My Wheaton

The Fellowship of the Rope

Posted December 2, 2016 by Juan-Fernando León M.A. '17

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A historiography class reminded me why I fell in love with history. Though I’ve always liked it, I never knew history would hold my hand as I rediscovered myself. We often have well-rehearsed speeches about our dreams and decisions, but rarely do we pause to reevaluate the journey or reflect on progress. In our fast-paced society, it seems that we pause only to catch our breath.

Well, I am pausing; not only to catch my breath, but to remember. I am pausing by looking back at the memories made at Wheaton College alongside fellow students, faculty and staff in this intellectual adventure. One of my fondest memories occurred in a historiography class where the fellowship of the rope story appeared in an article we read. Bluntly put, the author declared that in order for the teacher to survive in us, the professor in us needed to die. The author expressed the difference between teachers and professors as an analogy of those between climbers and mountaineers. 

Climbers are driven by the thrill of summiting; they are constantly looking for the next peak to climb and the fastest way to do it. They take unnecessary risks and shortcuts to reach the top. On the academic mountain, a similar dynamic happens. Many of us climb the academic mountain for the sake of reaching the top and will do anything, risk everything, to achieve our goal. The zenith of our efforts is to be a tenured professor at the cost of fellowship, which results in isolation. 

Mountaineers, however, are driven by the fellowship that forms in climbing a mountain. They are not only looking to summit a peak but rather they are looking with whom to do it. Similarly, there are those of us, who in pursuing our academic careers, look for the fellowship that comes from listening and learning from each other’s stories, experiences and strengths. The zenith of our efforts is to be a teacher at the cost of our own self-aggrandized ambitions, which results in fellowship.

The challenge for me was rediscovering who I wanted to be—a climber or a mountaineer; a professor or a teacher. I knew I was interested in history but was uncertain as to what exactly I wanted to do. However one thing became clear: history is best studied in fellowship. Poor history happens in isolation.

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Let me explain this in mountaineer parlance. For mountaineers, the fellowship of the rope embodies an ideal—a nostalgic image—of a time during which mountain climbers relied on one another more than on gear. Despite ever-improving gear, the rope has remained central. Because the rope can pull, hold, and link together climbers of any experience as they journey up a mountain, it can also be lethal. When inexperienced climbers slip, the rope harnesses the experience of expert climbers in order to avert the fall. At the times when mountaineers slip, the same rope has the ability to take the whole group down. 

This is an important reminder not only as I continue to ponder on the type of teacher I want to be, but more so, as I witness the fellowship of the rope as an intrinsic method to study history in graduate school. The words we use to write history are the ropes that pull, hold, and link us together as students of history. Ropes are to mountaineers what words are to historians. When we give voice to the voiceless and the marginalized, we are binding ourselves together with their struggles as we communicate their stories. History is about learning in fellowship with those around us and with those who came before us. When we study history, we are not only entering a foreign land—we are entering a fellowship that exceeds time and space; a fellowship that prevents us from being chronological snobs. In fellowship, we learn about ourselves and others. In fellowship, isolation disintegrates.  

The historiography class, and those in it, taught me that the climber in me needed to die if I ever wanted to see the mountaineer in me become part of the larger fellowship of learners. Here at Wheaton College I am learning alongside peers, faculty, and staff how to be an intellectual mountaineer. So friends, if you are climber, consider the mountaineer. If you’re already a mountaineer, rejoice in the fellowship of the rope. 

Juan-Fernando León M.A. ’17 is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in history of Christianity. Photo captions (top to bottom): Juan-Fernando hiking; Juan-Fernando with Dr. Jennifer McNutt and fellow graduate students and friends at the movies together.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect w/ Wheaton College Graduate School Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Confronting Identity Through Traditional Dance

Posted November 18, 2016 by Serena Suh '18

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serena-suhIt is the night of the talent show. Over the past three months, I had probably practiced every second of my dance more times than the hours I’d slept this semester. The emcees call my name. I walk out and take my place on stage. With the audience, I watch a short clip of a young girl and her father in traditional Korean dress prancing merrily down a dirt path. It is a scene from Spirit’s Homecoming (귀향), a film dedicated to comfort women during the Japanese occupation in Korea. Although I am two generations removed from the colonial experience, the memory of terror and injustice still remains in painfully striking ways. I am a 1.5 generation Korean American (meaning I was born in Korea but moved to the states at a very young age), and therefore face the dilemma of belonging to Korea or the United States, yet I still feel a strange sense of familiarity to this history. 

