Calvin Orientation

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Academic Coaching

When you hear the words academic coaching you’re probably thinking, Calvin offers coaches to help us with our school work? And you know what this is true, but not the way people may think. Academic coaches are a great resource to have.

The fall semester of my second year here I signed up for one myself, and I must say I am really glad that I did. All I had to do was go to the Student Academic  Services office, and sign up for a coach that could work with my schedule. Once I got matched with my coach, we discussed the different things I was struggling with academically and socially, meaning time management, note taking, test taking, and other things. With my coaches help I was able to learn different strategies to help me with the areas that I was struggling with. Those same strategies and habits have stuck with me till this day.

So if you think you would want to give Academic Coaching a chance, I’d say go for! Calvin has these types of resources to benefit you and your experience here. Take it from me! If you want to find out more information about Academic coaching you can always visit their office or even their website at .


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Semester Abroad


           I am very much a homebody. I love family, friends, and knowing my surroundings. So when I found out I needed to spend both an interim and a semester abroad as a requirement for my Spanish major, I was as nervous as I was excited. Although I love adventure, I am not ashamed to admit that I was quite scared about the whole “study abroad experience.” How was I, a sophomore at Calvin, going to survive staying in a foreign country for five months living with complete strangers who didn’t speak English? I think the one thing that pushed me onto that plane was the fact that I knew God was coming with me. 


              Looking back almost a year and a half later, I can honestly say that my semester in Spain was the one experience in my life that has changed me the most. I spent my days studying Spanish language and literature in a charming fishing village named Denia right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. I took flamenco lessons, ate octopus, and I was even able to spend a weekend in Morocco and Spring Break traveling around Italy. It was unbelievable to live with and learn from a region and a people that I didn’t really know much about before. It was an incredible five-month journey where I was able to engage with the Spanish culture and appreciate all of the life lessons that my family from Spain had to offer. As my Spanish speaking abilities improved, I was able to have deeper and deeper conversations with the Spaniards that I met. And I realize now how much of their lifestyle I still embrace even today such as their strong belief in relationships as well as the idea of simplistic living.

               God created a world full of wonder, and I believe He takes pleasure when we explore it.  Here at Calvin, you have the ability to choose which parts of that creation you would like to investigate. Calvin provides 13 off-campus semesters hosted by a professor familiar with the area and the culture, so you have the opportunity to choose your very own quest with a group of students who share the same adventurous spirit. Whether you go to Ghana, Honduras, Britain, Thailand, or Spain, you are in for an extraordinary life-changing experience that is sure to open both your eyes and your heart.

– Tara



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Time Managament

Have you ever had a job while being a student? What about two jobs? Well, this past year, I had the opportunity of having four jobs. Not all of them were year-long and occurring at the same time, but for the most part, I had three jobs to balance and a one point, I had four. It’s not an easy thing to do when you have friends, church, school, and so many other obligations to take care. College is a time and place when you try new things, MANY things, but if you don’t learn how to balance your life out, you’ll find yourself worn out and exhausted all the time. Calvin offers something that interests EVERYBODY. Whether it be Dance Guild, Airband, Intramural sports, a video game student org, student org for politics, there is something for you and you can do anything and everything. I learned the hard way and was running around from one place to another and never had time to myself and for a lot of my friends. When you come to Calvin, be sure to think about what’s really important to you and figure out your priorities, and if you need a pep talk about time management, come talk to me about, I’d be happy to talk to you!

– Jonathan


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Oh You’re International Huh?

So I’m from El Salvador. Do you know where that is? It’s okay, you can barely see my country in a map because it’s so small; it’s actually the smallest country in Central America. Coming to Calvin as an international student has definitely been an awesome experience. Even up to today, when people ask me where I’m from and I say “El Salvador,” I get the same reaction every time “oh wow.” In my personal experience I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m international, that my culture is different, my language, my traditions, the way I relate to people, it’s all pretty different. I’ve also learned that at Calvin, people like diversity. The people I met here thought it was cool to be from “some other random country most people don’t even know of.” I’ve had many opportunities to share a little bit about my culture as people get to know me and as I get to learn from my U.S. friends.


Funny story: When I got to Calvin my first night, my floor decided to have a “boxer run,” where you had to run around campus wearing your boxers only. When I first heard this I thought they were kidding. Running around campus naked wearing only boxers with ten other guys? “We don’t do this in my country,” I thought. But I decided to be open to new “different” things. Now I look back to it, and I’m very glad I experienced that. It was fun.

