Category: 2015-16 (Page 1 of 5)

Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

portrait of Christina Waldner for post - Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU
When I started going to CMU in 2006 (yes, it’s been that long), I was so nervous.

I had many reasons to be uneasy, one being that I had a physical disability. You see, I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a chronic degenerative disorder. SMA is a complex condition but can be best summed up in the phrase, “The mind says go, but the muscles say no.”

Since the age of three, I have been in a power wheelchair and need physical assistance in carrying out daily tasks. I struggle a lot with fatigue but have been chipping away at my BA one course at a time.

Instinctively I knew I had an uphill battle in terms of professional opportunities, and thus became laser-focused on my education.
 
To me, attending university wasn’t about my social calendar or dorm life. It was about my GPA, the skills I would learn, and studying as much as I could. I felt the need to work twice as hard to open doors in a competitive job market. (Does it sound like I was fun at parties? Nerd alert!).

Perhaps similar to the experiences of international students, first generation students, or students with financial responsibilities, I felt enormous pressure to succeed.

That being said, the faculty and staff at CMU have been nothing but supportive, from helping me find note-takers, to advocating for accessibility on campus, to always offering a word of encouragement.

Once some of the staff found out I was an artist, they were quick to offer support and someone even suggested I sell my cards in the bookstore. Feeling overwhelmed, I turned the offer down. After all, university is strictly about academics, right?

Cristina Waldner with a friend and classmate at CMU. Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

It wasn’t until midway through my time at CMU that I realized how misinformed I was about my university experience. I came to a crossroads where the pressures of perfection were pulling me under.

Recognizing that I had created an idol of my education, I surrendered my academics to God. In this surrendering, I found a peace that was as liberating as it was transformative.

My perspective shifted as I began to appreciate CMU in a more holistic way. My eyes were opened, and my heart was ready for new friendships and new opportunities.

I approached the manager of CommonWord about selling my artwork and to my amazement, she said yes. My cards and paintings are now sold in the bookstore and I’ve been blown away by the positive response.

samples of Cristina Walder's cards on sale now at CommonWord Bookstore. Perseverance, Perspective, and Lots of Papers: My Experience at CMU

Soon after, Sandra Loeppky asked if I would share about being a student with a disability at forum. Feeling emboldened, I agreed and the morning turned out to be an incredible blessing. Other students shared their experiences as well and I began to realize the power of storytelling.

No longer feeling like I was just “that girl in a wheelchair” on campus, I was now in charge of my narrative. Recently, I started a blog to bring awareness to SMA and build a community-like space where people can relate to my experience in some way.

While health concerns have forced me to take more distance education courses as of late, I’m still a CMU student at heart. I am nearing the end of my studies but have cherished my time on campus.

To every freshman out there, know that there will be stress and probably more exams and papers than you know what to do with. Yet, there will also be experiences that will enrich your life in profound ways beyond the pages of a textbook.

New year. New semester. New opportunities. Let’s get started!

Cristina Waldner is completing a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, as well as a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

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Visiting Israel and Palestine: finding connection in the Holy Land

This past spring, I participated in Canadian Mennonite University’s Ancient Stones, Living Stones Study Tour which went to Israel and Palestine. As a third year student studying Biblical and Theological Studies at CMU I found the tour particularly eye opening to current conflicts which overrun the Holy Land. The land that is now Israel and Palestine has always been a land of many people and many different religions. However, everyone has their own take on history which adds significantly to the conflict which absorbs the Holy Land. By actually being in the Middle East and interacting with the people that live there I began to recognize that the conflict was not started by one group of people.

Selenna Hildebrand on the Ramparts, walking the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem

Selenna Hildebrand on the Ramparts, walking the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem

Everyone that lives in the Holy Land has an extremely deep connection with the land. The Israeli people connect themselves to the Holy Land through the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis. This happened over three thousand years ago. Jewish people understand that it is their duty to be apart of fulfilling Gods promise by living in the Promised Land. A Jewish settler we spoke to who was originally from the United States said that he felt a certain connection to God and his spirituality was strengthened by living in Israel which he would not be able to find anywhere else.

The Palestinian people have a connection to the land which lasts hundreds of years. Our tour guide, Khalil, showed our group his family home which is located inside the Old City of Jerusalem. The house, which was made up of small apartments built randomly on one another, has been the family home since the fourteen-hundreds. He said that the house would sell for a few million dollars because the real estate within the old city walls is extremely valuable. However, the family will never sell the house. It is a part of who they are.

A young man named Mohammed gave us a tour of Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. Mohammed was born and raised in the refugee camp; it is his only home. His grandparents, just like many others in the refugee camp, continue to hold on to the key that used to open the door to their home in their old village that was destroyed in 1948. The key is a symbol of hope; one day they will return to their true homes in the villages that no longer exists.

I do not understand having a connection to the land in any of these three ways. I am able to recognize that the land is extremely important to every individual that finds him or herself living in Israel and Palestine. It is this connection to the land which is at the root of the conflict in the Holy Land. There will never be a simple solution because everyone has their own strong opinions of what should be done. My hope, as a Canadian Mennonite, is that I can share real Israeli and Palestinian stories in hopes of others learning about the people who truly live in the Holy Land so that we as Christians can learn to see the value of the Holy Land outside of a Christian context.

Selenna Hildebrand is a #myCMUlife guest blogger

Summer: a time to challenge and ask questions

We asked a number of students what will keep them busy through the summer months. Laura Carr-Pries, who is spending her summer in Toronto, shared the following reflection on how connections between her studies and “the real world” are coming into focus. 

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Metanoia Farmers

It’s go time!

In March, Student Ambassador Alex Tiessen wrote this post about the significance of the collaboration between the Metanoia Farmers and Canadian Mennonite University. We asked Anika Reynar, a member of the Metanoia Farmers Worker Cooperative, to reflect on the first month of the growing season.

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folio cafe

Four folio café faves

folio café has become an important part of the CMU community, whether it is to satisfy your caffeine need, reward yourself after completing that three-thousand-word essay, or catch up with a friend over some gelato. Whatever the occasion, folio always has delicious selections for all who visit Marpeck Commons!

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