This—Korea’s story of pain and resilience, my story as a Korean American—is the story that I wanted to convey at the talent show. 

However, it was not always so rosy for the few months preceding the show. There were multiple times when I doubted my performance. You see, Asian Americans have a history of being seen as an “other” in the United States. It has been manifested in so many ways throughout history. Especially as a person who has called the States my home, this is hurtful. The question arose: am I just perpetuating the othering experienced by so many Asian immigrants? Will my dance be received well by the audience? While talent show was a very fun experience, it also forced me to confront the questions of identity that I never really had before. In the end, I was able to perform that night with a calm heart. However, it was only through the conversations with different students, staff, and faculty that I confidently walked onto stage. Fellow students encouraged me to be confident and cheered me on as I spent hours in the dance studio; faculty and staff were affirming and comforting, reminding me that what I believe and who I am should be embraced. 

Although sometimes stressful, this experience has reminded me why I am still excited to be at Wheaton College. There are so many people here that encourage, stretch, and grow me in ways that I cannot imagine happening anywhere else. And so, inspired not only by the video of the Korean father and daughter, but also by the amazing support of my friends at Wheaton, I danced. 

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Serena Suh ’18 is a philosophy (integrated anthropology) and international relations double major at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Serena performing a traditional fan dance at the 2016 Wheaton Talent Show; Serena and fellow Mac 4 floormates at the 2016 President's Ball.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Finding Beauty in Form and Function: the Applied Health Science Major at Wheaton

Posted November 9, 2016 by Phil Bagley '17

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Coming into Wheaton, I was initially a bit unsure about which major to choose. However, I ultimately chose to pursue a major in Applied Health Science because I did not have my sights set on a specific career (though I was interested in science) and wanted a major that I could take in a variety of directions. What initially caught my attention about it was the diversity of subject matter and the direct applicability built into the major, and I have not been disappointed. 

There has been so much to be thankful for in studying the sciences at Wheaton. I have personally been blessed by the instruction of professors who are both deeply rooted in their faith and established in their field. From these professors I have not only learned the material, but also lessons for life. Probably my favorite example of this occurred in Human Anatomy when Dr. Townsend encouraged us to pray for the families of the cadavers who were undergoing an extended time of mourning between the death and funeral of their loved ones while they allowed us to interactively study the human body. This challenged me and my peers to look beyond our own studies and back to the good of others. 

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My advice for those who intend to or are already involved in the sciences at Wheaton is to maintain a sense of wonder. Allow your classes to give you an opportunity to truly appreciate God as the Creator. It can be easy to lose perspective when times are stressful, but if you work to consistently appreciate the opportunity that you have and the beauty in the form and function of the human body, you will be well on your way to making the most of your time here. Staying positive and–above all–thankful will go a long way towards maintaining not only the best frame of mind for learning, but also towards using your knowledge and gifts to the glory of God. 

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Phil Bagley ’17 is a senior studying applied health science, and has also participated in crew and served as an RA in Traber and Evans Hall. Click here to learn more about the sciences at Wheaton. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. Photo captions (top to bottom): Phil and partners using ultrasound technology in the physiology lab; Evans Hall residence assistants; Phil and members of Wheaton crew.

How Arena Theater Helped Me Find My Tribe

Posted November 2, 2016 by Rebecca Watkins '18

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Coming to Wheaton, I was sure that Arena Theater was a community that I was meant to be a part of. As a missionary kid, I have experienced the feeling of having no idea where to call home, but this community of artists has given me that feeling in a real way. We sometimes call it finding your “tribe,” and that is exactly what I have come to find. I chose to participate in Arena Theater because I recognized that it was a tribe of people who truly care for each other, and I was hungry for that.