If you’re international, my advice for you would be “don’t be shy.” Embrace your culture. You will be different for sure but instead of hiding those differences, share it with as many people as you can. It’s fun. People want to learn about you. On the other hand, learn from U.S culture too. Don’t be afraid to try new things. After all, you’ll be in this country for a while; you might as well enjoy meeting people who are different from you and whom you can learn from a lot.

If you’re not international, get to know the international people. They might seem a little weird at first but trust me, they’re super cool (at least, that’s what I’ve heard). It turns out that my two best friends at Calvin are both from around here. I actually took one back home with me and we had a blast. Get international friends, you’ll get to travel to their country, try new crazy but delicious food, probably learn a new language, and who knows, they might end up being your best friend.                -Carlos


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      Coming to college was a big transition for me. Although I got good grades in high school, it wasn’t always because of how hard I was working. I knew college was tougher than high school, and that Calvin had an excellent reputation as a rigorous academic institution, so the thought of moving into the college classroom was a bit daunting.
      From the first day in the classroom, however, I felt that I had all the tools I needed to succeed. Professors gave me their e-mail addresses, office hours, and were eager to get to know me.  My fellow classmates and I set up study groups to help each other and I easily found a tutor to help me out with the subjects I was struggling with.  The Rhetoric Center in the library is a great place to have papers read at any stage and get guidance.   Even with all this help, I soon realized that it was ultimately my discipline and hard work that would lead to my academic success.
      College isn’t a breeze, by any means. You will have hours of free time and most classes don’t meet every day. Here, your parents will not be holding your hand and making sure you have everything done before you can go out and play. It will be up to you to make sure your work is done, to know when you need to work ahead, and use your time wisely.  Academics can be conquered with hard work and discipline and there will always be tools and people to help you succeed.
– Jeremiah
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Student Organizations

Imagine this. The lights are dim, and the crowd begins to cheer. You’re standing in anticipation waiting for the music to begin, and the adrenaline starts pumping. The music starts and the bass is making the stage shake. Everyone in the crowd is cheering for their friends, students, sons, and daughters. This is what I experienced in my first Dance Guild performance.
Since the beginning of my freshman year and forward, I have had the opportunity to be a performer in Dance Guild; a dance show that allows all student’s on Calvin campus the opportunity to show their fellow students their moves twice a year. The second semester of my freshman year I was given the chance to choreograph a dance, and since then it is one of the things that I look forward to the most at Calvin because I get to share my gift of dance with my fellow students. Even though I have only choreographed hip-hop dances, there are a plethora of genres to choose from like pointe, modern, jazzercise, and so much more. I have met so many new people while participating in Dance Guild, and have built many lasting friendships. When show week comes around, everyone gets excited. We are usually sold out, and people are trying to find extra tickets to the show on Facebook. During show week we are getting all of our final costumes finalized and getting our dance in sync. It has gotten a little hectic at times, but I loved every minute of it. Even if you’ve never taken a dance lesson in your life, Dance Guild is still for you. I’ll be hoping to see you on the stage with me one day.


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Dorm Leadership

When moving into the dorms my freshman year, it literally took me about five minutes to unload my car of all my possessions and move them into my second floor room. You may be thinking that I came to college with just a suitcase and one box, false. Believe me; I had a lot of stuff, more than was healthy or necessary. The reason the move in process was so quick and efficient was because of all the students living in my dorm that carried, moved, and hauled all of my belongings and every other freshman student’s things into their room. These fine and helpful students were a part of my dorm’s leadership team!

As my first year at college continued, I soon learned how vital a role they played in building and fostering our dorm friendships and community. All of the members of dorm leadership contributed to a distinct and important aspect of my dorm, from spiritual leaders to leaders who set up service-learning opportunities, and from the RAs to the activity coordinators who set up fun events. It was the combination of all of these leaders and their time and commitment that made my dorm a welcoming, fun, and developing place to be.

I wanted to be a part of that leadership, so I applied to be on dorm leadership my sophomore year. I was a part of the Activities Council and worked with leaders in my dorm and leaders in other dorms to sponsor events like bowling, hayrides, and year end banquets. Through this experience I grew exponentially. I learned how to manage time more efficiently and encourage team members in order to keep motivation high. I was challenged as a leader in ways I had never been before. Practically speaking, I received so many life lessons on working in a team and becoming a stronger leader. But the most important thing I took away from dorm leadership was memories and best friends. I would most likely not have met some of my best friends if it weren’t for dorm leadership. Those friendships and the memories of being involved in dorm leadership my sophomore year will forever be highlights of my college experience.


