From time to time, I enjoy presenting a single student story to represent the hundreds of stories I hear every year. Here Jeremy Veenema '08 shares his Calvin journey. I trust you will enjoy it and pray for Jeremy and all our students as they seek God's will for their lives, building God's kingdom-everywhere! ~ Glenn Triezenberg
My Calvin Journey So Far
A few years before stepping foot on campus as a student, I took a drive around Calvin's campus. I wondered what it would be like to attend Calvin, living in the same city I had called home my whole life. "If only Calvin were a few hours away from home," I thought. "If only my parents were not alumni" or "if only fewer people from my high school were coming- then I'd think about enrolling at Calvin."
Still, when it came time to choose a college from my carefully calculated list of possibilities, I chose Calvin; call it irony, happenstance or an answer to prayer. Since enrolling at Calvin, the "if only" questions have turned into more important questions-questions of academic discovery, spiritual growth and how best to engage God's world. Looking back, Calvin has been more than a simple training for the "real world" that follows graduation. Wherever my Calvin education has taken me, from Colorado to Spain to living off campus, one thing remains certain: The people, lessons and activities that have been a part of my Calvin journey have had a profound impact on how I view the world.
Already at orientation, I got a taste of Calvin's academic and spiritual community. The atmosphere on campus was different than I had anticipated. Concerns over the proximity of campus to home disappeared. I met enough students to place pins all over the globe. The year brought an array of new experiences, such as joining Calvin's band, translating Spanish at a local health clinic and learning the campus lingo.
At the turn of the first semester, I found myself scrambling for advice on which classes to take next. The task of choosing an academic focus seemed daunting. However, some of my fears were alleviated when I met with Glenn Triezenberg, director of career development at Calvin. Glenn reminded me of the "prayer and process" involved in discerning God's will in any life decision. Discerning God's plan for my life was a journey; it wasn't my job to figure out every step of the way.
After my freshman year, I found the perfect environment to live out this journey: Colorado. As a participant in Calvin's Leadership Challenge Institute at Snow Mountain Ranch, I lived, worked and learned alongside 30 other Calvin students. Each of us worked in the many departments around the YMCA camp. In addition, we attended lectures and worship sessions and dove into curriculum on Christian leadership. The summer amounted to much more than a job away from home. Aside from learning a whole new appreciation for flipping burgers and making milkshakes, I encountered real lessons on life and leadership. I discovered the joy of following God's will even when the next specific step was unclear. The collective summer experience challenged me to think about Christian discipleship from a different angle. What ultimately mattered was how my plans were used for God's purposes-how my daily life and long-term goals fit into the bigger picture of furthering God's kingdom.
My second year at Calvin provided another opportunity to make the most of my educational experience: a semester abroad in Spain. I spent five months living with a host mother and attending classes at a local university in Denia. Since I knew neither many of the Calvin students in the group nor much about Spanish culture or customs, I started the semester with some uncertainty. My initial experiences turned these feelings of unfamiliarity on their head from the first day onward. Exhausted from travel, my host mother, a 60-year-old women only as tall as my shoulders, greeted me with a kiss on the cheek. Within the first few weeks, I had joined a local orchestra, navigated my way around Denia and other nearby cities, and taken essay exams all in Spanish. After each day of classes, I enjoyed a two-hour meal with my host mother. We discussed everything from the day's events to politics, seafood and life in "USA," as my mamá would say in her thick Spanish accent. In this unique educational opportunity, I learned things that I'd never learn in Grand Rapids -more than just how to speak in Spanish 24-7.
Spending time in Spain allowed me to live more confidently and articulate my worldview more clearly. I had time to grow and reflect spiritually, and the experience made me think more practically about how my beliefs affected the way I lived and viewed the world. I headed back to Calvin for my third year-missing Spain, but eager for new experiences.
"The Benjamin house" became home for four friends and me, a place where we'd learn more than the simple domestic tasks of cleaning and cooking. We lived together in intentional community: grilling out, playing music, inviting over friends and meeting our neighbors. Whether it was tossing a Frisbee, praying together or talking life over pancakes, I was continually reminded of the friendship and spiritual community that we all valued at the house.
There are many adventures ahead of me at Calvin. I will graduate with a major in economics and minor in Spanish while finishing the prerequisites for medical school. My interest in medicine stems from a desire to work with patients, a passion for science, and a fascination with how the fields of economics and politics affect the health care system and how governmental policies can tackle the pressing issues of our time. While I contemplate medical school or the pursuit of a graduate program related to economics, I anticipate working as a McGregor Fellow at Calvin this summer. As part of the fellowship, I will travel to Haiti, Nicaragua and Kenya.
In these months ahead, I will be looking back as much as I do forward. I'm reminded of the "prayer and process" involved in living every day and the journey that God calls each of his children to in the seeking of his kingdom. I'm reminded of how my experiences at Calvin have grown and shaped me thus far, confident that they will continue to do so in the future, regardless of where God will lead.
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