Well, that went fast. It’s on all of our minds as we Wheaton College seniors prepare to complete our undergraduate degrees this spring. I can still remember my first day moving into Traber dorm four years ago: I was trying to squeeze all of my belongings onto one half of the room when my roommate suddenly appeared with 11 members of his family, including two toddlers and a crying infant. It’s no wonder this day is emblazoned in my memory.
After a quiet and strictly academic freshman year (some of my floormates referred to me as “the Hermit”), I felt challenged by God to step out of my comfort zone to deliberately become more involved in extracurricular activities. This led to my participation in Honduras Project (HP), an annual student-led mission trip to install a gravity-fed potable water system in a rural village in Honduras.
After my first trip to Honduras in 2012, I was privileged to serve on cabinet as HP’s communications coordinator in 2013. Both of my years with HP were unforgettable. I learned about leadership and service while making lasting relationships with both my teammates and the villagers I worked alongside while laying piping for the system.
During my sophomore year, I also applied for Wheaton in the Holy Lands (WIHL). This study abroad opportunity with bible and theology faculty members involves traveling during the summer to lands of the Bible. We spent time in Israel, Greece, Turkey, and Italy, journeying to sites where Scripture was brought to life. There are no sensations quite like splashing into the ‘sea’ where Jesus once walked or sweating in the baking sun in Jericho. It made the stories of the Bible come alive in my heart and mind as they took on tangible, beautiful new meaning. On the final morning in Jerusalem, I watched the sun rise from the Mount of Olives and wondered if Jesus had ever taken the time to soak up this view.
Now, during my last semester on campus, I’m working as an editorial intern at Wheaton magazine. In addition to carrying out traditional copyediting tasks and attending editorial planning meetings, I’ve also been able to publish the magazine’s print material online. My professional skill set has grown—I can now operate within a content management system (I didn’t even know what that was before I started here), maneuver through software like Photoshop, and conduct official interviews.
I’m an introvert—but that doesn’t mean I can let opportunities pass me by due to my uncertainty. Stepping out from my studies to engage other facets of experiential learning has transformed my life, and I’m so thankful for God making each risk worthwhile. As I look to the future that lay before me, I trust that God will continue to provide for this Hermit, wherever He leads me.
Beau Westlund ’14 is Wheaton magazine’s editorial intern. A senior from Bettendorf, Iowa, Beau is graduating with a degree in English with a concentration in writing, and hopes to work in the HR/PR/media field.
When I came to Wheaton, I expected it to be another four years of my high school experience. Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed high school, but I wanted college to be a new chapter of my life, not the rereading of an old one. During my senior year, I tried to stay away from any Christian college. I was headed straight for the most academically rigorous school out there, and I didn’t think a Christian school could give me the level of education I wanted.
At least, not until I came to Wheaton. When I visited, I became completely convinced that I could get a great Christian education. However, it wasn’t until I actually began to live here that I realized the value of the Wheaton community. In students, professors, everyone, the love of Christ shines brightly. If someone had told me that I would find a second family—most of which were within five years of my age—during the first year I came to Wheaton, I would have thought they were joking, but God provided.
As I began to grow in this community, I increasingly found quirky and idiosyncratic things about this place. I started to post and number the funniest, weirdest, and most impactful ones on Facebook as my very own Wheatonisms. Here are a few examples:
Wheatonism #4: “integration of faith and learning”
If you ever come to Wheaton, you’ll hear this over and over again, and thankfully, the professors mean it. I haven’t had a class yet in which the professor hasn’t connected the discipline with the Bible.
Wheatonism #10: People dress as Bible characters for Halloween
Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Not to mention Jesus…
Wheatonism #11: Chicken Finger Day in SAGA (Anderson Commons)
Chicken fingers come around once or twice a semester in the dining room, and trust me, you won’t understand until it happens. At home, I don’t even like chicken fingers. But here, it’s not just food; it’s part of the culture.
Wheatonism #19: Floating
Okay, so first, you craft a root beer float using two straws, then you find a couple that looks like they might be on a first date. (Bonus points if at least one of them is a close friend!) You walk up to the table sneakily, and put the float between them. Let the awkwardness begin!
Wheatonism #24: Professors Care
One of your profs begins to tear up as he says, "If anything I have taught you has been of Christ, hold on to it. If anything I have taught has not been of Christ, I pray that God would cast it away from you. At the end of the day, I hope you saw Christ, not me, in this class." Needless to say, there was a rush of applause at the end of that day, for we did see Christ in that room, every day we were in it. However, it was not merely the level of respect for God's word and honest search for its understanding which won our hearts and ears, but also the care for the lives of each and every one of his 100+ students, shown partly by the fact that he knew ALL of our names.
So all in all, my freshman year a Wheaton has been great so far! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings. But a piece of advice to all of you prospective students out there: If you want to find a place where people search for God wholeheartedly, love each other in community, and seek for knowledge deeply, come to Wheaton. That’s who we are.
College is likely the only time in life where you will get the chance to live with thirty other people, the same age, on the same floor. During my freshman year, I was placed on the fourth floor of Traber dorm, or in Wheaton dialect, T4. I had the chance to meet, as well as hang out with guys I might not have otherwise known had I attended a commuter campus near my home.
I was randomly placed with a roommate, and I can honestly say that within minutes I was so thankful for the random placement. My roommate has become one of my closest friends and we are rooming together again for our sophomore year. Coming from a family with only sisters, living with another guy was a change for me but an awesome experience. By sharing a room we quickly learned about each other, our interests, life stories, and we also grew together in our Christian faith through our involvement in a Discipleship Small Group (DSG). It was comforting to know that I was not alone in this new transition in life and that all these guys I was living next to were in the same situation. It was so much fun having a constant influx of guys coming into my room to talk to my roommate and me. Instead of texting friends to ask how life was going we could simply walk into their room and ask them in person.
Another highlight of my freshman dorm experience was the Bro-Sis activities that are created throughout the year. Beginning in the middle of welcome week, brother and sister floors are paired up. This gives you an easy opportunity to meet girls or vice versa and allows you to form quick friendships with one another. Many of these activities are also what become highlights during freshman year including raids (one floor having a party in the middle of the night for another floor), meals together, movie nights, etc.
We all chose Wheaton for various reasons important to us, including family history, Christian influence, academic reputation and the hope of lifelong relationships. But the opportunity to live and become brothers and sisters with those who only a year ago were perfect strangers is a gift that only comes from living in community together. Regardless of what initially attracted us to Wheaton, the benefits of experiencing life together refines us into individuals that God will use to influence the world.