Until Next Time: Christmas Break

BY PEYTON WELCH

Alas, my friends, the semester has reached its end.

To say that these last few months have gone by fast would be an understatement. I still vividly remember sitting down in my room on this computer and writing about Move-In day. And now, here I am, at the start of my first ever college Christmas break. If I stay on course, the statistics say that I am 12.5% done with my college career. I was talking to a friend this morning about that number. “One-eighth,” he said. “One eighth of our time at Samford is over.”

In retrospect, these last couple weeks have been some of the most exciting of the year. My fellow freshman classmates and I had the opportunity to experience many Samford traditions for the first time. We all packed into Reid Chapel for “Hanging of the Green,” as garlands were raised to the sound of hundreds of caroling voices. We stood on Centennial Walk in front of our majestic library (where we would basically live during finals week) and shouted the countdown to ignite “The Lighting of the Way.” The dullness of the night became illuminated with classic decorations! Afterward, hundreds of students stayed to enjoy hot chocolate, fresh apple cider, cookies and time with friends.

Finals week was a testament of the University’s dedication to academics. Library hours were extended until 2:00 a.m., the Caf stayed open late with the drink machines on and an hourly visit by the heralded food cart, departments provided multiple opportunities for free food and study rooms, and even the workers in the food court would wish you good luck on your tests as you passed by. I experienced a campus-wide environment that fosters academic success and an optimism that caught me off guard. I had grown up being very intimidated by the concept of college-level finals. Now, I have no reason to worry. My friends want me to succeed. My professors want me to succeed. I would imagine even those fearless squirrels who so boldly stare me down and hit me in the head with an occasional acorn want me to succeed as well. Either way, academic success is the goal. And Samford University works very hard to help us students achieve that goal.

I was somewhat shocked at the number of people I’ve talked to recently who don’t want to go home.

 “Are you excited for Christmas break?”

“Yes and no," they would say. “How can I spend six weeks away from my best friends in the whole world?”

And that, reader, is why I love my school. It’s not that we don’t miss our families. I assure you that the first thing I will do when I get home is give everyone in my family the biggest hug they’ve ever had. It’s because we simply just love each other. We’ve grown closer than we ever thought possible. We will enjoy every second of our break, and at the same time, we will be counting down the days until we get to see each other again.

On behalf of the Freshman Blog Team, I’d like to thank all of you who have been following along with our journey this semester. We hope you have had a glimpse into what it’s like to be a student here at Samford University. And if you did, we hope you like what you have seen. I just finished my first semester as a college student, and I couldn’t imagine having spent this memorable 12.5% anywhere else.

We bid you a fair well until 2016!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Is An All-Nighter Worth It?

BY MITCHELL MCEVER

Coming into college, I firmly believed my time management skills would lead me to get my work done efficiently so would get enough sleep. However, by the third week of college I found myself in the midst of a paper as the sun was rising and the birds began to chirp. There have been far too many times already in my college career I have found myself gazing at the blank stare of my alarm clock as it ticks onward through the morning, unaware of how badly I need it to slow down.

I will admit it hasn't been my workload that has caused these all-nighters, but rather my own choices.

Sometimes you just have to sacrifice a little bit of homework time to go explore Birmingham or visit Waffle House for the sixth time that week. Whether or not those are academically wise decisions is up for debate, but they've certainly made my Samford experience much more fun. Without being willing to drop what I'm doing at a moment's notice and go with some new friends to see the color tunnels or see Regions Field at night, my college experience would not be the same thus far.

Now, don't get me wrong. In the moment, all-nighters are absolutely brutal. No one else is awake to help push you onwards and all you want is to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the semester. You'll end up checking your email every fifteen minutes or so hoping against all odds that a class cancellation email comes in and gives you sweet release from your responsibilities. Unfortunately, those are extremely few and far between.

Somehow, you will push through the night.  You will finish that ten page paper and turn it in. You will sit there in quiet victory and wonder why you ever procrastinated so long as to put yourself through this horrible gauntlet of research and writing.

But then you will remember what caused you to have to stay up all night and you will smile. The memories of the fun you and your friends had will make you laugh and might just make the entire night you spent slaving away to finish your homework worth it.

Late nights are nearly unavoidable for me. Oftentimes, though, the very thing that caused those late nights have been experiences that I will always remember very fondly. 

Samford University in and of itself doesn't encourage all-nighters. But, if seizing opportunities to go on a new adventure with friends causes a late night or two, that all-nighter is totally worth it in my opinion.

The Bigger the Better?

   BY SAMANTHA MCCRABB

     How do you know if you made the right choice? The one that defines four years of your life and pretty much everything after that? My junior year in high school I was overwhelmed by the “college talk” and the visits that went along with it. How was I supposed to know which one was for me? That year, I visited Samford University. I loved Birmingham and I loved the beautiful campus, but I was feeling that I wanted something bigger. The bigger the better, right?

