Tag: becoming

3 things I wish I’d known: Advice from a first year CMU student

Nicole Ternowesky

“Do you have to wear a skirt and bonnet there?” “Are you allowed to listen to music and watch TV?” “Don’t you have to be a Mennonite to go there?” These were some of the questions my shocked friends and families asked last year when I told them I’d decided to go to Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in the fall. Once I had reassured my family that I was going to an open-minded, welcoming, Christian university, I began to wonder what life at CMU might look like for me. Below is some advice I wish I had known before coming here, and I hope it will help you prepare all you prospective students for your first year at CMU.

1) Your faith will be challenged and nurtured.

Coming to CMU, I thought I knew ‘enough’ about the Bible, the creation story, Exodus, birth of baby Jesus, and His death and resurrection. I wasn’t prepared to read or discuss the tough stuff in the Bible, like violence, oppression, and pain. Often your Bible and Theology courses will leave you with many questions to wrestle with. But CMU is also a place that will nurture and strengthen your faith. As you grapple with these difficult truths, you will have the opportunity to worship God and experience his presence in new ways. Some places where my faith has grown is the prayer room on north, the Chapel on south and in the Poettcker Hall first floor lounge. Addressing the questions that threatened to weaken my faith in God actually helped me to deepen my understanding and relationship with Him.

2) Community is valued and promoted at CMU.

It is very important to participate in the fun events that are planned for the first week of school. This gives you an opportunity to meet other students and make new friends. At this early stage in the year, everyone will be feeling awkward, so don’t worry! I was very nervous coming to CMU that I would have difficult making friends, but I am now in a Snapchat group chat with 20 of my closest CMU friends. But honestly, I have made a some true friends here at CMU who have become like sisters to me. I now believe what people say about forming friendships at university that will last a lifetime.

Nicole Ternowsky - A student slides down a slip and slide during CMU's GO Olympics!

3) Now for the most important part: school.

My first piece of advice is to put yourself out there! Seriously, your professors will notice and remember you. CMU is unique because there is much more opportunity for class discussion and debate due to the smaller class sizes. My second piece of advice is choose classes, projects, and essays you are interested in, because when paper season comes around, you will be exhausted, but you will have learned about material you care about and have gained knowledge you can use in the ‘real world’. My last piece of advice is to invest in a good agenda or day planner. Seriously. Organization is key in university because it allows you to schedule enough time for studying, while still making time for friends, and other events at CMU.

At CMU you will grow as a Christian, a friend, and an intellectual. Looking back at my first year here, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at CMU, for new friends I’ve gained, and for my growing relationship with God.

Nicole Ternowesky is completing her first year at CMU.

CMU’s next open house is happening on March 27, 2018. Drop in and find out if CMU is the right place for you after high school!

A change of universities and a change of heart

This past year I made the transition from playing USport soccer to playing at the MCAC level here at CMU. After my third season of varsity soccer I realized that soccer had become my whole life, and that it was changing me into a person that I didn’t like. I found myself compromising on values I believed in and had grown up following.

Camille Plett

My faith had always been a huge part of my life, and in the past couple years, I have really grown in that aspect. By being connected with Athletes in Action, serving on tours (sports based ministry trips), and participating in Bible studies, I was able to really see what matters in life, and how to balance my faith and sport.

After I was able to humble myself enough to make this realization, I knew something had to change, so I left my team. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to grow close with God again and go wherever He wanted me. Letting go of what I had always imagined for my life was tough, but God showed me clearly where I should be. And that was CMU.

Camille Plett

Originally I had thought I wouldn’t play soccer for a school again, but God granted me the freedom play again when I joined a CMU practise about a year ago. The coaches invited me to train and immediately I felt welcomed. I had so much fun playing without the pressures I had put on myself previously, and the team’s positive attitudes were encouraging.

After playing my first outdoor soccer season with the team, the team environment really stood out to me. The girls come to practise ready to train, work hard, learn, and have fun. They wanted to be there, and to me that was refreshing.

The support from other students who come watch is also incredible. During Futsal season, I love that we have such a home field advantage. Full stands of loud fans is definitely motivating during games. The community of the sports teams and students supporting each other was something I looked forward to since committing to coming to CMU.

Camille Plett

I strive for success on the soccer field or futsal court, but I also have academic goals. Being an academic All-Canadian is important to me, along with taking the most that I can out of my courses, and applying what I learn to my life. CMU has allowed me to continue working towards my goal of graduating with a Bachelors of Physical Education, by letting me complete my minor of history. The smaller class size makes this goal so much more attainable. I have had many experiences interacting with my professors that would never happen elsewhere, and I am so thankful for the support and love they have shown me.

All my past life experiences and soccer experiences lead me here. I have a moment of peace every day as I walk the halls of CMU, knowing this is where I need to be. This is testament to God and how He has worked in my life to prepare me to come to CMU. 

Realizing I needed change in my life, and then giving up the dreams I had growing up was humbling for me, but it has been worthwhile to pursue my current dream of being the best team mate, friend, and follower of God that I can be.

