Category: student life (Page 2 of 6)

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.

Corrymeela begins when we leave: Peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland

Emilie Roussis sits on the beach with a circle of friends, near Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

For almost three months now I have been living at Corrymeela, a peace and reconciliation center in Northern Ireland.

I have felt overwhelmed and privileged to spend my time here encountering countless courageous individuals and groups working around the globe. In the face of violence and despair, many have taken risks to chase their visions of Shalom.

Some of these peacebuilding initiatives have manifested into cross-community storytelling with Protestants and Catholics in hopes of creating mutual understanding and empathy; as well as building environments where refugees can feel safe in a foreign land, and empowering youth for their futures.

When I arrived for the first time in Northern Ireland, I am ashamed to say that I was completely unaware of the history I was walking into. The violence, death, hatred, and sorrow that I soon became very acquainted with, were completely off my radar.

As far as I knew, I was in one country: Ireland.

I was ignorant of the horrors that had taken place, and eventually devolved into the separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

All my preconceived thoughts and assumptions continue to unravel as I meet and converse with people from around the world.

As I think about returning to Canada at the end of the summer, it is my hope that the wisdom I have gained from my new friends, will not only be applied to my studies, but also lived out into my everyday.

Sunset at Corrymeela, Northern Ireland.

At Corrymeela, they say that our experience begins after we leave. This assures me that I have no clue what will happen next.

If I had to try and sum up my time here, this poem would express it best. It is read every morning at worship as we think back to the people who established this place, the volunteers and staff who sustain it, and how we as individuals can embody it.

Courage comes from the heart.
And we are always welcomed by God,
The Croi of all being

We bear witness to our faith,
Knowing that we are called
To live lives of courage, love and reconciliation
In the ordinary and extraordinary moments of each day

We bear witness, too, to our failures
And our complicity in the fractures of our world.

May we be courageous today.
May we learn today.
May we love today. Amen

– Pádraig Ó Tuama

Emilie Roussis is entering her fourth year of a Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies major this fall at CMU.

Three weeks: a graduation poem

three weeks: a graduation poem by #CMUwpg student Emily Hamm

Three Weeks

I came to CMU four years ago
I said, “mom I’m moving to Winnipeg on Monday, we’ll have to pack the car.”
I said “I’ll stay for three weeks, and if I hate it I’ll come home.”
Three days after I got here I sobbed for two hours and I told her how I couldn’t do any of it.
          School hadn’t even started and I couldn’t do any of it.
I told her even my dorm room didn’t feel safe and that everything was terrifying
          while all the functional people ate smokies on the lawn and listened to Pocket Change.
She told me I could come home if I wanted.
I didn’t want to want to.

I went to class the next day. I was at least intrigued.
I realized there were people who wanted to think as much as I thought all the time.
I realized I could focus my thoughts on something other than fear.
So I studied what I wanted.
I didn’t study for a degree,
When Adelia sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
based on what I wanted to take.
When Connor sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
When Vern sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
I filled out degree audit forms at the kitchen table with my friend and I cobbled together a degree out of
the things that I wanted to take.
(and a couple of unfortunate hail-mary communications fulfillments, thrown together to create a degree out of first year biologys and chemistrys, some comm. courses I took mostly because I like stories and an intense fascination with the old testament that sometimes accidentally involves the new testament
too)
And eventually I handed in my forms to declare my major and to graduate on the same day. (sorry)

Emily Hamm, (centre), with her family on graduation day at Canadian Mennonite University in June, 2017.

I took a degree that made me a person. I put myself together after time and again after breaking myself
apart. I picked up my dismembered arm and taped my kidneys back in
After
Relationships I got wrong
Privilege I had and couldn’t give away
Mental illness – you know PTSD-GAD-PDD-OCD all the letters I got that never went on my
transcript.

I loved some people and some people loved me and when it overlapped it was beautiful –
Like a venn diagram that’s just a circle – it was so clear.
And I learned things I didn’t want to, like when I fly overseas, someone’s home gets closer to flooding.
Like when I use a logical fallacy, I’m not really winning an argument.
Like how to write a marketing plan.

I learned a lot of things I did want to learn. Things that made me a person.
That communication theory explains how I talk to people, and how I should talk to people.
That honestly the best part of the Pentateuch is Shiphrah and Puah.

After academics shattered my faith I learned how to believe in Jesus again – also from academics.
I learned about the world wider than my degree.
I learned about bio and English,
chemistry and business,
geography and psychology,
environmental studies and sociology.
I saw the people around me become a countryside of roads, without separate end, beginning, only
connection,
rather than seeing them as islands, like the north half of Canada that no one wants to colour.

I learned the paths in the Assiniboine Forest and which ones are wide enough to walk with someone
side by side.
I learned what pedagogy means, and parsimonious. I learned what on earth a metaphysical dualism is
and that Illich’s work is uncomfortably prescriptive.
I learned reformational isn’t a word but it definitely should be,
And that “I’m going to bed” is sometimes a better choice than “Yes, let’s play another game of
foosball.”

