In between

This semester has been something.

An adventure.

A growing time.

A semester filled with lessons and maturing experiences. In just over a month I will be leaving Texas for the next four months to study abroad at University of Dallas’s Rome campus in Due Santi (named “The Two Saints” for St. Peter and St. Paul). It’s unbelievable, how close the time comes to fly overseas and explore ancient cities, meet Europeans, and also complete the rest of my Sophomore year.

But this past semester in Irving has been substantially illuminating, in more ways than one. I’m not sure how to put it all together in this post, but summarizing may be the best way to go about it. I took two art classes, Basic Drawing and Digital Media, and in both I learned many helpful skills involving perspective, lighting, photoshop, and design. As far as socializing goes, I enjoyed rooming with two dear friends from Founders, and also getting to know many of my classmates much better.

The course I most enjoyed this semester was Literary Tradition IV (I will take Literary Tradition III in Rome), taught by Dr. Greg Roper, whose explications of the works we read greatly enhanced my understanding of these stories. Out of all the books we read in Lit. Trad. IV, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky truly touched me, moved me with its haunting characters and thread of redemption throughout the work. I cannot stress enough how much this book should be read and reread, for Dostoevsky deflates common schools of thoughts such as nihilism and utilitarianism which in themselves are empty, worthless mindsets. He shows through his troubled character Rodion Raskolnikov the power of the cross and the ultimate grace and mercy of God. It’s a beautiful love story, a narrative of God calling out to a man diseased by sin and pride.

I also took Creative Fiction Writing and collaborated with two of my classmates on a novella, which turned out to be an entertaining and pleasurable. And lastly, I took Western Civilization II, which is part of the UD Core. 🙂

As far as personal drawing and writing goes, I put a great deal of energy into fan art and a bit of gift-art for a friend. For basic drawing I was required to draw something every day of the semester, and I used this as an incentive to draw my favorite fictional characters and couples. Ha. I can’t say much happened in my writing pursuits, sadly. I put most of my energy for fiction into the short story assignment for Literary Tradition IV and Creative Fiction Writing courses. The past two years have been pretty dry, as far as my original stories. I can’t remember the last time I pulled up my documents for Diana and Julian’s story.

Lastly and most importantly, my spiritual walk. Lately, most of my feelings and thoughts concerning my relationship with Christ and understanding of theology has been confused, unsettling, and overall convoluted. I do feel Him leading me, directing me, and I pray to Him as I mull over my doubts and questions. But one huge factor separating me from Him is my preoccupation with Denominations. That is, feeling unsure of where I belong, how I worship Him, and many other issues of doctrine that arise since I feel caught between my Evangelical background and my exposure to the Catholic church. It’s overwhelming and disconcerting, since I’ve lived my whole live believing that my upbringing in a Evangelical Free church is the only necessary precept, complete with enthusiastic praise and worship (using lots of Hillsong music), and a Sola Scriptura approach to theology. When more in-depth theology is addressed during my pastor’s sermons, he makes sure to point it out and even apologize. Whereas, theology and historically grounded doctrine is foundational in the Catholic (and Lutheran) church. In summary, my confusion has sapped a great deal of my joy and enthusiasm for actually listening to God and His call upon my heart. I feel aimless, directionless, completely stuck. I would appreciate any prayers from my readership on this blog.

Expect to see another post brimming with ridiculous, sketchy drawings that may or may not involve my recent obsession, Star Wars, cuz I’m a nerd. 😉

Memories from Freshman Year at University of Dallas

(Scroll down past the photos 🙂 )

In honor of my Sophomore year of college beginning in three weeks, I thought I’d write about Freshman year, because of nostalgia.

