversation with someone completely different than us.

Dr. Akers told us to do this while we are young and still hungry for knowledge and understanding of the world. He then went on to share a great story from his youth.

Akers has shared several times that his favorite college experiences transcended the classroom– the different cultural events and lectures he attended influenced him and his life as much as the things he read from books or learned in class. He was in college in the 1960’s, a troubling time for American students as they were forced to ponder the morality of the Vietnam war and the implications of the civil rights movement. During this time, his school invited Martin Luther King, Sr. (father of the man who delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech) to speak. The auditorium filled with students as Mr. King arrived. Akers says they wanted to know how to be leaders in their unrest and how to quench their thirst for change. The students wanted something specific they could hold onto through all the struggles they would face.

The old man slowly climbed the stage and gave a short speech with a powerful message.

Mr. King’s advice was simple: “Don’t come down.”

Akers told us this advice has stuck with him, explaining to the class that as time passes and you grow older, it is hard to find that passion for change again. We grow complacent as we grow older and we lose the spark that leads us to imagine ourselves being a catalyst for change. This is the true power of youth, that spark.

Akers warned us not to come down from where we are now, in our youth, with the world before us– not to come down from our peak of imagination, our heightened sense of exploration, nor our high expectations in our search for exaltation because once we come down, we can’t go back.

I really enjoyed this story from Dr. Akers and I think his advice will stick with me as Mr. King’s stuck with him. Dr. Akers is a very knowledgeable man who speaks multiple languages and has lived in several different parts of the world; I have a hunger for travel and I hope to one day be as well-versed in different cultures as he.

I plan on traveling to France or another French-speaking country during my time here at Wofford (it would be required if I do end up majoring in French) but this talk has opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist outside of Paris or other tourist locations. I’m sure those cities are wonderful and I will undoubtedly visit them sometime but beyond that, my purpose for traveling would be to understand a different culture and I think this could be accomplished where Akers suggested, a small town that doesn’t get much tourism.

I understand the spark that Dr. Akers describes and I have made a simple promise to him since that wonderful discussion:

 

I won’t ever come down.

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The most International

 

My name is Madison Jones and I am a Junior Environmental Studies major. I arrived in New Zealand two weeks ago for my spring semester. Every day has been a physical and mental adventure, starting with the realization that I am on a tiny island halfway across the world from my home in little ol’ Thomasville, GA. Also, this island likes to shake, constantly, especially the city of Christchurch, where I am living.

Initially, I chose New Zealand for its stigma as the adventure capital of the world. You can surf and ski in the same day here, when the seasons are aligned. Truly, I am going surfing today 30 minutes bus ride from my back door at Sumner beach. Once winter arrives in May, I will be able to drive to the Southern Alps in just over an hour to test the ski fields. If you are looking for adventure, New Zealand will be your fix (or more likely it will encourage your adventure bug).

Since arriving, I have found another type of adventure in this beautiful country. The Kiwi (as New Zealander’s so adamantly refer to each other) personalities are kind, helpful and quite inclusive. I will share a brief example: Across from my apartment is an intramural field where pickup rugby, ultimate frisbee, cricket and soccer games happen constantly. A group of friends from my study abroad program started a game one night and within 30 minutes we were playing 14 v 14 soccer. The size of the group was not as intriguing as the diversity within it. Playing center mid for my team were Fran and Luis, from France and Spain. Two of my defenders were Kiwi’s. Right wing was Tak, from China. On the opposite team was Topic, from Equador and another man from Ghana. We represented 6/7 continents on the Earth in one pickup soccer game. The culture begs for diversity and inclusion.

If you are looking for physical adventure, choose New Zealand. If you are looking for a diverse group of students to meet, choose New Zealand. If you are too scared to be away from friends or family for five months, reconsider and choose New Zealand.

Cheers,

M.W. Jones
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Interim

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away, the skies opened up and from heaven’s gates descended the greatest gift a college student could ever hope for:

Interim at Wofford.

On paper, interim is Wofford’s January term, a break between Fall and Spring semesters where students must take one class, five days a week. Some choose to stay on campus during this time, but somewhere in one’s four years here, studying abroad becomes the great highlight of interim.

However, there is so much more to Wofford’s Jan-term than those few facts. Imagine a really challenging fall semester jam packed with essays, mandatory reading, and endless research assignments– all culminating in the most stressful week of the year. Of course, afterwards students and faculty have a long break, celebrating the holidays and relaxing for two weeks, but first all have trudged through what could be a brutal few months of work.

Now, at the end of this break, you have a choice: go back to school and repeat the workload of that fall semester immediately, or keep relaxing in January and have that month act as buffer between the two terms.

No one would willingly choose choice A!

