A profile of Josephine McLaughlin

Wheaton College junior Josephine McLaughlin is no average Wheatie. From her internship opportunity at WGN Chicago to the fact that she actually attends Westmont College, there’s more to her than meets the eye.

“I’m actually doing an exchange program here through Westmont College,” McLaughlin clarified, “A lot of the Christian schools work in consortium together so that students can study at different ones to get a different opportunity.”

An Illinois-native

Originally from Illinois, McLaughlin actually decided to leave the Midwest in a heartbeat. “My mom is a flight attendant, so we fly for free,” she said. “I was determined to take advantage of the free flights, and actually all I wanted was to go to a Big Ten school, join a sorority and get that full experience.” Roughly nine million college students join Greek life every year, but, instead of joining that crowd, McLaughlin stumbled upon a new plan.

“One of my friends who was a year older than me went to Westmont. I heard about it and thought that the idea of being in Santa Barbara and California was fabulous,” McLaughlin said.

The journey out West

According to the school’s website, Westmont has an undergraduate student body of roughly 1300, and that is nothing like the 15 state schools McLaughlin had visited before. Actually, the visit to Westmont was almost a disaster.

“They lost our bags in Phoenix and my mom said, “you are not going to this school, we’re just visiting because you got in.” Then we missed the tour and had to go straight to chapel,” McLaughlin noted. She remembered that Oceans by Hillsong United was performed in the chapel that day, and it brought both her and her mom to tears. At that moment, Westmont stole their hearts.

Now, she cannot imagine anything different or better. “It’s impossible for me to walk to class or leave my dorm without saying hi or laughing with people,” McLaughlin said about the community in college. It really has had a positive impact on her.

Living in Christian community

Going to a small, Christian, private school is no strange thing to McLaughlin. In her early years, her parents had her go to a private, Christian grade school, but it was not always easy.

“It was hard from preschool to eighth-grade when I went to a Christian and I was the only kid who had divorced parents,” McLaughlin said. Her parents divorced early on in her childhood, and this made McLaughlin instantly different from the stereotypical Christian friends she was surrounded with.

“It was hard because no one else got it [the experience of having divorced parents],” McLaughlin recalled. In high school, she decided, against her parents’ wishes, to try attending public school instead. “I came home after that first day and immediately told my mom that I had made five friends with divorced parents, she said. “It was refreshing to not feel so alone or different.”

Lifeway reported that roughly 15-20 percent of Christian marriages end in divorce, so McLaughlin’s experience is not uncommon for a child growing up with divorced parents in a Christian community. Still, both her parents were very involved in their church lives.

“My dad was raised Catholic, and he had very traditional beliefs. So I got a mix of both from both of my parents because they were both so involved in their church communities,” McLaughlin said. Both of her parents remarried later, and her dad moved to Florida. McLaughlin has put made an effort to maintain her relationships with both of her parents and their families.

Coming back to her family

“I’m an only child, but I have two stepsisters that are much older and a half-sister,” McLaughlin said. Her mom recently adopted a little girl five years ago, and that is part of the reason why McLaughlin chose to come to Wheaton to study this fall.

“I thought the opportunity to try and get the experience of going to a school near home would be fun and different. Being closer to my mom has been amazing,” McLaughlin said. Being so close to the midwestern hub of broadcast journalism, she’s also had the opportunity to work as an intern with WGN Chicago.

“My ambitions are probably centered around broadcast journalism now,” McLaughlin said. “I was really intimidated by the whole thing at first, being at a big TV news station and all. But now I feel like I can walk around confidently.” The aspiring dreams of broadcast fit in well with McLaughlin’s hopes of settling in New York City someday as well.

After her semester at Wheaton this fall, McLaughlin will head back to Westmont College to finish her time there as a student. Even though she was only here for a short while, her time at Wheaton shaped her aspirations, helped her grow closer to her family and allowed her to reflect on her childhood again.

Image courtesy of McLaughlin’s Facebook page