The biology and psychology double major, who fell in love with research in her second semester, is soaking everything up, from her biology research labs to her participation in student dance ministry Confessions and Latino heritage club Unidad Cristiana.
Serving on the cabinet of Unidad Cristiana has helped Paola understand the value in embracing her identity, including her cultural heritage. “It’s so beautiful to see my identity as a child of God, and a Latina. I am American but I am also Peruvian. Like anyone involved in Unidad Cristiana or Koinonia or any other group in the Office of Multicultural Development, it’s a blessing to be of one nationality but have this other race and culture. It’s been really special and really challenging.”
Paola says, as a freshman at Wheaton “there was so much joy meeting new people from inside and outside the United States and hearing their stories. I loved trying new things.”
In addition to discipleship small groups and intramural sports, Paola found deep community in her dorm. “More than anything, God did not mess up when he put me and my roommates together,” she says. “That’s the strongest community I have at Wheaton. It’s amazing how people you didn’t know a year ago become like family. They are with you through the ups and the downs.”
Paola plans on becoming involved with the healthcare field, a desire that grew from participating in a summer ministry trip to Ghana with the Office of Christian Outreach last year. “It was phenomenal to say the least,” she says. “It was a medical mission trip, but they also had teaching and evangelism, which was challenging and growing. I loved being in the clinic, and that was the point that I realized [the clinic] is where my heart is. And if God gave me that heart for it, I want to pursue it.”
Paola is pursuing a double major to better understand the psychology of her patients before and after treatment. Although the two programs keep her busy, she has spent the last semester researching cordylophora, a freshwater hydranth, with Professor of Biology Dr. Nadine Rorem. She says she loves the one-on-one learning time.
“Professors are so available to open up their schedules to help,” she says. “They are so personal. My advisor, Dr. Jennifer Busch, has helped me beyond compare—with my schedule, life advice, wisdom. It’s more than simply someone that teaches you every week. It’s a relationship where you can have meals with them and tell them what’s going on in your life.”
Looking ahead to her junior year, when she and her roommates will move into their very own campus apartment, Paola is excited to continue her Wheaton experience. “I’ve learned that I love research, and I would like to continue that,” she says. “I’m excited to learn more and spread that curiosity.”