Three weeks into interim and I am very satisfied. I am taking a class titled Writer’s Workout, in which I get to write for three hours a day. This probably sounds like a complete nightmare to some, but to me, future author of the great American novel, this class is perfect!

During Interim, one can take a class on a number of subjects. The class does not have to be relevant to one’s major, and academic advisors encourage students to choose something totally out of their major’s field. There is contemporary dance, Tae Kwon Do, and sewing classes, classes on business or geocaching, and even a rock climbing class. And this list doesn’t even name the classes that meet abroad!

My class does not start until 1 o’clock so I sleep in, walk to Burwell for my daily bagel, and then spend the hours before class doing anything but study since I don’t have to. From someone who pushed himself really hard in the Fall (and plans on pushing even harder in the Spring), Interim is a godsend.

Friends from other schools either have an optional Jan-term or jump right into their respective Spring semesters. Instead, we are offered this chance to fill out the liberal arts education by exploring some new interest or new lands! There are so many reasons to choose Wofford and Interim is somewhere near the top of the list! No matter what one decides to do with this time, I think just having the options Wofford offers us makes Interim an important and exciting time.

Check out a full list of the courses offered this year:

http://webs.wofford.edu/webdocs/courseSchedule201601.pdf

 

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Breaks and the Importance of Family

Breaks in college may be some of the most educational times during the year.

Granted, I am only a freshman, naïve and inexperienced, but this may be one of the most educated statements I have made right up there with my Sociology theses and the conclusions I made during the blue book exam for Environmental Studies. Winter break was not only relaxing, therapeutic, and generally stress free, but also a time to learn what has changed and what has not.

For instance, I am still my parents’ kid, sure, but that means something new now– the dynamic has changed. Before I moved to Wofford, occupying a room on the top floor of the infamous Marsh building, my parents had a hand in controlling my time, teaching me lessons, and fighting my battles when necessary. They can’t really do those things any more and, even more novel to us, I don’t need them to.

This is not to say I don’t need my parents any more nor that college breaks the final strands of the theoretical umbilical cord we have all been told about. Quite the contrary actually; we still really need our parents, just in a different role. Before, they acted as our drivers (literally and figuratively), using their knowledge of the rules of the road and experience to steer us on the right path, wherever that was; now they are our passengers, reminding us to slow down or to put our blinkers on before leaving our parallel parking spot. Sure, sometimes they may be backseat drivers and it may seem they don’t have faith in our driving or that they taught us the wrong manual, but they are trying to figure this out just like us.

Extended metaphors aside, family is very important at this point in our lives. Going home may feel different (now we pack bags to visit where we grew up and calling it ‘home’ feels off) but in a transient lifestyle, we need a rock or two to keep us centered. Mine are my parents and my little sister, the latter of which has taken over my old room, which I let slide because she is so darn cute.

The things that haven’t changed are just as important as those that did. Our parents still love us, even though we don’t see them daily nor call them nearly enough. “The juniors” are now seniors at our respective high schools and going through the exact stresses we felt during our college searches. The hometown restaurants still serve the same burgers or chicken fingers as they used to, though they taste sweeter months removed from eating them all the time.

Breaks are sentimental, relaxing and also educational. Maybe as a new college student, any experience seems to be of the learning variety, but that’s the beauty of this stage in life– it is all about the lessons, not the grades, the journey not the destination.

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Breaking the Stigma: Greek Life

When I was looking for colleges, I noticed a figure that schools often showed off; the percentage of students involved in Greek life seemed to be a major statistic, usually highlighted the same way acceptance percentages and graduation rates were. In visiting Wofford before my acceptance, I asked around about Greek life and heard a pretty uniform opinion on Wofford’s Greek organizations: Wofford is different in the best way.

Greek life is under a big magnifying glass lately, mostly because of terrible things that have happened around the country as a result of hazing. Wofford has never been caught in anything like that, but nonetheless has responded to the criticisms: hazing is banned completely at Wofford.

Greek life is big at Wofford, and those planning to rush have nothing to worry about as the school is very conscious with what fraternities and sororities do to and require from new members or pledges. Further, the school also implemented a strong hazing policy that clearly defines what constitutes hazing and what punishments an organization will face.

The Greek organizations on campus are very involved; each holds several philanthropy events and holds its members to a high standard of conduct. They offer a fun way to meet new people and find eternal bonds that are hard to find elsewhere. They also offer a way to advance oneself academically and in leadership.

