Global and Experiential Learning

Wheaton College Science Station: in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Posted July 19, 2017 by Liz George '20

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cliff-jumping-at-sheridan-lake

This past month I experienced the blessing of studying at Wheaton’s Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Upon first hearing about summer programs in the Hills, I figured the General Education sequence would be an easy and fun way to satisfy my science requirements. However, my time at the Station transformed into something much more. 

The Black Hills provide an incredibly unique location to experience Christ-centered community, to learn from knowledgeable and loving professors, and to witness God’s provision and power firsthand in natural wonders. Studying at the Science Station allows for a range of educational opportunities, such as observing wildlife in Custer State Park and learning about the geological formations of the Badlands.

This summer, two classes were offered for the month of June: BIO 242: Diversity of Life and CORE 325: Nature, Environment, and Society. Biology professors led students in detailed study of local biological networks and organisms, and CORE offered us a chance to learn about environmental problems from a Christian perspective. After taking CORE 101: Living in God’s Creation during my first semester with Dr. Chris Keil, I opted to take Dr. Keil’s environmental science advanced seminar to engage in further study of creation care from a Christian perspective. 

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Our class, composed of eight students, experienced a tight-knit community in which all voices were heard. In this science seminar, we applied our learning by discussing appropriate Christian responses to contemporary environmental problems. Alongside Dr. Keil and other classmates, I was led to consider very important, yet often ignored, ecological issues. These issues ranged from water rights for people groups experiencing water shortages to land rights for Native Americans who believe the Black Hills form a sacred space to proper wildlife management. 

Though the course content did not directly relate to my major or my vision to become a book editor, it reflected my motivation to attend Wheaton: to pursue an education for my mind, heart, and soul. Socio-environmental issues covered in the course refined my fundamental beliefs. Aware of contemporary issues yet encouraged in heart, I am emboldened to embrace Dr. Keil’s motto of “living simply” in order to reduce my footprint on the environment. Studying in the Hills ignited my desire to care for all creation as an extension of my love for God and neighbor. I am beyond grateful for this precious time that God granted me to appreciate his creation with brothers and sisters in Christ. May we all experience such a transformational education, characterized by a new understanding of Christ’s love for all creation.

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Liz George ’20 is studying English Writing and took general education course requirements at Wheaton’s Science Station in the Black Hills during summer 2017. Photo captions (from top): Cliff jumping at Sheridan Lake with classmates; a view of Devils Tower; Wheaton in the Black Hills students visit Crazy Horse. 

To learn more about Wheaton in the Black Hills, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

A Look Inside Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago Trip

Posted July 12, 2017 by Falecia Sanchez '18, Wyatt Anderson '19

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Falecia Sanchez ’18 and Wyatt Anderson ’19 traveled on Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip during summer 2017, and share some insights about their experience visiting Spain and hiking the Camino de Santiago trail in the blog post below. 

Falecia: After watching the movie The Way, visiting the Cathedral of Santiago, attending Pilgrim's Mass, listening to a Camino scholar lecture on the history of the Camino, and talking to pilgrims who arrived in Santiago de Compostela during the Wheaton in Spain study abroad trip in 2016, I found myself hoping to return one day to walk the Camino. Thus, when Professor Sharenda Barlar of the Modern and Classical Languages Department asked a year later if I would assist in her research of pilgrims on the Camino, my immediate answer was, "Yes!"  

Wyatt: This summer, we walked across Spain, along an ancient pilgrimage route called “El Camino.” We first flew to Madrid, and toured many of Spain’s northern cities including Pamplona, Roncesvalles, Leon, Santo Domingo, Burgos, and Astorga. In each city, we took in the history, culture, and cuisine, visiting everything from museums and cathedrals to restaurants. We then left from Astorga, and began the long walk of 273 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela.

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Along the way we learned a great deal, though exactly what we learned varied depending on who we met and what we saw. One of the people I met was Tania, a middle-aged woman from Germany, who didn’t know what to think of religion after some deaths in her family. My friend Eric and I walked with her for 10 km. It is amazing the subjects you can cover in a 10k conversation. We talked about everything from siblings to faith, and we were all able to talk about what we believe and why. In the end, I gave her my fidget spinner, given to me by a man named Tony the previous day, and told her to pass it along to someone else in the spirit of the Camino.

Falecia: In the future, I hope to become a professor of either philosophy or Spanish literature, and Wyatt’s conversation with Tania is a perfect example of why this trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to apply the knowledge gained from my study of Spanish and philosophy at Wheaton. My Spanish courses have provided linguistic, historical, and cultural contexts to better understand and connect with Spaniards and other Spanish-speakers while my philosophy courses have provided a logical foundation to tackle the hard questions that many pilgrims on the Camino are asking, such as: What is my purpose in life? Does God really exist? If He does exist, why is there so much suffering?

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Wyatt: As a biology major, I paid a lot of attention to the woods along the Camino, and I think I found my biggest takeaway in the woods of Galicia. They stirred in me a nostalgia, but I had never seen them before. They reminded me of stories I read when was young, but I wasn’t sure which one. They reminded me of someone I once knew, but forgot. They reminded me of home, but again, I had never set foot there before. The conclusion I came to was that these longings betrayed my longing for God. And I recognized that my longing is part of His story of redemption that runs through all cities, suburbs, farmlands, and forests, if we only take the time to look.