    My senior year in high school I had numerous talks with my teachers and other parents. I told them that I felt ready for the big time. I wanted to go to a big SEC university and I wanted to make a difference on that campus. After attending a private Christian school for a portion of my education already, I was ready to be bold and move out of the comfortable stage I was in. I chose the college that I loved. It was beautiful, it was far enough away but not too far and it was everything I was looking for.

    During my first semester at my dream college, I began to wonder if I had misjudged my ability to stand strong in what I believe. The campus minister I had heard great things about left, my plans and ambition faded and I felt myself losing sight of the very reason why I wanted to be there. This was a huge lesson: pride before fall.

    I was prideful about a handful of things leaving high school and I was quickly shown that it is not easy to stand alone and be the difference people are looking for. I was not prepared to keep allowing this constant battle in my life - fighting against the crowd and being without a community - and I knew something had to change.

    After my first semester, I sat down with my parents and was very open about my feelings towards where I was mentally, academically and spiritually at college. I was disappointed with where I was and made the decision that I needed a change and decided to leave. I remembered Samford's beautiful, classic campus and I knew there was nowhere else I wanted to be. Samford may not have been what I was looking for at the time, but it was everything I needed.

    During your college years, you grow a lot. During that growth it is important to surround yourself with a good community. It makes such a difference when you are around people with similar goals. Samford stands out among other schools for many reasons, but I recognized a few that I loved. At Samford, the people are set apart from the norm. They are motivated and intentional with their time. Students have a clear perspective on why they are here at college and take that very seriously. Samford is a place where I know I can have fun and grow in all areas while people challenge me.

    Some may question my decision to transfer. Maybe it was the comfortable thing to do. Maybe I got scared and gave up. Or maybe I found a place where I can accomplish all the things I need to in college.

    I have learned so much more here in class than anywhere else. My professors know who I am and they care about my success. The community has variety here, but it is made up of people who are outstanding students, friends and leaders. It is okay to realize that where you are is not where you want to be, but I learned I had to make the change. Bigger is not always better and it is a lot easier to get pulled down rather than pulling others up. My decisions helped shape me and allowed me to learn. I simply realized I was not heading in the right direction and changed my course.

Everyday, I am grateful for that decision.

Dear High School Self...

BY PEYTON WELCH

Dear High School Self,

As much as I don’t want to say it, mom and dad are right. You need to do your homework. You shouldn’t stay up all night (at least, not all the time). Your GPA actually matters and your lack of discipline will come back to hurt you if you don’t improve your time management. Do things to excellence, whether it be sports, academics, or any other endeavor. I promise, you will be glad you did. Never, ever give up.

Take time to get to know your brother. You’ll appreciate his influence one day. Spend time with your sister, she needs a best friend. She’s not as bad as you think, by the way. Sometimes it just takes a little intentionality and forgiveness to put the past in the past. You will never wish you had spent less time with them.

Lastly, remember what truly matters. News flash: Your possessions, athleticism, and popularity won’t matter when you die. The relationships you build with your family and friends will last forever. Surround yourselves with the people you want to be like and reach out a hand of compassion to anyone in need. Life isn’t about you. It’s about everyone else. 

 

Sincerely, 

You.

My Spiritual Retreat

BY MITCHELL MCEVER

After feeling like life was moving at 100 miles per hour for the past three weeks, knowing that a long weekend headlined by a retreat with a couple hundred of my new classmates and friends was on its way gave me the energy to push through my classes. I was expecting campfires, games, and some fun at the lake, but the experience I enjoyed was far more than the canoeing and s’mores I anticipated.

Not too long after arriving, all the students made their way to the camp chapel for afternoon worship. Although I figured the worship session would be fairly standard, something about coming together with all new friends in a new place and singing our hearts out for Jesus made the experience even more impactful. I was surrounded by a few hundred people, most of whom I had not yet met, and yet I felt connected to all of them in our faith and love for worship. Because of this, worship quickly became a highlight of my weekend and something to look forward to when I glanced down at my schedule to make sure I wasn't missing a meal.

Even after worship, the feelings of community and fellowship that arose within me as we sang our hearts out together remained. From worship we moved to recreation and eventually the long-awaited campfire. As we gently toasted (or in my case, incinerated) marshmallows to make the perfect s’more, I learned the names and stories of a dozen or so more people and got to have some great conversations before the activities wrapped up for the night. Even though the bus had arrived a mere four hours earlier, I already felt at home with these new friends and in this fun and relaxing environment. 

As the sun rose the next day, we rose with it to go to worship again. Though our eyes might've been a little droopy from the adventures the night before, we once again worshipped and listened to a great message to get us in the right mindset for the day. Breakout groups were available after worship for some added discussion on great topics for everyone, which was an excellent addition to the day. 