I recently pledged a fraternity* and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made, right up there with choosing Wofford! I went through Rush with an open mind as I did not know much about the organizations on campus nor fraternity life at large. I was happy to hear each fraternity pitch their various philanthropy events and overall brotherhood, all rejecting the classic media portrayals of fraternities (usually only associated with alcohol, parties, and irresponsibility in popular media). I found my home in the fraternity I pledged and can attest to the comment I heard as I first started looking into Wofford’s Greek life: Wofford really is different. Friends at various major schools in the state have told me their pledgeship stories and I think the administration at those schools have lost touch with their students and as a result are oblivious to the things those students go through to become a brother or sister. Further, it seems the classic Total Frat Move, Blue Mountain State image of Greek life is the ideal to those organizations’ executives. At Wofford, Greek organizations’ aim is merely to enhance the overall experience and lives of the members.

While around half the students at Wofford are involved at Greek life, it does not necessarily dominate life here. WAC (the Wofford Activities Council) puts on other, all-inclusive events regularly including band parties, dances, and themed parties. These events are open to all students and are a fun way to get to know people you wouldn’t otherwise see during the week. Also, fraternities and sororities put on plenty of all-inclusive events; members tend to not only hang out with people in their organizations as we are all first and foremost Terriers and therefore a family.

Greek Life is certainly under a large magnifying glass nationally. Wofford has taken initiative and responded to public outcry, banning all hazing and showing the positives of Greek life. Altogether, Wofford has defined itself and its Greek life and as a result, created a great atmosphere where these organizations only add positive aspects to the college life.

 

*For the sake of journalistic integrity, I will not name the fraternity I am a member of on this blog

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How do you know that you are learning?

How do you know that you are learning?

I find myself asking this question repeatedly at the end of each semester and even more harshly at the end of each year. Yes, I’ve taken five classes that have fancy titles and they were taught by someone named Dr_____ but I also feel like the same person that I was a few months ago. Did I actually learn something during long hours in the library, labs, and classroom lectures?

The answer is undoubtedly yes, I know that I am learning something here at Wofford. I have memorized, I have verbalized, and I have analyzed material in front of classmates and professors. I have received passing grades in my classes and I’ve celebrated A’s on exams. So why, then, do I feel as if I am the same person after each semester?

The following are necessary for a successful learning experience at Wofford: a drive to pursue success, an understanding of resilience, and the motivation to finish strong. 12-page papers, 20-minute presentations, 140 term lab exams and nights with 150 pages of assigned readings are all situations that required a “drive” for success.

Sometimes those papers, presentations, and exams don’t go as well as planned. Then the question really hits home deep, what are you learning? In these situations, I find peace in my own resilience. Every Wofford student knows that each week’s workload is unpredictable. We may have three tests one week and none the following two. Resilience is crucial- you must be able to gather strength wherever you can find it and keep moving forward. When you finish the first test you grab a quick cup of Joe and power through the material for the next test. Once the final test is over you celebrate in knowing that you did it—you drove forward and conquered a seemingly insurmountable task. This ability to continue powering through testing conditions shows a developing Wofford student.

Finally, one must identify a means of motivation in order to work full-force. My motivation has always been to do the best that I can now, for the future is uncertain. I apply this simple logic to everyday tasks and I have only been rewarded. There will be assignments that test your resilience. Sometimes you will question if you have the drive to continue, but your motivation will steer you forward.

The completion of a semester is a blessing. You are many steps closer to graduating from an institution of higher learning. With that comes some stress, which always brings me back to: how do you know that you are learning?

The answer has become simpler with each lapsing semester. Every testing moment throughout each week during each semester is preparing me for a bigger situation, a bigger assignment, a bigger problem. How I work now directly affects how I will respond in the future.

Well, Wofford, you have taught me, you have tested me, and I have tested myself, and for that I cannot thank you enough. I enjoy my assignments each day. I enjoy writing ridiculously long papers and I even enjoy criticism from my professors. Wofford has given me the tools and appetite to persevere and that gives me peace of mind.

Cheers,

-Madison W. Jones

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Beyond Campus- The Cottonwood Trail

Just 3.5 miles and a 10-minute drive from Wofford’s campus is a recreational asset unique to Spartanburg. The Cottonwood Trail—a 115 acre preserve created by SPACE- The Spartanburg area Conservancy for the preservation of the Lawson’s Fork Creek—creates a buffer from the fast-growing urban city and a recreation opportunity for students, citizens, and nature-enthusiasts.
With 5 miles of trail available, runners and pet-owners enjoy the area as a break from the hustle and bustle of Spartanburg’s downtown. The asset has been well received by many community organizations including Boy Scout Troops, Spartanburg High School and Wofford College.
Regardless of your outdoor experience, the Cottonwood Trail is beneficial to all members of the community as a wildlife sanctuary and center for creative rejuvenation. Before you decide on that next stroll across campus- look a few miles further to the Cottonwood Trail and all of its benefits.

Cheers,

Madison W. Jones

 

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Who Am I?