  • First few days of orientation, feeling a bit nervous but also that kind of butterflies-in-my-stomach excited about what is about to begin, and so totally into being a social creature (like never before lol, I have always thought myself pretty freaking shy and a loner-type)…I dragged my INTJ roommate to a bonfire party by the guys’ dorms and then this barbecue by the Sophomore dorms (West Hall) where we did a pretty good job pretending like outgoing individuals…
  • At that barbecue party some random guys offered one of my friends a rubber duck from a game and stood there being a creep watching her sort of nonplussed reaction.
  • Those days were a blur because we met so many people and did so many things as we tried to do everything advertised by the orientation peeps
  • But by the time the scavenger hunt around campus came on Monday (we got there on Friday), my roommate and I decided to hide from everyone and skulk around, watching people go on the scavenger hunt XD
  • Our introvert side won out I suppose
  • I love the memory of the ice cream social just before classes began, and I lost my roomie in the crowd so I tried to be brave and socialized with some Senior guys (which was a whole new thing for me, being a loner homeschooling girl and all)
  • First day of classes, Wednesday, was pretty much dizzying and I can barely remember it except for meeting various classmates throughout the day, like in Art History, my first class, and my heart racing as the lights dimmed and our professor did roll call
  • That semester was a wonderful daydream and nightmare mixed together, trying to figure out how to adult, how to study efficiently, how to go about prepping for midterms and finals and figure out the whole Latin class thing, with our hilarious dear teacher who didn’t like using the textbook so went with a bunch of random stories about Ancient Rome
  • My professor for Literary Tradition I was Father Maguire, a wonderful man who would ask us about which Greek god we would choose to be, or marry…lol
  • And attending mass at Cistercian Abbey for the first time, my alarm clock went off in the middle of mass and the monks stopped chanting to look at me D:
  • Waking up at 5 in the morning and crossing under the freeway to get to the Abbey for that mass :O
  • Seeing a Dominican monk in all the robes that order wears, I probably looked like somebody had shot me with a water gun or something…
  • Running down the UD mall after the first dance at UD, glad to escape my heels
  • Having amazing discussions at night, or any time of the day, with Hannah about everything, and I mean EVERYTHING–theology, philosophy, our day, classes, the Cistercians…so wonderful ❤
  • Our dorm, the setup we had, it was perfect! Our own little space, our overflow of books, our complementing color schemes and bed coverlets!
  • Visiting Raj who ran the gas station across the street from UD, and buying snacks for the night 😀
  • Seeing the Dallas skyline from the “hill” on which UD is situated
  • The UD tower lit up at night, which made for many fantastic photo opts.
  • Finding the park near campus for the first time, with its adorable bridge and baby ducks and perfect climbing trees
  • hearing an organ in Mass (or in my life) for the first time!
  • Attending Sunday Night worship in the Church of the Incarnation for the first time and being absolutely blown away by the quiet and reverent beauty of it
  • Attending TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) down in the Rathskeller, the basement dining area in the Haggar Center, which was a riotous event
  • Basically a lot of music, drinking, smoking, and themes for every Thursday night
  • The Cafeteria, where many an amusing hour was spent in deep discussion, people-watching, and food-loving
  • UD food is pretty good, tbh
  • Knowing that Brigid Vaughn, aka Burdge on Tumblr, attended UD and graduated a year ago from this school. She’s my art idol and her blog and drawings give me life
  • Seeing her senior studio work and her actual studio in the Art Village, and freaking out because IT’S BURDGE
  • Swing dancing for the first time in the cafeteria with the swing club, dancing to Marvin Gaye, Shut Up and Dance, Dear Future Husband, among other splendid choices 😉
  • The Capp Bar–modeled after the Cappuccino Bar at the UD Rome Campus
  • sitting in there with my mac and homework and people-watching, simply full of joy that UD is my school
  • The Library–three glorious stories of books, plus the periodicals, which became our favorite place during the Spring Semester
  • Sneaking around said Library, checking out all the spots for potential studying, and just enjoying the general atmosphere of being surrounded by books
  • The Art Village, so mysterious and set apart from everything else, with its unique architecture and the various studios, and sculptures scattered about by art students 🙂
  • I LOVE THE ART VILLAGE
  • Songs that remind me of Freshman year: Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness , Marvin Gaye by Charlie Puth, Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon, anything by Mumford and Sons, Howl’s Moving Castle soundtrack, Hans Zimmer music, Pompeii by Bastille, Passion Pit, Thunderstruck by Owl City, 2 Heads by Coleman Hill, Safe and Sound by Capital Cities, Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots, Blow Away by A Fine Frenzy, Midnight City by M83, Paris by Magic Man, Concert Pitch by Empire of the Sun, and French Navy by Camera Obscura (most of them found on Burdge’s spotify, her music taste is amazing)….and it fits the UD aesthetic
  • late night walks around UD
  • music on the mall, with the wonderful music blaring out across campus, making my DAY

The Fork in the Road

Like any high schooler in the college-selecting process, I faced a variety of options to choose from. My passions in different areas increased my confusion and uncertainty. Art universities offering a wide selection of specialized courses in animation, 2D and 3D design, illustration, and a number of other creative degrees that attracted me. I began to fixate on this idea of attending art school, as I do seek to pursue my artistic bent. However, during my sophomore year of high-school, a semester at a classical academy introduced me to a mesmerizing plane of academics. Classical education. I became entranced by the subjects of philosophy and literature taught with the classical approach, and enjoyed applying the methods of logic, thinking, and rhetoric, integral subjects to this form of learning, to my studies of history, literature, and everything else. I found myself eager to explore the tremendous depths of these subjects that students can only find purposefully, at a specialized school or with classical curriculum at home. I realized that my love for the visual arts now had competition in my avid learner’s heart. Around this time I turned my focus from a liberal arts college in Purcellville, Virginia to elsewhere. At a college convention I met several ambassadors of University of Dallas, a private Catholic institution in Irving, Texas. I recall that my interest in UD mounted the more I learned about it. They offered a Rome program during Sophomore year, an intensive “Core” curriculum that focused on the Classical foundation of learning—requiring all freshmen and sophomores to take a list of courses ranging from Literary Tradition to Philosophy to Astronomy. All of these subjects form the basis for a more concentrated major during the two years as upperclassmen. I relished the prospects offered at University of Dallas. It fit me perfectly. And yet, a small nagging voice persisted to whisper in the back of my head, “Wait! What about Art school? What about an exclusive art education?” That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t obtain an art education at UD. They rank as having one of the top traditional art programs in the nation, which I planned to participate in should I choose UD.