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Christianity at Calvin

Christianity at Calvin. This topic is crazy. When I first got to Calvin I thought I had a solid idea of what Christianity was. I grew up Evangelical Pentecostal all my life, and back home I had never heard of CRC. I thought people didn’t really believe in predestination anymore and John Calvin was not that big of a deal. However, when I came to Calvin my beliefs got challenged. I learned about doctrines and concepts that I had never studied before, and it was amazing. This is the time when you have to own what you believe. It will be up to you to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” keeping in mind that “it is God that works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Surprisingly, nobody at Calvin will make you go to church. Nobody will force you to go to chapel. If you want to grow in Christ, it will be up to you. Here at Calvin you will meet people that are indifferent about their faith and others that are fired up about Jesus. It’s up to you to belong to any one of these groups. Personally, I am thankful I had the opportunity of learning about my faith at Calvin. I appreciate meeting people, including professors that challenged me to think for myself for what I truly believe and where I stand. This pushed me to not conform to what other people say, but to study, investigate, ask questions, research and go through Scripture on my own to understand what I believe about Jesus. Currently, God has got me fired up for him and I am thankful for the desire he puts in my heart to want to get to know him even more.        -Carlos

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College Friendships

When I was getting ready to head off to college, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.  I was always told that I would make lifelong friends in college, but I never fully realized what that meant until I came to Calvin. I had quite a few close friends in high school and I couldn’t imagine spending my time with a whole new group of people. But it happened. I met some of the most amazing people on move-in day and I’m fortunate to still be close friends with them today.

While you’re away at school, your friends become your second family. You learn to love one another through the good times and bad. Your friendships are deeper than just a group of people to hang out with on a Friday or Saturday night. You are invested in each other’s lives and genuinely want the best for one another. You support one another when you’re homesick, stressed out, or just in a bad mood. You eat dinner together, stay up late talking, and go to church together.

Whether you come to Calvin on your own or with your 10 of your best friends, be willing to put yourself out there and meet new people. College is a big transition and it will be so much easier if you have a support system behind you. Your new friends can challenge you to look at the world differently and grow in so many new ways. Though September may seem like it’s far in the future, it is really just around the corner. I can’t wait for you to experience all that Calvin’s community has to offer – it will impact you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now!

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Service-Learning at Calvin

Entering college, I knew right away that I wanted to study Spanish. And when I reflect on why I have been so interested in learning the language, I come to the conclusion that I want to be a good host to the strangers in my community. In my opinion, foreign language learning is centered on love, humility, and hospitality. Instead of simply attending Spanish classes at Calvin then, I wanted to engage directly in some type of critical pedagogy that would allow me to practice my Spanish outside of the classroom in a way that could work toward social justice. Calvin’s Service-Learning Center helped me find the perfect placements around the area to do just that.

 Working in the after-school tutoring program at César Chávez Elementary School for two years, and volunteering as an ESL adult tutor at Woodlawn CRC this year have both been incredible experiences that have shaped my learning in big ways at Calvin. Service Learning has given me the opportunity to practice my Spanish in authentic situations, and has connected me to the Hispanic culture and community right here in Grand Rapids. Participating in Service-Learning opportunities has allowed me to take my learning outside of the classroom in a meaningful and intentional manner. At Cesar Chavez, I spent each week helping nine-year old Jennifer with her homework after school. And during my time at Woodlawn, I worked through English lessons with Victor based around conversation, reading, and writing. Ironically, although I volunteered as a teacher in both placements, I was the one being taught most days. Victor, my ESL student, always surprised me with tidbits of wisdom or little life lessons. I have also learned a lot about the stereotypes and discrimination he has faced as a Hispanic immigrant here in Grand Rapids, and I have begun to learn what I can do to help. Victor has an incredibly big heart, and I am so blessed not only to have learned from him each week, but I am also extremely blessed to call him my friend.

What I love about the Service-Learning experiences offered at Calvin is that they all allow for a reciprocal exchange to take place between people in a community. Through my involvement, I have been able to both serve and learn at once. Whether you are interested in preparing for your vocation, or you have a heart for a certain issue or cause, the Service-Learning Center is certainly the place to find out what opportunities are available for you to serve and pursue shalom in the greater community around Calvin’s campus.

– Tara 


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