This post was written in under 60 minutes tonight as part of ChicagoNow's "Blogapalooza." Every blogger (420 of us) was given the challenge to write advice to a person, group, pet, or thing in less than an hour, so as a 2011 Wheaton College graduate and current staff member with Wheaton's journalism certificate, I wanted to give a shout out to current Wheaton students (and anyone curious about the student body there). There are obviously more than three things I'd like every Wheaton College student to know, but this is a solid start!:
1) Take off the mask.
When you enroll at this private, Christian, liberal arts college in the Midwest, you receive your course packet before freshman year--and the community covenant. This packet of paper you sign includes your agreement to abstain from drinking, smoking, profanity, and sex outside of marriage among other behavioral conditions while enrolled as a student at Wheaton. The covenant has caused much controversy among students on campus and off, mostly among more liberal individuals, and has instigated more than one raised eyebrow from my family and friends who couldn't believe I wasn't able to have a glass of wine with my family at Thanksgiving dinner. But, I value the meaning of the covenant in general--even though it felt suffocating and oppressive to me as a student--and wish I would have known it was okay to be honest with my peers, faculty, and staff about my frustrations while I was on campus instead of dealing with them all by myself. Also, students today have more forums to be honest about the trials and tribulations they face than I did when I was a student -- even about sexuality. Pray about it, and do NOT remain silent about ANYTHING you're struggling with or questioning - there are people waiting and willing to listen. Check out the Wheaton Tumblr and Wheaton Confessions if you don't believe me!
2) Go abroad / get off campus for at least one semester.
The CCCU Best Semester program I did in Nashville during spring semester of my senior year -- "The Contemporary Music Center" -- was the best semester I had during my time as an undergraduate. I met people from all over the country, played in five bands, managed a pop-Gospel-rock-country tour to eight college campuses around the Midwest, and met Kelly Clarkson (kind of - she performed five feet from me. We made eye contact once). I was also able to go on Honduras Project - two years after I graduated, as the group's faculty advisor. Needless to say, I wish I would have taken advantage of that sort of trip while I was a student - be sure to check out student ministry partners (SMP) or youth hostel ministry (YHM) or Honduras Project or HNGR - get outside of your comfort zone!
3) Go to HoneyRock.
Seriously. If you don't do passage (I didn't), do a summer of Summer Leadership School (SLS), a work/play weekend, or take classes for Wheaton in the North Woods. It's a beautiful and amazing place - Rob Bell even got his call to ministry there (do with that what you will :)). In any case, I was terrified of the wilderness until I experienced it as a counselor for HR's Service Team program during summer 2011 -- I met some of my best friends there, and the camp counselor experience changed my life.
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