This year, I am blessed to be a part of Fiddler on the Roof, which is my favorite show. For me, the work is directly applicable to the world and to my life. Being from Ukraine and having experienced similar situations as the characters has opened me up to healing and appreciation for my story and the story of others. I am in the show and work as a props manager and in marketing. It’s a lot to have on my plate, but it is work that I love doing. These people–who I consider to be family–surprise me every day with their work on the show. Mark Lewis’ commitment to playing the main role and directing the show is inspiring. He carries the stories with deep empathy, just like he does with the stories of his students. As we all spend hours learning the choreography, meet about how to make fake cheese, and celebrate tradition together, we are participating in life together, like the village we are representing on stage. 

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Again, the teachers in this theater are a wonderful blessing in my life. Michael Stauffer shows me how theater can really heal the evils in the world, Andy Mangin teaches me about how capable I am to do what I have been tasked, Mark Lewis teaches Shakespeare to us willing and hungry students, and Heidi Elliot is a source of constant guidance. This doesn’t even include my fellow students and alumni who I have been guided by as well.

For students thinking about joining Arena Theater, I would like to again emphasize that the tools this program gives you are valuable. You learn how to be an artistic citizen. Whether you join the Workout ensemble, work on the set, take classes, or help with ticket sales, it is all equally valuable and good work. 

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Rebecca Watkins ’18 is a communication major with a concentration in theater. To learn more about Arena Theater and upcoming performances, visit their websiteTo learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. Photo captions (top to bottom): Part of the cast of Fiddler on the Roof; Director Mark Lewis as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof; cast of Fiddler on the Roof eating dinner during a long day of rehearsals. Photos courtesy of Keenan Dava ’18.

My Wheaton Experience as the First-Ever Undergraduate Student from Estonia

Posted October 28, 2016 by Simona Andreas '18

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My decision to come to the United States for the first time as a 19-year-old was prompted by my dream as a 6-year-old kid. My dad told me that I was six when I first declared that I would one day move to America. When asked if I knew where or what it was, I simply shouted: “No, but I’m going!” 

I found Wheaton College when Google-searching colleges in the U.S., and I was surprised as I read about Christian colleges for the first time in my life. In Estonia, where I was born and raised, we have 1.3 million people, out of which less than 2 percent are Christian. This reality doesn’t generate many Christian educational institutions. It became clear to me that a Christian college was everything I didn’t know I was looking for. I knew Wheaton was the place for me because the vision and the mission of the school catered to my ambitions and hopes. 

When I stepped off the bus after spending a week in the Passage program at HoneyRock, I was disoriented, scared, thrilled, and very confused. The word spread quickly that I was the first Estonian to ever come to Wheaton and study in the undergraduate program. All of my classmates seemed very enthusiastic about the fact, even though most had no idea where the tiny country was located

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While I enjoy bragging rights both in Estonia and at Wheaton, it is at times challenging to be the first and only student from Estonia. For me, this means that I get to set the scene for the next Estonians to come after me. Even though it’s hard to find people around me who can relate to my background, I love bringing a new culture and a new perspective to my classrooms and relationships. For Wheaton, this means that their vision is reaching new countries and the student body is growing in geographical diversity. 

The best part about my Wheaton experience has been the people that I’ve met here. Coming from another culture, I wasn’t accustomed to spending time with my professors and getting to know them on a personal level. I definitely experienced some culture shock as a freshman when Dr. Milliner invited me to join his family for Thanksgiving at his house. Ever since then, I’ve tried to get to know all of my professors through meals or office hours. Every one of them has been very welcoming and highly influential in my life. It’s been fun to be immersed in the American culture and meet people from all across the globe. The friends I’ve made here have made my Wheaton experience truly amazing. 

Wheaton is unique in the way all parts of its community are connected and long for each other’s well-being. I am privileged to be a part of the family and I’m glad to say that I feel at home here. 

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Simona Andreas ’18 is a psychology and biblical and theological studies double major from Tallinn, Estonia. She is actively involved in Student Government at Wheaton as the EVP of Global EngagementTo learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. Photo captions (top to bottom): Simona frequently visits downtown Chicago; Simona's hometown of Tallinn, Estonia; Simona taking photos at the Skydeck at Willis Tower.

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