It was October 1, 2014. After a seemingly endless copy editing session with the staff of Huntington University’s campus newspaper, I clicked into my email box to filter through my messages. It was there that I found my acceptance letter from the Wheaton College Graduate School.
“Dear Natasha, I am pleased to inform you that you are being offered admission to the Masters of Arts program in Intercultural Studies and TESOL …”
I rubbed my eyes.
I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Wheaton is my dream school. Back in 2007, I went to Franklin Graham’s four-day festival at Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong. At the time, I didn’t know who Franklin or Billy Graham were, and I wasn’t aware of their connections to Wheaton. Amazed by how jam-packed the auditorium was, I saw that 423,335 people from 800 different churches attended the event. After my experience at the festival, I found out my longtime family friend Jana Hoobler M.A. ’06, who has been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for over twenty years in Zhuhai city and Macau in China, was a Wheaton graduate. That’s how I heard of Wheaton for the very first time.
Coming from a journalism background at a small private Christian university in Indiana, I never once thought about coming to Wheaton until my junior year, when one of my professors presented the top three TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs in the nation, which included Wheaton. Later on, I took my TESOL class about listening and speaking with professor Virginia Clough Yang M.A. ’11, who also went through the TESOL program at Wheaton. Next thing I knew, I made my decision to apply.
I love Wheaton not only because it offers one of the best TESOL programs in the nation, but I also love the fact that we get to celebrate cultural diversity. I get to interact with people from all over the world—whether they are from Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Brazil, or Mongolia. They have shown me a world of excitement, mystery, and uniqueness.
I also appreciate how TESOL applies educational theories into everyday life. By listening to Dr. Alan Seaman and his experiences in Southeast Asia, Dr. Cheri Pierson and her Ph.D. studies in Europe, and Dr. Pam Barger’s upbringing in Chicagoland, what I am learning is more than just how to teach—I also learn what to teach, whether it is using technology or books, social media or print media.
I love Wheaton not only because I can further my education, but also because I get to grow in Christ. I am starting to see and understand that we are all parts of God’s ministry. God has planned everything one step ahead for me. He knows Wheaton is the right place for me to equip myself physically and spiritually. Seeing all the internship opportunities ahead of me with organizations like World Relief, ELIC, Wycliffe, Pui Tak Center, and other resources in the greater Chicago area, I am excited to explore a career that can blend TESOL and journalism together.
Natasha Zeng M.A. ’16 is a student from Zhuhai, China, studying intercultural studies and TESOL at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (from top): A group from the English Language Institute of China (ELIC) came to study at Wheaton College Graduate School during summer 2015; Every year, Wheaton’s TESOL department offers a field trip to Little India, Chicago. In fall 2015, the group went to South Asian Friendship center and went for Pakistani food; Wheaton’s TESOL department provides a variety of internship opportunities based in Chicago.
Wheaton College’s Art Department hosts an annual exhibition, 12x12, showcasing student art no larger than twelve inches in any dimension. This year, I submitted a portrait of Charlotte Hallstrom ’16 originally taken for Digital Photography with Professor Greg Halvorsen Schreck during the fall of 2013.
In addition to displaying a striking portrait, I wanted to depart from the traditional display medium of a print on matte or glossy paper. Instead, I decided to have the portrait printed on a 12-inch metal sheet, which resulted in a number of unique visual nuances. When the print is viewed in person, lighter areas of the photo—Charlotte’s hands and face—are transparent, revealing the underlying grain of the metal, while darker areas take on a reflective quality that almost puts you in the photo when seeing it head-on.
While the theme of this year’s 12x12 competition is “Work: Curse or Calling,” I don’t seek to influence the viewer toward a particular vein of thought regarding vocation. Charlotte’s positive yet not-wholly-defined expression allows the viewer to project emotion onto the piece and leaves room for speculation about its purpose.
Though Wheaton’s community was the strongest draw for me as a prospective student, I have so enjoyed the opportunity to study art alongside my business/economics major. Wheaton’s art professors certainly exhibit some of the stereotypical quirkiness you would expect from a university art professor, which creates a flexible and laid-back classroom environment. This unique environment fosters openness and a level of discussion not typically found in other courses at Wheaton. All in all, from performing drawing stretches during breaks with Professor Leah Samuelson to critiquing work over homemade scones in graphic design with Professor Jeremy Botts, art classes at Wheaton will regularly challenge, shock, and remind you to take yourself just a little bit less seriously.
Philip Christiansen ’16 is a senior studying business/economics with a minor in art. Photo Caption: Christiansen's 12x12 entry of Charlotte Hallstrom '16.
I can remember my angst toward writing a college application essay. It felt like I was being asked to sum up the whole of my existence in 500 words. Colleges wanted to know: what makes me stand out from other applicants?