My name is Omar K. Elmore and I am a first-year student at Wofford. I am interested in writing, film, and finance–  so obviously I haven’t decided on a major! I am stuck between English, business finance, and possibly even French (as France is the birthplace of the film industry). I didn’t grow up in a rich family or anything close to one; neither of my parents graduated from college.

How did I, a first generation college student who had only learned of the school junior year, end up at Wofford?

I grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina, a tiny city in the Upstate; it was once a mill town until the recession hit. Greenwood is hardly known around the country but we were featured in the New York Times… for having the steepest economical decline in the nation.

Read more »

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Is Early Decision right for you?

This is a guest post by John Birney, Director of Admission

The fall…what does it mean to you? For many, it’s brisk mornings, changing of the leaves and college football. For those of us who work in college admissions, fall brings on travel season, rental cars and delayed flights, meeting students and eating in too many restaurants to count. It also brings about one of the most frequently asked questions: Should I apply Early Decision?

As our November 1st application deadline for Early Decision (ED) approaches, I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts and advice on this all important question.

Let me begin with a simple question: Is Wofford College your first choice? If you answered yes, you may be ready to make the ED commitment. Many students who have conducted their research, visited schools, taken the tour and visited with students have narrowed their list of colleges – and in many cases have a clear first choice. If Wofford stands alone at the top of your list, ED is a great option for you.

I’m a clear fan of the advantages of applying ED, especially regarding the competitive nature of the selection process. While your application is reviewed holistically, we can’t set aside knowing that you’ve selected Wofford as the college you would like to attend most.  Reviewing applications with this in mind gives you a distinct advantage. The earlier timeline also works in your favor. You learn of your decision on December 1, and can focus on your senior year – not the college application process.

I’m also asked about how ED effects scholarships and financial aid decisions. Simply put, you will not receive a “worse” scholarship by applying ED. At Wofford, we use the same methods to determine both merit and need-based awards. Your financial aid package will be the same regardless of when you apply. With Wofford providing over $51 million dollars in scholarships, I invite you to be among the first to apply for financial assistance through the ED process.

As you prepare to make your selection on which application deadline to select, I do hope to be reviewing your file in the coming weeks. If you have already submitted an application for one of our other deadlines and wish to change to ED, please contact me. Wofford College is a thriving, vibrant community with highly regarded academic programs, outstanding faculty and extraordinary students. I hope you will consider this my personal invitation to join the Class of 2020.

Is Early Decision right for you? I say YES! If you agree, I encourage you to start your Wofford application today.

Sincerely,
John Birney
Director of Admission

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Feeling Back at Home

This post is slightly overdue, seeing as we have been back on Wofford’s campus for nearly two months this school year. However, my “reverse culture shock” just ended (about) last week. What is reverse culture shock, you might ask? Well, I was abroad in Perugia, Italy last semester. Upon arrival we were warned about the rollercoaster of emotions we would feel in the four months to follow: excitement…homesickness….excitement…exhaustion…hatred for our “new” city and culture…excitement…sadness of the end approaching…exhaustion…denial of the end being near….excitement…HOME. It is without a doubt that at one point or another throughout my experience, I felt each of these emotions. What I didn’t expect is the feeling I would get 3 months after returning from abroad, when I arrived back on Wofford’s campus.

While abroad, I got so used to living in an actual city, not having my friends right next door in the Village or Wightman, having to cook for myself and walk more than 5 minutes to class. When I returned from abroad, I spent my summer working and learning the hard lesson of working for every dollar you make (unfortunately, my babysitting days and easy money are over). I paid rent for the first time, for an apartment of much less quality than The Village apartments at Wofford. If something broke and needed maintenance, I could not just send in a maintenance request online- I had to contact a landlord, make arrangements to be there when the handy-man showed up, and realize how much fixing a toilet can cost. Basically, I had to step out of the bubble of Wofford while abroad and living on my own this summer- and what a relief it was to return to Wofford this Fall for one last go-round.

When I got back on campus, everything seemed so much easier- having friends to hang out with who were right next door, getting my ice machine fixed (within two hours of a request), walking 2 minutes to have food made for me that didn’t cost “real” money (okay, well maybe it costs money, but indirectly :)) and not having to turn in a check for rent each month was a nice bonus. Returning to the simplicity and homeyness feeling of Wofford, where I didn’t always have to closely watch my belongings, and check my bank account every day (okay, maybe I still have to do that) felt weird. I was experiencing the reverse culture shock that we were told about when departing from Perugia, Italy. I was returning to the qualities of life that I had known for so long, but this re-entry felt weird. I have finally gotten used to living in The Bubble of Wofford again and I am so thankful for it.

What is the overall lesson of this, though? That I need to make my senior year last as long as possible- I am not ready for the real world, rent checks, and cooking for myself.


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