But also that the answer to a 1am “Want to go for a forest walk?” is always yes.
And the answer to a 7am knock at the door is “come in.”

I didn’t come to CMU for a career path, which is good because I definitely didn’t find one.
I came to CMU for three weeks,
and I think I might have become a person here.
Sewn together, pieces in the hands of others, loose ends and all, God’s paint still dripping where it
hasn’t dried yet,
I might be a person here.

Emily Hamm graduated from CMU in April 2017.

More than a degree, not just a number

More than a degree; not just a number: Stephanie Wilson on why she's choosing CMU, a relatively small university.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the idea of going to a small university scared me.

My high school was one of the largest in Manitoba, so having swarms of other students around was familiar. I was used to seeing people in the halls I’d never seen before, and not knowing most of the teachers.

I was sure going to a big university was the right thing to do. It’s what everyone else was doing.

At the same time, I was fully immersed in the music programs. I had a tight knit group of friends, and teachers who were more like family than friends.

More than a degree; not just a number. Stephanie Wilson on why she's choosing CMU, a relatively small university.

So when I graduated high school last June, I felt the loss immediately. Certain that my time in small programs was done, I longed for that same small group of people who were there for me when I needed to laugh, cry, or grab a doughnut. That sense of belonging was gone, because in university all anyone is concerned about is getting their degree, right?

Wrong.

One of the things I love about CMU is that as a smaller school, they can breathe programs into existence more readily than a larger university.

As a musician, a clarinet player, I hoped and prayed for a CMU band to join. And when I start this fall, there will be!

Another thing I love about CMU is studying in Marpeck Commons, or the Great Hall, and recognizing the same people time and again.

I love that CMU profs have an open-door policy. It says that I’m as important to them as answering emails, or grading papers. I’m excited to be known by more than just my student number.

Most importantly, I’m loved, accepted, and cared for by my admissions counsellor, faculty, and staff at CMU, and was even before being admitted.

There’s no better feeling than being wanted just for being you. I’m not sure this kind of care and connection exists anywhere else.

Picking the “best” university is subjective. Getting a good education in an environment where you can grow, and flourish into the best possible version of YOU, is what matters most. CMU is that place for me.

I’m a clarinetist. And I’m also a pianist, a singer, a Catholic, a writer, a dreamer, a sarcastic joke maker, and a life-long learner. I can do, and be ALL these things at CMU. I don’t have to put myself in a box just to fulfill degree requirements. I can be me here. That’s something I never expected from a university.

Stephanie Wilson is entering her first year at CMU’s School of Music this fall.

Change and the art of going with flow

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I’m terrible at dealing with major life changes. I’m constantly trying to figure out where I am, and who I am, within the rhythms and patterns of school, work, and social life. And as life changes, I’ve had to learn to go change with it.

During my first semester of grade 9, instead of doing our usual summer road trip to Somewhere, Canada, my family took a sabbatical to Europe for three months. This was a fabulous opportunity. Everyone around me, from my friends to the elderly ladies at church potlucks, asked me how excited I was. In response, I’d plaster a giant smile on face, and sound just enthusiastic enough to placate them. But inside I was afraid of leaving my routine, my school, and friends, for a whole semester. I was anxious that all of my friends would forget who I was, and somehow I’d come back to school as the new kid.

On landing in Dublin, and looking up at the grand Celtic cathedrals surrounding me, though, all my apprehension disappeared. I was finally excited to travel and explore all these countries I had read about for years. And when I returned to school three months later, my friends had not forgotten me.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

I was first drawn to CMU by family connections, and the Outtatown program, with no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I stay because of the interesting classes and the allure of a close-knit community. And while university is certainly stressful at times, and has led to a lot of questioning, the unexpected beauty of this place is it’s teaching me to adapt.

The answer to the question of “what am I doing here” is, I don’t know. I’m currently trying to understand people, and the world around me through classes in sociology, psychology, and international development. I’m building community through formal leadership opportunities, and casual chats at the Blaurock. I’m living in this beautiful time of being a second year when I can simply enjoy being in this space without actively worrying about the dark vortex of graduation. I’m learning to rest in the constant motion of university life.

Change and the art of going with the flow for #myCMUlife

As I think about where I’m going, I can’t but think of where I am coming from. I see it in my sister, who just finished soaking up the last few rays of sun in South Africa with Outtatown, an incredible learning experience that I can only hope was as meaningful for her as it was for me.

I’m inspired by my parents, who just finished travelling through China, using their medical and organizational skills to help with conferences for Mennonite Church Canada. I don’t yet know where I’m going, but I hope I can one day be as cool as they are, and use my love for people, and education in a similarly meaningful way.

And as I think about my family, stretched between three different continents, I find myself centred in this place, facing the uncertainties and questions that come with university life. And I think I’ll enjoy being here for a little while longer. 

Mackenzie Nicolle is preparing to enter her 3rd year at CMU, majoring in Intercultural Studies.

Page 2 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén