At the foot of the Blue Mountains, surrounded by fields of wheat and unions, it would be difficult to go to Walla Walla University by accident. Many students feel pressure when choosing where to pursue higher education. Sometimes, however, the simplest gestures or the grandest miracles can show God’s calling in our lives.
Meet Yaridee Gaeta who overcame unique challenges to attend Walla Walla University, and found herself thankful for the special atmosphere Adventist Higher Education has to offer.
Yaridee Gaeta first learned about Walla Walla University from Marcus Bagingito, a family friend and WWU sophomore. Gaeta, who grew up in Southern California, was intrigued by his description of the small-town atmosphere and the campus community.
Despite her interest, it was challenging for Gaeta to think about leaving her family and she found herself worried about being so far from home. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Gaeta said. “I thought it might be one of those small clique towns, or like what you see in the movies about towns out in the middle of nowhere.”
The thought of leaving her family felt especially hard because during the summer, several close family members had passed away and Gaeta and her family were dealing with a lot of grief. “I’ve been going through a lot,” Gaeta explained. “I was afraid to get involved and then lose people.” And additionally, COVID-19 meant Gaeta couldn’t visit the campus before school started. It was unnerving.
In some ways, the struggles along the way made it easier to take the risk and come blindly to WWU. After prayer and consideration, Gaeta came to WWU where she found a friendly and understanding community with a lot of support. Now a freshman biochemistry and pre-med student, she loves that her small class sizes allow her to ask questions and connect personally with professors. With the additional support of friends, her dorm resident assistant, and others on campus, Gaeta is thriving. She said, “I have a friend who spends 10 minutes each day talking with me and making sure I’m okay. And I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet staff members and friends who help too.”
The LatinX club also lends a special sense of belonging. “I was a competition dancer until several years ago, and it means so much to be able to meet with other students and express our culture through dance. I also use it to help me deal with anxiety and depression,” said Gaeta.
Taking the step to come to WWU was a challenge for Gaeta. Leaving family and friends behind was hard, and the struggle for mental health is real, but she said, “I told myself, I’m going to make it. I’m going to take the risk, and I’m going to succeed here. I’m going to achieve the goals that I want and I’m going to meet people who change my perspective of life.” And she’s so glad she did.
Posted on January 11, 2022