#MyWheaton Blog

Posted November 18, 2015 by
Tags: Internship The Liberal Arts Spiritual Life My Wheaton Global and Experiential Learning

Growing up, I always heard positive things about Wheaton College from high school teachers and physicians who had attended. Despite my tour of campus on a cold, gray day, I was drawn to the College’s traditional brick buildings and strong academic programs. Walking through Edman Chapel, I knew this was a school where I would grow closer to Christ through relationships with my peers.



I have been particularly thankful for the way Wheaton’s liberal arts program has enhanced my pre-med studies, shaping me into a better scholar in my pursuit of medical school. Taking Philosophy 101 helped me to better formulate my views on health care issues and changed the way I view what it means to be human. As I am particularly interested in pediatrics, my Developmental Psychology course provided me with a foundational understanding of children’s growth and development.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to intern abroad in Kunming, China, through the Applied Health Sciences (AHS) department. I was grateful for the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in some of my AHS classes to the work I was doing. For students interested in pursuing medical school, PA school, nursing school, and any other pre-health field, Wheaton is an excellent choice. With pre-health students from all different backgrounds, opportunities for research, and challenging classes, I have continued to give thanks for the ways I have been shaped by peers and professors.

Although I expected to grow spiritually throughout my time at Wheaton, I never anticipated the spiritual challenges Christ would use to call me to Himself.  As I have struggled with spiritual complacency and identity formation, my friends on campus have continued to encourage and support me. One of the biggest challenges I have faced at Wheaton has been prioritizing both my relationship with God and friends amid a busy schedule. I am continually thankful for the way my friends, chapel messages, and the College reminds me to keep Christ at the center of my life.

Daniel Tannous '16 is a senior Applied Health Science major. Originally from Phoenix, AZ, he grew up in Kunming, China. To learn more about Wheaton's Applied Health Science Program (AHS), visit their website. 

Photo Caption: Daniel with friends at Honey Rock over fall break. 


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.


Over the summer I spent two months in Germany with Wheaton in Germany, an immersive history, culture, and language program. In late June we began the internship portion of the program, working at the Berlin City Mission, an evangelical organization with functions ranging from neighborhood childcare to a youth hostel.

Along with several others, I worked at the refugee reception center, a temporary structure built to serve the overwhelming numbers of Syrian and Albanian refugees flooding into Berlin. The building housed around 500 people while helping them apply for asylum, learn German, and resettle in government housing. From the moment the refugees arrive--exhausted, tense, and with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs--they are welcomed and treated kindly and respectfully. I worked an evening shift in the kitchen, spending the rest of my days exploring the city’s museums and cafes.

As I became friends with the Syrian children and their families, I began to spend more of my free time at the center, playing soccer, giving the children much needed affection and attention, teaching basic German to the adults, and relaxing outside late into the evening as the family that “adopted” me discussed politics. One evening towards the end of my internship, I became part of the reception process first-hand.


It was already about 11 p.m., and I was sitting with my adopted Syrian family listening to them talk about Middle Eastern politics and cuddling with the children. Suddenly my friend Amr, an Egyptian Coptic Christian who works at the center, asked me to come with him. A new Syrian family had just arrived and they needed to apply for asylum at the nearby police station before they could stay at the reception center. Amr could speak with the family but he needed me to translate into German. I felt adrenaline rush through me as I realized that for the first time, something important depended on my familiarity with my second language.

My heart went out to the family who had traveled for multiple days with their whole life contained in two bags. Their two young daughters were visibly exhausted, and although the parents were wonderfully patient, it was clear they were also fatigued. We took them to the police station and, working together, Amr and I filled out the necessary paperwork for them. Unfortunately, the family had to wait at the police station for five hours while the papers were processed. It was uncomfortable there, so we returned to the center to retrieve food and blankets for the family. It was a small gesture but their gratitude was evident, and I hope they felt a warmer welcome into their new country than the police station offered. I was joyful to be in the right place at the right time and grateful I worked at a center that allowed me such experiences.


Clementine Kane ’18 is a sophomore studying art history with a minor in German who participated in  Wheaton in Germany. Photo Captions: Clementine and Tim Wruck ’17 working at a summer festival hosted by Berlin City Mission; two refugee children at Berlin City Mission; the refugee center at Berlin City Mission.


Before coming to Wheaton, I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be majoring in art history and philosophy. I certainly didn’t imagine that I would be working as an intern at the National Civic Art Society, an arts organization close to some of the country’s most renowned art collections. Yet here I am, working this summer in the heart of Washington, D.C. 