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image from the internet

As the summer before my Senior year opened, I decided to sign up for a 2D and 3D design and animation camp at the Art Institute of Dallas. My heart fluttered nervously whenever I thought of experiencing a taste of an art student’s life. In depth anatomy and design courses. High tech drawing equipment and digital tablets. I tempted myself with this shining dream. Of course, none of this is to undermine the delight of creativity, traditional and digital. Anyone with a passion for art possesses such a dream, to delve into this fervency to create, design, and dazzle others with mind-blowing visuals. I believe that all artists would love the chance to explore and develop their artistic skills at such a school. The courses at these universities can be invaluable, doubtlessly, to someone desiring to improve their abilities. Yet, I experienced a dilemma, as I still remembered the bliss of walking around the vibrant campus of University of Dallas, meeting people who enthusiastically pursued their faith and education. When I joined the other kids at the Art Institute’s camp, I found myself facing an entirely different atmosphere. Most of the kids here came from secular public school, lived secular, godless lives, and although they too shared a passion for the arts, I found it difficult to relate to them on a spiritual and intellectual level as their interests diverged from mine dramatically. Discouraged, I spent my first day hoping it would get better, that I would enjoy myself more at this idealized art camp. Yet, as the week progressed during my stay at the camp, I noticed that the teens at my camp bodily represented the mindset of liberal social media sites such as Tumblr. Their attitudes created a barrier between themselves and anyone who might possibly not share their same interests, worldview, or lifestyle. Their unwelcoming demeanors estranged me and I could hardly feel safe or comfortable when the camp leaders expressed viewpoints of homosexual lifestyles and other issues that diametrically oppose my Biblical standards. All in all, by the time Friday arrived, I was more than ready to leave the Art Institute with my parents. With a mixture of disappointment and relief I realized that I did not belong at the Art Institute or anywhere else like it.

Campus (Braniff Memorial Tower and Mall), University of Dallas

University of Dallas Mall and Braniff Tower (not my image)

The lure of an exclusively art-focused schedule during my university years has not failed to entice me with its promising tastefulness. Although the Core Curriculum at University of Dallas integrated a medley of subjects that I’d discovered a growing passion for within myself, Art school assumed the forefront focus in my mind as I idealized possibly attending a university like Savannah College of Art and Design, or Parsons Art and Design in NYC. These schools, as well as CalArts in San Francisco, are known for their top-notch courses and degrees, from which emerge many respected animators, visual developers, character designers, and story-boarders who are now working for corporations such as Disney and Pixar. As someone prone to idealism, I began to envision the promise of such schools. Until I visited the Art Institute of Dallas, another highly respected visual arts academy, did I obtain a clearer picture of the dark side of these campuses. However, any budding artist will desire courses like 2D and 3D design, anatomy, character design, visual development, and more. I nursed my dissatisfaction with my own situation and my parents’ expressed suspicions of such colleges. But they pointed out that SCAD and CalArts hardly provide a well-rounded education as does University of Dallas. They do not develop every part of the mind—the only side of my brain that would be served would be the right side—while the left side of the brain would languish in neglect. As aggravating as it was, I found myself agreeing with them. Why? University of Dallas pushes students to their limits, as they have campaigned, as I have seen by simply sitting in on the classes. Not only does this school challenge you in your area of study, but it also compels you to study hard in other areas, such as mathematics, the sciences, theology, history, philosophy, economics, and history. Sure, at a place like CalArts you are receiving a degree for extremely specialized courses throughout your four year tenure, but what beyond that? You are not exploring the great works, you are not discussing Plato’s The Cave, nor delving into the Rhetoric of the Bible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that St. Augustine’s Confessions would never arise in any discussion at one of those secular art universities.

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University of Dallas Church of the Incarnation (not my image)

So, I reached the verdict. As difficult as it proved to surrender my desire to attend SCAD, or CalArts, or a similar school, discussions with my parents and my summer camp experience led me to a final conclusion. I would not be abandoning my artistic ambitions. No, I would instead pursue them in the safter, Christian environment at University of Dallas, an institution that promotes a love of learning, an appreciation of the past masterpieces while integrated with the Catholic intellectual tradition that so intrigued me during my semester at Founders Classical Academy. I relinquished my idealistic image of what art school would be like and adopted a more realistic mindset. Once I finished the foundations of my education that University of Dallas would supply, I would delve in deeper in the areas that remained in need of development. Perhaps even graduate school at one of those art universities would become an option. But in the meantime, I determined to surround myself with like-minded people who would challenge me to mature in my mind and soul, not merely in the right side of my brain.