By Carly Wheeler | Contributor
Sometimes God takes us exactly where we said we would never go.
Senior Raquel Pratas was born in Portugal and grew up in Mozambique with her parents and her younger sister. When she was preparing to graduate high school, Pratas always thought she would end up back in Portugal for college; where she would find a better education than in Mozambique. One day, however, her father asked if she would be interested in studying in the United States.
It had been her dream to study in the U.S., so Pratas jumped on the sudden possibility.
Since Pratas' parents are missionaries with an organization located in Wheaton, Wheaton College was the only school she considered. But her father insisted she also apply to Taylor, so she submitted the application - despite knowing Wheaton was her dream school.
"Taylor was never my first choice because it was in the middle of the cornfields," Pratas said. "I grew up by the city and the beach so it's...the opposite of this."
Since she applied in the summer, Pratas could not start her undergraduate degree in the U.S. until the following school year. So, after visiting both universities with her family, Pratas remained in Mozambique, anxiously waiting for Taylor and Wheaton to offer their acceptances for the fall of 2015.
December arrived, and Pratas heard from Wheaton first. But what should've revealed deep confirmation showed a sea of uncertainty instead.
Pratas was accepted into Wheaton, but immediately faced another problem: affordability.
"They couldn't give me any scholarships," Pratas said. "Or...they couldn't give me enough."
Thinking Taylor would offer the same response, Pratas was crushed. The chance of living out her dreams at an American university was suddenly ripped from her fingers. So, her original plan commenced, and she eventually enrolled in a Portuguese university.
But God still had a different plan.
In March, dreams of the U.S. were long gone, and yet, Pratas received an email from Taylor. She was accepted. The news put her in disbelief.
"What do you mean?" Raquel said. "They hadn't told me anything in all these months...and now they tell me that I'm in."
After inquiring more from Taylor, Pratas was told everything was taken care of for her education. Funding wouldn't be an issue - all she had to do was come to Upland.
Questions raced through her head: Why now? Is it still a good idea to study in Portugal, or is Taylor the better choice?
Pratas couldn't find peace. She was restless choosing between the comfortable home she'd always known and the opportune, yet difficult, journey to the U.S. that would lead her down roads of new languages, no familiar faces and dreaded cornfields. For about a month she struggled and prayed for God to reveal where he wanted her to go. Then, everything changed.
"One day, I woke up, and I just felt like God was telling me Taylor was the place for me," Pratas said.
And for the first time, she felt at peace with what was before her. She knew in that moment where she was being called, and it was to the last school she thought she could end up attending.
In August of 2015, Pratas moved to Upland, Indiana. Arriving on campus, she had an undeniable sense of coming home. She knew Taylor was exactly where she was meant to be.
Now, Pratas is on track to complete her degree in business management and public relations this May, and the confidence that this is where God has called her is as strong today as it was in 2015.
"I'm really thankful that God made me come to the cornfields."
Where do you see the value in sharing stories?
"I just think it's so important because I think that we can learn from other people so much. We always have something to share. I just think we become better people when we listen to each other and learn from them." -Raquel Pratas