From First Fears to Lasting Relationships

March 12, 2019

The #MyWheaton blog shares first-person stories from Wheaton students and alumni.

From First Fears to Lasting Relationships

Eugene Bae '21 is an elementary education major with an ESL endorsement. Though born and raised in South Korea, Eugene spent her high school years in Saipan (CNMI) before coming to Wheaton. In this MyWheaton blog post, Eugene shares how her experiences as an international student and Ladder leader have shaped her community at Wheaton.

Coming to Wheaton was a scary step to make as an international student. Although Wheaton was my dream college, the word “first” made me nervous. First time in the States, first time in college, and first time at Wheaton brought me lots of worries, fears, and sadness. I did not expect to finish my freshman year; however, by God’s grace, I was encouraged by how the International Student Programs (ISP) immensely supported and challenged me throughout my freshman year.


2018-19 Ladder leaders

ISP Director Jerry Woehr and ISP Office Coordinator Cheryl Margason always welcomed me with a great smile and opened up a space to share my laughter and tears. Moreover, my ladder leader gave me a home at Wheaton by cooking Korean foods. Not only did she cook for me but also gave me tips on how to thrive at Wheaton. As a recipient of such support, I also wanted to extend this blessing, love, and care to future international students. This is why I applied to be a Ladder leader.

My journey as a Ladder leader started with great ambitions. I was very passionate about serving incoming international, missionary, and third-culture undergraduate students for the 2018-19 school year. I listed down all things that I could do to support them and shared my plans with the Ladder cabinet. However, my ambition became a disappointment when I found out that I wouldn’t be able to attend HoneyRock. The feelings of anxiety and sadness hit me like a disaster as I thought of my absence during HoneyRock and orientation week. Because of my flight, I arrived after orientation week, and of course, I did not know who my Laddies were. It was impossible to start building relationships with my Laddies when I did not even meet them before.


Eugene with a group of other Ladder leaders

Although I was frustrated with myself, I tried my best by sending out emails and care packages through CPO. Thankfully, all of my Laddies responded to me, and I started planning meals with each one. Being dependent on Who’s Who to recognize who they were, I met up with each of them at SAGA and enjoyed my privilege of listening to their stories. By the end of the fall semester, I grabbed meals with six people out of eight Laddies, had a conversation in a restroom with one, and met another one at an ISP event. Through the meetings with Laddies, I experienced God’s providence which enabled me to steadily build strong one-to-one relationships. My journey as a Ladder leader often did not go as I planned but through the midst of all this, I was reminded that God is in control.


Ladder leaders welcoming new international students to campus during the Mastodon March

In the very first ISP student leaders’ gathering, Jerry, the ISP director, shared his wisdom about servanthood. He displayed an image of the good servant by exampling a steward. A steward is never self-centered but always leads people the right way. The definition of stewardship stuck with me because I often thought that I should be the perfect Ladder leader who leads my Laddies through a successful transition to the Wheaton community.

However, I realized that I am not the one who can actually meet my Laddies’ needs but I can be the one who invites them to the place where encouragement, resources, and relationships are. This is because at the end of the day, I am a sinner and I lack many aspects or characteristics. Yes, I do use the talents and gifts that He gave me, but God is our ultimate Father who knows each and every one of our needs. I learned that sometimes I need to let God take control and let Him provide for the needs of the students.


The Ladder leaders having fun as a team

There were and are many ups and downs as a student leader, but I am so grateful for this opportunity. I thought I would pour out to others, but surprisingly, I have been receiving more than what I had given to my Laddies and fellow leaders. It is often overwhelming to work outside of my comfort zone and my culture that I’m used to. Although I am still in the process of growing as a leader, I am learning not to be afraid of showing my weaknesses because I am accepted just the way I am in Christ. I learned to lay down my pride and come before Him in humility, just like how Christ served us in His humblest form.



Ladder leaders provides new international students (F-1 visa, MK and TCK) with connections to people and resources on campus. Find out more information about Ladder.