That’s a pretty scary question. So I decided to answer an easier, more subjective question: what excites you? Here are three tips on how to make that question work:
1) Brainstorm things that motivate you to go an extra mile.
My father once told me that life is a lot easier if you spend it doing something you like. I enjoyed Biology a lot in high school, so I shadowed doctors, observed surgeries, and volunteered in hospitals. I thought being a doctor and solving biological issues would be fun for me, so I pursued science. Anything that brings you joy is worth doing.
2) Leave room for imagination.
The essay is your time to shine. The danger is to write an essay about what you want to do vocationally. By writing an essay about an end goal (i.e. a job), you put limitations on yourself. Instead, write about what excites you. If you write an essay about what excites you, it leaves room for imagination. If you like something, declare that you like it. Much of higher education is driven by the motivation to get a good job, but at Wheaton College there is a bigger focus on becoming a life-long-learner. The emphasis is more on the “Life of The Mind.” Francis Collins, the brilliant scientist, Christian, and head of the famed Human Genome Project, had no idea what he wanted to “do” in life. However, he did know he enjoyed chemistry. So, he studied chemistry.
3) Explore not who you are, but who you want to become.
When I wrote my college essays, I explored not who I was, but what I wanted to become. To do well in college you need to enjoy what you are doing or else you will get burnt out. Write about something you believe in, not something that will resemble another student’s essay. Be distinctive by being honest. Be authentic rather than striving to be unique.
Jeff Camp ’18 is a sophomore from St. Louis majoring in chemistry. In his free time, he enjoys photography and coffee brewing. To apply to Wheaton College or to refer a student, visit the admissions website.
Marshall Hollingsworth ’16 was reluctant to go to Wheaton—the dream was to attend a D1 school and play soccer professionally. He changed his mind after his visit to Wheaton in the fall of his senior year, though.
“I realized there are more important things in life than just soccer,” Marshall says.
His freshman year, things seemed to be going well: the team was winning and Marshall got a lot of playing time. However, an injury to his knee right before post-season challenged his identity.
“I spent a lot of time in prayer, really talking to God about it and just trying to figure out what I was going to do if I couldn’t play soccer…that’s when I learned to lean on God,” Marshall says.
According to Marshall, the most amazing thing about being a Wheaton College student is the people who are willing to pour into the lives of the students and help them grow both emotionally and spiritually.
“I have not experienced God’s love as much as I have these past three years at Wheaton College,” Marshall shares.
Watch the video above to see Marshall share more about how playing soccer at Wheaton has shaped who he is as a person and athlete.
Marshall Hollingsworth ’16 is a senior studying business and economics. Learn more about Wheaton soccer on the Wheaton Thunder website, Twitter @Wheaton_Thunder, and Instagram @Wheaton_Thunder. Video filmed, produced, and edited by Kevin Schmalandt.
As much as I'd love to avoid the truth, I came to Wheaton from Hong Kong with the hopes of pursuing a girl—without knowing what Wheaton was all about! That pursuit didn’t work out for me, but some lessons are learned the hard way.
The best thing about Wheaton is the atmosphere and the people—they are so friendly! For example, when I first asked a Conservatory of Music classmate to play a concert piece of mine, I was planning to establish a business relationship: I pay him, he plays it, he takes the money, we part ways. However, that wasn't how things went. I ended up becoming friends with him, and that's what is unique about this place. Wheaton has people who are encouraging, supportive, and who genuinely care about what you do and are happy for your accomplishments.
I've spent one-on-one lesson times with all four music composition professors in the Conservatory of Music. Private composition lessons helped me the most since they tailor the education for my specific needs. My favorite professor is Dr. Sommerville. I've had him for three years in a row now and since most of my film music is set for orchestra, I usually send him either cues or orchestrations for comments. Even though it's not related to Dr. Sommerville's work, he gives me very practical pointers and highlights the good parts. It's a constant joy learning from him.
Two summers ago, I helped with the score for my first cinema film called 暴瘋語 (Insanity) released in all major cinemas in Asia. I freelance on a regular basis. Some commissioning highlights in the U.S. include composing Beverly Hills Vista School's graduation fanfare (Los Angeles) and placing music on the Miss Indiana Pageant event. I just got hired to be the lead composer of a cinema film called Lost in Hong Kong (to be released in Hong Kong in July 2015) because of my musical ability, but more because of my attitude, according to the producer.
I'm fortunate enough to be in a place in life where I thought I would be when I'm 30 right now because of the community's constant support, individualized training, and God's grace. Thanks to Wheaton, I became a happier person and I cannot stress more how great the community here is.
Elliot Leung ’17 is a junior music composition major from Hong Kong. To experience his work, visit his website. Photo captions: Elliot conducts scoring sessions and concert music performances, visits and networks with companies including DreamWorks, and performs his pieces in a contemporary concert. Learn more about Wheaton's Conservatory of Music on their website.