Camille Plett is a fourth year student studying Physical Education and History, and is from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Perseverance and Prayer: Finding My Place in CMU’s Psychology Program

When I came to CMU, my plan was to do sciences and later pursue a medical degree. But when I started my science classes, I realized that I really wasn’t that passionate about Sciences. I also didn’t perform particularly well so that would have hindered any plans of going to medical school.

Loma Mkhabela - Perseverance and Prayer: Finding My Place in CMU's Psychology Program

It took me a while to figure out what else I was passionate about. I knew that I wanted to be in a position where I was going to help people, but I was not certain what exactly that would look like.

At that time, I was on conditional continuance, since my grades weren’t that great, and I had to be really careful about how I went about choosing my courses. My grades were not all bad, though. I had good marks in most of the social science courses that I took, and I was advised by Wesley Toews to consider going into more social sciences courses to see whether that was the right fit for me. Turns out, I wasn’t that bad at social sciences, so I stuck with them.

I took my first psychology course in my second year, which is pretty late. But guess what? I absolutely enjoyed it and wanted to stick with it.

Now that I knew what I wanted to do, things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Psychology seemed like the best option for me; I still got to work with people, and that convinced me to pursue it.

My experience as a psychology student has been good. I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about myself while pursuing what I’m interested in. The psychology courses I’ve had the opportunity to take have been intriguing and informing, but also challenging. All the professors I’ve had so far have been good at keeping the courses interesting. I also like that I get to be taught by different professors who tend to connect their work experiences in psychology with the courses that they are teaching. It gives you an idea of what a career in psychology could look like.

Loma Mkhabela - Perseverance and Prayer: Finding My Place in CMU's Psychology ProgramNo one tells you this, but CMU has a very high standard of writing. Maybe not high, per se, but it requires more than what they teach you in high school. I had to learn how to write in APA (American Psychological Association) format. To this day, I still haven’t mastered how to do it and I continue to learn as I write more papers. You have to keep your pocket manual close as it becomes your best friend for the rest of your academic career.

I know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without my faith and belief in God. Through Him, all things are possible. Through the tough times, He has been constant. Prayer is a very powerful weapon, and as I have continued in my academic endeavours, that just seems to be truer. Keeping my trust and faith in Him and knowing that He has a plan for me has kept me going. It is also a testament that no matter how hard things seem to be, there is always a way.

Loma Mkhabela is in her fourth year of a Psychology degree at CMU.

More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

Amelia Pahl - More Than We Can Ask or Imagine: A Poetic Reflection

I see that moment of grace when the sun breaks through a murky sky.
I see the little spark of hope that flairs when someone asks just the right question – and then cares to listen.
I see a new sort of possibility appear amidst the mundanity of daily life. 
I see a dreamer who counts the stars and still only fathoms a drop of water in the ocean of the universe.

“More than we can ask or imagine” evokes a sense of absolute grace, a hope that, whatever our shortcomings,
whatever our mistakes,
whatever our inconsistencies
we’re part of a vast, bold, extravagant universe that is endlessly giving birth to itself.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a wee bit more than I can imagine on a typical day.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was at least seven, and words have come intuitively to me for as long as I can remember. I don’t really write poems, and I hardly ever think them – it’s more like I suddenly find myself bleeding words onto a page and all I have to do is get my self out of the way. For me, poetry is an act of grace, a moment when emotion, intuition, and words come to a head and explode into written form.

Often, in these moments, I feel an enormous sense of relief when I can find just the right words in just the right place on the page to express what normally can’t be expressed in words. It’s a moment of birth after what is usually weeks of growing and churning inside of me; suddenly I am given words for my experience of life – and it’s miraculous.

I like poetry because it doesn’t have to make sense. It allows us to give up our need to understand – if only for a little while – and instead to sit with life exactly as it is. And I’ve found that, in the sitting, life actually starts to make a little more sense. This is grace. This is more than we can ask or imagine. 

Poetry doesn’t have to make sense, and that’s why it can glimpse an unimaginable God.

Here is a poem.

The poet Adi al-Riga, as quoted by Rumi:

“I was sleeping, and being comforted
by a cool breeze, when suddenly a gray dove
from a thicket sang and sobbed with longing,
and reminded me of my own passion.

I had been away from my own soul so long,
so late-sleeping, but that dove’s crying
woke me and made me cry. Praise
to all early-waking grievers!”

Here ends the poem, but the grieving still runs thick in my veins,
I am up to my eyes in unknowing, swimming in the sluggish questions of my waking life,
Wondering where my awkward dance fits in with the graceful grace-filled folly of my world,
            your world, our worlds colliding and
            never quite knowing what to do about the wondering.
Each day I step out in trust
            – or maybe it’s stupidity, I can’t remember which –
And I hold on for dear life, never really sure
            who knows, who cares, who loves, who dares to question with me
            this spinning, half-sleeping place we call home,
            or life, I can’t remember which.
I am alone and never alone
I am known and unknown
I am strange and I am familiar
I am water I am air I am breathing universe I am ancient sleeping tree
I am the early-waking griever.

I died
Once or twice while writing this,
But death is dawn in Rumi’s books, and I tend to agree, though
            not in so many words.

I don’t know anything; I know that much.

Amelia Pahl is in her second year 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
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
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

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
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

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.

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