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Falecia Sanchez ’18 is studying Spanish, and Wyatt Anderson ’19 is studying biology, Spanish, and chemistry. They both traveled on Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip during summer 2017. Photo captions (from top): Wyatt and Falecia in front of a statue of Santiago el Peregrino (St. James, the Pilgrim); a walking path along Molinaseca, Spain; Falecia overlooking the morning fog along the Galician mountains; The woods of Galicia.

To learn more about Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Wheaton in the Holy Lands

Posted June 21, 2017 by Elise Alexander '20

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sunflower-field-en-route-to-Cana

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.

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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.

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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.

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Elise Alexander ’20 is a business/economics 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. 

To learn more about Wheaton in the Holy Lands, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

My Study Abroad Experience in Jordan

Posted May 15, 2017 by Dinah Holmquist '18

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This past semester I participated in a study abroad program in Jordan with BestSemester’s Middle East Studies Program. My time in Jordan was unbelievably amazing and I learned a lot about culture, the Middle East, myself, and relationships with those different than me. The Middle East Studies Program focused on studying Middle Eastern culture, the religion of Islam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Arabic language! I enjoyed living in the Jordanian culture for three months, practicing my Arabic, and getting to know Jordanians—they are some of the most hospitable and welcoming people I know! We also spent time visiting Israel/Palestine, Cairo (saw the Pyramids!!), and Morocco, gaining a broader perspective of Middle Eastern culture.

One of my favorite memories of the semester was our visit to a local Jordanian’s family home in the countryside. Here I saw true Jordanian hospitality at its finest. When we arrived, they had made our group a dinner of the national Jordanian dish mansaf—a platter of rice and lamb, covered with a creamy yogurt sauce. The father of the house kindly made a speech saying how he sees us all as his own sons and daughters for this night. After dinner, we sat out in their backyard, while they served us tea (go to any house in Jordan and this serving of tea is a staple). The rest of the night was filled with singing and dancing from the four grown sons of the house and their family! Every part of this night demonstrated the amazing hospitality and kindness of Jordanian people and is an amazing memory that won’t be easily forgotten.

One of the most significant things I learned over the semester that I want to share with others is this: To approach those different from you with a spirit of openness, listening, and humility, instead of a spirit of hostility, defensiveness, or judging. I think this was an interesting time to be in the Middle East; it provided me with context and personal experience for understanding topics such as Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, by forming personal relationships with and interacting with Jordanian Muslims like in my story above in the Jordanian countryside, I am better able to understand their world and their point of view. From the student sitting next to us in a class to a culture halfway around the world; if we begin with this spirit of humility and listening, instead of one of hostility, we will go much farther in our relationships with those different than us.

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Dinah Holmquist '18 is an anthropology major who studied abroad with BestSemester's Middle East Studies Program during the spring 2017 semester. To learn more about study abroad options available at Wheaton, visit the Global and Experiential Learning website. Photo captions (top to bottom): A group visit to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Uncovering History in the Middle East

Posted April 7, 2017 by Abby VanderHart '17

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Whenever people ask me what I like best about Wheaton, I usually say it is all the opportunities made available, including the opportunity to study abroad. This summer I’ll be returning to Israel for the third time with a team from Wheaton, including Dr. Daniel Master and Dr. Adam Miglio, to participate in Wheaton’s archaeological excavation at Tel Shimron

A typical day includes getting up before the sun to beat the heat and get a few hours of work in before breakfast break around eight. The #1 tool on a dig is the trowel, used to find ancient floors, “cut the sections” of a trench (making sure the trench walls are tidy, so we can see the stratigraphic sequence), and to free artifacts from the surrounding soil. About midday we stop digging and return to the compound to wash the hundreds of pot sherds collected throughout the day. At Wheaton’s excavations, the professors give lectures in the evening about the site, relevant history, and geology. 

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In spite of these commonalities, I think it’s safe to say no two seasons of excavation are quite the same. In 2014, I was digging a Crusader period tower in Ashkelon, only several miles from Gaza. Due to the high tension that year, we moved north to work in the Jezreel Valley at Tel Megiddo. There I was working in Area K, a Bronze Age residential area where we excavated houses, whole vessels, several burials, and multiple silos. As strange as it may sound, probably my favorite discovery personally was a dirt floor in Area K, which was associated with the transition from the Middle to Early Bronze Period. As you can imagine, digging through dirt to find a dirt floor can sometimes be tricky, but it is really satisfying once you discover it, and can “trace” it to reveal a beaten earth surface created by the feet of people living thousands of years ago! My work at Tel Shimron two years later was even more of a different experience, as I was part of a survey team, doing geophysical work more than excavating. 

While these aspects of location, time period, and type of work can add endless diversity to an excavation season, the biggest contributor to this diversity is the team you are working with. One of my favorite aspects of excavating is the variety of people who participate. Volunteers usually represent an array of nationalities, a wide age range, and multiple religions. Moreover, the early mornings, Mediterranean heat, and long hours of physical labor allows for opportunities to see people at their best and sometimes their worst. While I love the work, the history, and the overseas experience, I equally anticipate meeting the staff members and volunteers on-site, learning to work with them and hearing about their lives and perspectives. I am particularly excited to be on staff at Tel Shimron this summer, and hope to help my team work well together. 

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Abby VanderHart '17 is a biblical archaeology major and serves as the co-captain of the Taekwondo club at Wheaton. Photo captions (top to bottom): Area K team at Megiddo (2014); Abby teaching local school children about the Ground Penetrating Radar work at Tel Shimron (2016); students working at Ashkelon uncovering a crusader “Snake Tower” (2014).

To read more about Wheaton’s biblical archaeology program, read Sarah Ostertag’s Wheaton magazine article and an interview with Dr. Daniel Master. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

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