Before we had to pack our things and ride back to Samford, we had two hours of free time. It didn't take long at all before the lake was flooded with canoes, swimmers, and people getting launched by a giant inflatable "blob". Though there was much fun to be had during lake time (and trust me, much fun was had), it was a great time for a little bit of reflection before the retreat ended and the rest of the weekend set in. It had been a blast getting to know so many more people that are a part of the Samford family, and I made many friendships that will last long beyond the short retreat. The retreat was a both a wonderful experience and a catalyst for an awesome weekend, and I long for the time that I get to experience worship alongside my Samford family again.

And here's the great part, the joy I felt worshipping alongside my new friends doesn't end at the retreat, because those same experiences are available practically every day at Samford. Nearly every night I can meet with a group to worship, study Scripture, or even just take the time to pray for one another. All of these things are so vital and important in growing spiritually, and they are all just a short walk from my dorm. The ability to live and grow in a place where spiritual growth and fellowship is not only encouraged, but available only a few steps outside my dorm, is truly invaluable. As for the spiritual retreat I am on right now, I will be here for about four more years, and I'd love to have you join me for a few of them.

The Beginning

BY PEYTON WELCH 

From letters and phone calls to campus visits, every university will devote a significant amount of their efforts to tell you why their school is different than the rest. At Samford, we show you why. 

My name is Peyton Welch, and I am a freshman here at Samford University. Along with many incoming freshmen, I had my fair share of worries and anxiety about my first days of college. But the moment I drove up to my dorm it nearly all went away. Why? On the front lawn of Mammie Smith Hall stood a large group of upperclassmen (in matching t-shirts, I should add) known as Connections Leaders who would spend the entire weekend making me feel welcome and at home. Samford athletes, ROTC members, nearby church representatives, leaders such as President Westmoreland and countless other volunteers also helped on Move-In Day. I never lifted a finger and all of my belongings were carried to my room for me. Move-In day is one of the many Samford traditions that make new students feel special, displaying the environment of service and community that permeates the student body.     

These 90 Connections Leaders spent hours and hours preparing for us to arrive. After we finished setting up our rooms, saying goodbye to our families, and getting to know our individual Connections groups, the leaders took all 800+ of us to the Birmingham Baron’s game which made our first experience of college fun and enjoyable. The following day we took a trip to President Westmoreland’s house to have fellowship, play games, and savor the coolness of Steel City Pops (a local popsicle shop.) I am convinced that Steel City Pops may be the reason some students choose to go to school in Birmingham. They are irresistibly scrumptious.

As much as we enjoyed Steel City Pops with the President, Saturday night would take the cake for the most exhilarating experience of the weekend. At nightfall, nearly one thousand people filled the Bashinsky gym for the annual Connections Weekend Neon Party! It is exactly what it sounds like, only better. Hundreds of glow sticks and tubes of neon paint created an atmosphere that can only be described simply as “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” My friends will affirm this description.

The following morning, we made the walk to Reid Chapel for Campus Worship. People from different hometowns and diverse walks of life lifted their voices and expressed their faith uniquely. Our campus minister, Matt Kerlin, delivered a sermon on wisdom and then we were dismissed back to our connections groups. We were enriched, enlightened, and encouraged. 

That afternoon my classmates and I had the opportunity to walk through “Life” together. We entered the intramural gym to find connections leaders dressed up and completely frozen, each representing a different aspect of student life. In a split second, a siren sounded and all the leaders began to swarm us and drag us to their respective stations. There was mass commotion as we tried to complete as many activities as possible. Fraternity corn hole, Zumba, post office-package-pick-up, road trips, running a lap, and getting a medical exam are just a few of the whimsical simulations. Our leaders played their parts enthusiastically and with no reserves. Fifteen minutes later the siren sounded again and they were frozen once more. We marveled and laughed as we exited the building. 

Finally, the climax of Connections is Samford’s Your School Your City concert. This is a Samford tradition like none other. Students gathered together on the quad to enjoy a warm, delicious meal and listen to a music line up that included Penny and Sparrow, Judah and the Lion, and Johnnyswim. Past performers include Grammy award-winning Christian Hip Hop artist Lecrae and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. Overwhelmed by the excitement of the weekend, the freshman class of 2019 relaxed to the sound of uplifting music and pondered what we had gone through over the past 72 hours. School would start the following morning, but all we could think about were the friends we met and countless memories we made during the weekend. Indeed, we officially became Samford Bulldogs.

I tell these stories purposefully to give you a glimpse into the character of my school. Choosing where you will devote the next four years of your life is certainly something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, I am bold enough (and unashamedly biased) to say that Samford provides as wonderful of a college experience as any school in the nation. And it starts the very first weekend with a group of upperclassman carrying your stuff. That just doesn’t happen on every college campus. You will feel welcomed and wanted here at Samford.

I echo the words of Maya Angelou as she appeals to our longing for acceptance: “I long, as does every human, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Reader, somehow I find myself in Birmingham, Alabama on the campus of Samford University that is over three hundred miles away from all that is familiar to me. People tell me I must really like my school. But you see, Samford is not just my school. Samford is my home.

Maybe one day it will be your home too.