Each week last semester I spent hours researching and applying for internships. I figured I would be rejected by most, but I assumed I would be accepted by at least one. I wholly overestimated myself. Professors, friends, and parents alike warned me that an internship would be difficult to land, but somehow I never considered the possibility that all of my meticulous research and carefully written applications would result in total rejection. I’m sure you can see where this is going: God clearly had different plans for my summer than I had. After a semester spent laboring and worrying over applications, my summer plans came together in less than a week thanks to a last-minute connection made by art professor Dr. Milliner, and I was headed to a position that was never on my radar. 

Four weeks into the summer, I’ve learned that life as an intern is not all fun and games. The thing that adults call “work” can actually be hard. Before beginning my internship, I had grandiose visions of accomplishing great things at the organization I am working for, not expecting that I would spend most of my time doing small projects for others. I certainly hope I can still help further the vision of the organization this summer, in part through an assignment to develop themed tours of Washington’s art and architecture. But I am convinced that this internship, while ostensibly for the benefit of an arts organization, is actually about my own improvement. Those entry-level tasks I mentioned? They’re lengthening my attention span. I’m learning to assert myself and express my opinions. I’m appreciating that I have something to add. I'm also learning that, while I love art history and philosophy, I shouldn't limit myself to those disciplines. The skills I am developing in my studies can be applied to any type of endeavor. The world offers many more possibilities than I had imagined. 

Until this summer I hadn’t fully realized the value of my education, and it is only now that I'm appreciating the usefulness of Wheaton's beloved ‘liberal arts degree.’ I love art and philosophy classes, but for now the real point isn't to become an expert in either field, but to learn how to think deeply, write clearly, and speak articulately. My experience this summer is contributing to these goals – but I’m learning in a work setting instead of a classroom. 

Summer 2015 has been a challenge, but that challenge is rewarding, and exciting, and sometimes deliriously fun. Throughout the chaos of internship applications, rejection, acceptance, and moving to D.C., one theme has continually run through my mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I hope that wherever you are this summer, your vision of yourself and the world is being stretched; all the while knowing God is guiding your path. 

Elise Topazian ’17 is a junior studying art history and philosophy. Visit online to learn more about Wheaton’s art programs and student internship opportunities, and share your summer work experiences on social media using the hashtag #MyWheaton. Photo captions (from top): Elise with friends in D.C.; Elise in a National Civic Art Society gallery; Elise standing in front of a National Civic Art Society gallery.

fbiThere I was, sitting casually in Dr. Barrett McRay’s class, sneakily checking my phone, when I let out a shriek. Before I knew it, everyone’s eyes were turned to me.  I couldn’t unglue my eyes from the subject line of my most recent email: “Federal Bureau of Investigation—Congratulations!”

Over the next few weeks, as I weighed the offer to accept an internship with the FBI in Chicago, I reminisced about the excitement I felt when I met my first FBI agent in middle school. There was the idea of working for something greater than yourself: for justice.

Today I sit at my desk at the Bureau downtown, amazed at the chain of events that have occurred since I was offered my internship over a year ago.  I’ve gone through a polygraph test, background investigation, internship credits, a hiring freeze, job applications, and an endless amount of questions: What does the future hold?  Why do I really want to work for the FBI? And furthermore, can a career with the U.S. government build the Kingdom of God?

As I reflect on my years at Wheaton, I can’t pinpoint a specific class, experience, or individual person that has brought me to the place I am now. I wish we offered a class called “Working for the Kingdom of God and the FBI at the Same Time,” but that hasn’t made it into the course catalog (yet). What I can pinpoint is that my time at Wheaton has instilled in me an innate desire to use all I have to build the Kingdom of God.

Each day I walk into the office with a few questions on my mind: What is my ministry?  How can I share experiences and interact with my co-workers in a manner that exudes Christ’s love?  Each of these questions have been formed, honed, and modeled for me through my classes, conversations, and experiences at Wheaton.

What was a seed planted in my life by the living Gospel has been cultivated during my time at Wheaton. My desire to serve Christ’s Kingdom has been stroked, pruned, broken, challenged, revived, and most of all, empowered.  It’s painted on a stone by Admissions, and proven in the lives of the people on this campus: Wheaton College truly stands “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

Somehow, for some reason, my resume was plucked out of a stack of hundreds as I made it to FBI Chicago with a badge and a desk—but also with so much more.  The Lord has given me the unique opportunity to join the FBI, but Wheaton has given me a passion for Christ, for His Kingdom, and an army of believers to share this passion with. It is with this hope and truth that I step out in faith every day to build the Kingdom of God.

This post was written by a Wheaton College student who is currently working for the FBI and must remain anonymous