By Cassidy Keenan
I sit in a comfortable chair in Lower Beamer and look at Sarah Doyle, who is sitting across from me. She looks serious but calm. I am preparing to ask her questions about her life.
I want to start easy. I ask basic, college-orientation questions. Within two minutes I have discovered that she is a freshman, a communications major who is considering taking on a journalism certificate as well.
Then I ask, “Where are you from?”
As it turns out, this question is less straightforward for Sarah than it is for many students. Sarah was born in California, then moved to Washington State in her early childhood. Shortly after that, it was another move to New Jersey, and then she and her whole family went overseas to Tajikistan. She has spent the majority of her life coming back and forth between the United States and Tajikistan and has spent a total of nine years overseas.
Fortunately, she has a positive attitude about this tumultuous experience.
“I realize that it’s an experience that not many people have, despite how much I hated being an outsider,” she said. “God will use my experiences to help others feel like they’re not alone, to show his plan and how he works in those lives. I love people. No matter where I go, meeting people has always been a gift.”
Sarah’s unique experiences have shaped her personality in a way that is obvious to others. One of her best friends, Kinnon Rockness, described their first meeting, recalling the way that Sarah was not afraid to come right up and introduce herself.
“Sarah’s greatest strength is being able to relate with people and understand their perspectives,” she said. “Sarah has lived in other parts of the world and demonstrates her knowledge of other cultures, which is a great gift to have.”
This eagerness to relate to others, according to Sarah herself, is something that she has always had, even at only three years old. Because she was conversational in full sentences before all the other kids, she was constantly going up to other children in her “Mommy and Me” class and asking to be friends.
“Something that drives me is building relationships with people,” she said. “Relationships can add so much spice to life. I can’t wait to see how people are going to grow throughout the years, and I can’t wait to maintain the friendships and see what adventures they take us on.”
Sarah’s childhood concept of home is clearly one that is more unconventional than most. Making a new home out of Wheaton College was no more straightforward for her.
“It wasn’t my first choice,” she admitted. She describes a friend of hers who served as a counselor at her camp, who attended Wheaton and recommended to her. Then she details the way she pushed back against the idea at first, how she wanted to go to a secular school at first.
“I ended up applying here anyway,” she told me. “And then I got in, and I kind of put it on the back burner. Then my dad said, ‘Why don’t we take a trip out to Wheaton for spring break?’ And I came here, I stayed overnight, I got to see a lot of Wheaton, and I loved it.”
As soon as Sarah visited the campus, she knew it was a place she wanted to be.
“God put it on my heart,” she says. “He was like, ‘You’re going to go here.’”
Since attending Wheaton, Sarah has become involved in several extracurricular activities. Most of these revolve around music, which she is very passionate about. She is a member of Amplify, the school’s a capella group, and is considering moving into the field of worship leading.
“Music has so much emotion. You can change someone’s life through a song,” Sarah explained.
Sarah is not only passionate about music but about people. She puts a lot of importance on serving others and loving her neighbor. This is a part of her that was shaped enormously by her time overseas. I ask her what she misses most about her home in Tajikistan, and her answer is, “Seeing people persevere, even when they have nothing.”
She continues on to explain more about the culture there.
“They don’t let people know they have nothing,” she said. “Even though they’re struggling, they still do their best to help other people and show their love. That’s part of a Christian principle that a lot of people don’t follow. They need to be giving, even though they may not have more than enough. Still give from what you have. Give of your love, and of your time.”
Finally, I ask her what has been one of the most empowering things in her life.
“Finding my peace in God,” she said. “When I don’t try to control things myself. Giving it to God makes me feel like I have so much power to do what he wants me to do. Doing it on my own is so stressful and so tiring. But when I give it to him, it just happens. It makes me feel powerful because God is powerful.”