Student Activities

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.

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.

Exploring Culture and Community with Koinonia

Posted September 16, 2016 by Michael Chen '17

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wheaton-college-koinoniaI have no dramatic story about getting involved in Koinonia. A few upperclassmen invited a friend and I to a Koinonia Large Group gathering, so we went. Though I wasn’t formally involved in Koinonia aside from attending Large Groups, the social support networks I found through Koinonia really made a difference in my freshman experience. I looked up to the upperclassmen and regularly ate with them and even stayed with several juniors during spring break. One of those juniors became my mentor the next year and, though he now lives in Hong Kong, has remained a close friend.

The events drew me in but the extensive support network kept me involved. Through Koinonia, I was able to develop a much deeper  understanding of my racial/ethnic background. I still remember my freshman year Fall Retreat, where I learned to neither be ashamed nor prideful of my cultural background, but rather allow God to use it for Kingdom-building. This idea transformed my experiences at Wheaton: I used my Mandarin to tutor immigrant children at the Pui Tak Center in Chinatown, I resolved conflict with my mother, I went to China for a semester, and I am now looking for opportunities in China after graduation.

It’s hard to express the privilege I feel in leading an organization that has impacted my life so deeply. As president, I try to emulate the successes of Koinonia by engaging with culture and capitalizing on our strength as a strong support network; however I also push myself and the cabinet to consider areas that need improvement.

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Perhaps the biggest question our organization faces this year is how to best plan for the future. The face of Wheaton is changing as Asian students now constitute over 10 percent of the undergraduate population, and with this comes both opportunity and responsibility: we have the opportunity to bring forward Asian and Asian American voices to help develop a more full  picture of God and His Kingdom here at Wheaton; we also have the responsibility to advocate for and serve these students. This semester, we will focus on identity formation through providing safe spaces for students to explore their backgrounds. In the spring we will focus on empowerment and equipping students to effectively articulate their identities and serve the community through their racial/cultural backgrounds.

 

I want to extend an open invitation for anyone to come to our Large Groups. These monthly events focus on informing all students on what it means to be Asian in America and offer a unique perspective on God and the Kingdom through an Asian lens. Our aim is not to become insular, but rather to provide spaces for people to engage in questions and discussions that are relevant to us all: Does God care about my background and experiences? How do I see my experiences through the lens of the Gospel? How has my culture shaped my faith?

 

Be on the lookout for our posters and emails! Feel free to contact me or another member if you have any questions.

 

Michael Chen ’17 is a senior studying sociology and history with a Chinese minor. Learn more about Koinonia on their website. Photo captions (from top): Students at Koinonia's Fall Retreat; students gather with their "family groups" to compete in the Family Group Olympics.

An Introduction to Unidad Cristiana at Wheaton

Posted September 7, 2016 by Carol Torres '17

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Unidad Cristiana is a place for students of Hispanic/Latino background to feel safe and at home. It is also a place for the rest of the student campus to come in and learn about our culture and our experiences as minorities, to try our diverse foods, and to learn more about what it means to be Hispanic. 

I have been involved in Unidad since my freshman year, and am serving as president this year. Unidad has been a comfortable place for me because I am able to share my experiences with people of my same culture and eat Hispanic dishes that reminded me of home. My experience as part of Unidad has also been empowering: I have been able to form my own beliefs about my identity as a Hispanic woman, which has led me to share those experiences with people that are very different from me. I have been able to expand my horizons and join other campus organizations, develop close relationships with professors, and appreciate the treasures Wheaton has to offer. 

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The highlight of my involvement with Unidad has been seeing our members grow and blossom. Seeing my peers expand their horizons by joining student organizations within Wheaton’s Office of Christian Outreach and Student Activities Office has been a joy to me. I like seeing people realize that being of different ethnicity does not limit you from doing things other people do. We are just as important, just as capable, and just as loved by Christ as anyone else. Seeing our members go out and make a difference with their distinct voices and opinions makes me proud. 

During previous years, Unidad has been growing and involving more people that are not of Hispanic/Latino background, and this year we want people to know that Unidad is not exclusive – it is open to everyone to come and learn about what it means to be Hispanic. We plan to create campus-wide events and collaborative events with other student organizations. We want to live out our organization name, Unidad, which means “unity.” We believe that once we start moving towards unity with everyone, then that will open the doors to conversations, learning, and a greater understanding of each other’s cultures. 

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Carol Torres '17 is a Spanish and Pre-nursing double major and is the president of Unidad Cristiana at Wheaton this year. To learn more about Unidad Cristiana, visit their website. Photo captions (from top): Unidad Cristiana members at Wheaton Bowling Alley; Students come together for a meal at the College Ave. apartments - Unidad hosts bimonthly dinners featuring various authentic Hispanic dishes; Unidad Cristiana members meet to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

A Warm Welcome to Wheaton from your Student Body President

Posted August 24, 2016 by Josh Rowley '17

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If you walk into Lower Beamer this week you are likely to see a lot of new faces–some of them looking very nervous and anxious, others bursting with excitement and anticipation. These faces belong to the 641 new students about to begin an awesome journey here at Wheaton. As I think back about my time here, I can’t help but reflect on the ways in which this community has shaped me and grown me. I wonder though, what will this place be for these new students over the next several years of their lives? As Student Government this year our desire is that Wheaton continues to be a place of growth and encouragement for all of us, from freshmen just beginning to seniors preparing to take the next step in their journeys. 

In each of our lives Wheaton has given us some wonderful years along with some very difficult ones, but through the ups and downs Wheaton has come to be home. The sense of belonging many of us have found here is the driving force behind our desire as Student Government to foster a campus that can truly be called home by all students. It grieves us to know that there are students among us who feel ostracized, excluded, and alone. We want to hear these voices and welcome them in as a part of faithfully living together as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Additionally, we see at Wheaton a beautiful community composed of individuals from all over the world with a huge diversity of perspectives and experiences. We are excited to delve into our differences as a campus, knowing that doing so will necessitate working through some hard issues. We realize that we will never attain perfect community together on this earth, but we sincerely desire another year of growth at Wheaton with the hopes of seeing a small glimpse of our eternal community. 

Finally, we are seeking to promote excellence in our academic and vocational pursuits at Wheaton. We are blessed to be studying at one of a select few institutions that has maintained its Christian foundation while continuing to offer highly-regarded academics. We believe that continuing to prepare well for life beyond the doors of Wheaton is an important part of our calling to go out into the world and serve Christ. 

It has been a privilege and blessing to begin working with my Vice President Elizabeth Tilley ’17, and the 15 members of our board. It is clear that the Lord has assembled a group of students who care deeply about our student body and whose life experiences have equipped them to serve our campus well this year. I am so excited for this year that we have together and trust that the Lord has great things in store for each of your lives and our campus. 

Josh Rowley ’17 is a senior economics major and Student Body President at Wheaton. Elizabeth Tilley ’17 is a senior math and secondary education major and Student Body Vice President. Photo caption: 2016-17 Student Government gathers at HoneyRock in August 2016. Top row (l to r): Brent Westergren, Ted Cockle, Emily Taetzsch, Audrey Gross, Jack McHenney, Elizabeth Tilley, Mady Reno, Alex Kuo, Charisa Fort, Rachel Lies. Bottom row: Simona Andreas, Josh Rowley, Caleb Guerrero, Matt Anderson, Jackie Westeren, Sade Bammimore. Not in photo: Alouette Greenidge, Michael Liu.

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