Posted June 21, 2017 by
Tags: The Liberal Arts My Wheaton Global and Experiential Learning
Wheaton in the Holy Lands
If someone had asked me where I would be at this point in life two years ago, the answer “Wheaton College” would not be surprising, but the additional “Wheaton in the Holy Lands” response would definitely be unexpected. I am one of the many Wheaton students whose attendance has been precluded by numerous family members, but like many of those “legacy” students, family ties are not the sole reason I am here. Certainly, carrying on tradition is an honor and privilege, but what ultimately drew me to Wheaton College was the same characteristics that intrigued my family members years ago: excellent academics and Christ-centered community.
I applied for the Wheaton in the Holy Lands program a few days before the application deadline based on amazing reviews from last year’s attendees and the encouragement of a friend on my floor who had already applied. With little hope of this freshman making the cut, I submitted my application and waited with less-than-hopeful expectations. By mid-November, my expectations were realized when I received an e-mail categorizing my application status as “Waitlisted.” Disappointed but not necessarily surprised, I continued preparing for the end of the semester. A small spark of hope lived on in the back of my mind as campus emptied for Christmas Break, but I tried to avoid thinking about it. Then, one unexpected January day, Dr. Chris Vlachos presented me with the best late Christmas present a girl could want: An email stating that my application status had changed from “Waitlisted” to “Accepted.”
The rest is history.
Six months later, I am writing this story while in Greece, after three weeks in Israel surrounded by more of what originally drew me to Wheaton: Christian community and excellent academics. Between field studies in the places Jesus walked and excursions to where the Gospel was first launched to the ends of the earth, this trip has provided an academically enriching experience like no other, and I am able to say with confidence that I have never enjoying learning quite this much. In addition, team meals, long bus rides, and beautiful moments of worship have cultivated a community of brothers and sisters who strive to love in the same manner as the One we are studying. Thus, whether I am in Wheaton, Illinois or thousands of miles and several time zones away, the core principles of my experience remain the same, making for an irresistible environment that one can’t help but embrace.
When thinking about my return to Wheaton this fall, I cannot help but consider how this trip, as well as the next three years, will impact the discovery of my vocation. As a business/economics major the range of possibilities is rather broad, but if one were to ask what my “dream job” is at this point, I would say opening my own breakfast restaurant or working for an event-planning business. Regardless of whether or not I end up in one of these fields, my time at Wheaton continues to show me that vocation, the future for which college is preparing me, is much more than a job, and that a job is much more than an income. Whatever career I land in, Wheaton classes and programs continue to demonstrate that ultimate fulfillment and purpose come from following the footsteps of Jesus every day in every situation.
Right now, however, I am not at Wheaton, nor am I looking for a job. Planning for the future is certainly important, but while in the Holy Lands, I prefer to be thoroughly present. As I reflect upon this experience, I am coming to realize that, on a small scale, this trip represents all that I am thankful for about Wheaton. The past four weeks have been filled with incredibly intelligent professors who share not only their knowledge but also their lives, learning that challenges as well as encourages, community that strives to show love and grace, and daily reminders of the abundance of life that overflows from the living God. By His grace I enter into this overflowing life, contribute to this community, learn from these incredible minds, and begin to see and know the one true God more, both at Wheaton College and abroad. Just like the headwaters of the Jordan River always gushing from the foot of Mt. Hermon, His grace never stops flowing.
Elise Alexander ’20 is a major who traveled with Wheaton in the Holy Lands this summer. Photo captions (top to bottom): Sunflowers on the way to Cana; Bedouin man in the Judean wilderness; Sunset over the Mediterranean from the coast of Greece; Temple of Poseidon. All photos credit Kathryn Risher ’17.