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Student Profile: Carolyn Sybesma takes on the world

By Julie Ooms

On the bus ride to a choral convention in Omaha, Nebraska, Carolyn Sybesma answers questions about herself as she dips a slice of red pepper into a tupperware container of hummus—a Middle Eastern dip made of chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. The spicy hummus smell draws curious looks from other passengers. Sybesma herself reddens a bit before pulling out another strip of pepper and explains her personal view of “calling.”

Sybesma, a senior music major at Dordt, grew up between Hull and Sioux Center, went to Dordt as her whole family had, and dreamed of playing Dordt volleyball—which she did, for a year and a month. After she made Concert Choir in her sophomore year, Sybesma dropped volleyball and started to get seriously involved in music. This year, she is a general music major, with an emphasis in piano, and participates in both Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra (she plays the violin).

Carolyn Sybesma eagerly ate pizza topped with emu on one slice and crocodile on the other during her fall semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia.

Carolyn Sybesma eagerly ate pizza topped with emu on one slice and crocodile on the other during her fall semester study abroad program in Sydney, Australia. "It was good," she said.

The switch from volleyball to music demonstrates what she feels is God’s plan for her life. “I have a difficult time with the word ‘calling,’” she says. “I think what I’m doing is a response to what I’ve been given. God has given me a gift for music, and a lot of opportunities to work in the kingdom, and I respond to those gifts.” Her responses have taken her, and likely will continue to take her, to interesting places as she graduates and moves on to life after college.

This past semester Sybesma responded to an opportunity to go to Australia and study piano and general music at the Wesley Institute of Performing Arts in Sydney, where she lived with an Australian family of cookie makers (“Except they call them ‘biscuits,’” she explains.) and spent a lot of time (when she wasn’t studying) in Sydney, exploring the city’s culture. Not only did the experience enhance the musical education she’s getting at Dordt, but, Sybesma says, “It gave me a chance to step out of the ‘Reformed worldview bubble’ and meet a lot of people who had faith and experiences in life outside my own. I gained a lot of independence and awareness of cultures I hadn’t experienced.” She also had the opportunity to eat kangaroo, which, she says, isn’t too bad.

After graduation, Sybesma plans to take a year off before going on to graduate school in piano performance. When asked why she’ll likely wait a year, she explains, “It takes a while to put together an audition for schools. I’d also like to travel before going on to grad school, and, well, it’ll be nice to just have a year off!” And after graduate school? “More school,” Sybesma says, laughing, “I’d love to just keep learning and playing music. But my more long-term goals are to teach music as a professor at a university. I think I could take a number of different paths to get there.”

Outside of school, Sybesma seizes every opportunity she gets to try new things—especially foods. Besides kangaroo and hummus, she’s eaten octopus, bear, buffalo, emu, and crocodile, and she loves to cook. She also enjoys photography, running, reading, and the card game Rook. “Well, winning at Rook,” she says with a grin.

Her real passion, however, is music. She’s set high goals for herself in that area, and she doesn’t doubt that she’ll be granted opportunities to reach those goals. “I’m using my gifts,” she says. “I just want to be involved in music and play music and teach music to others.” Whatever of those multiple paths she ends up following, she is committed to using them for the good of Christ’s kingdom.