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Name: Maria Wixwat Class Standing: Senior Major: Psychology (German minor) Interviewed by Rachel Arner
Where are you from? I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I have grown up in Pensacola, Florida.
Why are you studying Psychology and German? Many parts of Psychology have drawn me to it. There are just so many interesting things about how the brain works and I have always been fascinated by group dynamics. I like analyzing the way friend groups form and function, especially in the contexts of different cultures. More recently, I have become very interested in studying group dynamics in ways that relate to prejudice and negative group dynamics. Hopefully, learning what causes negative group interactions can help decrease these interactions in the future. I have recently completed my Honors Thesis, in which I researched Adventists’ perceived threat of Catholics and Muslims. I love research, especially when I feel like what I’m researching can make a difference.
As for the German minor, I have tried to learn German at various points in my life because my grandparents are German. When I got to college and learned about Adventist Colleges Abroad (ACA), I knew it was my chance, so I took the opportunity to study German in Austria for a year and I highly recommend it to anyone else who wishes to learn a new language.
What was the most shocking difference from studying in Austria compared to studying at Andrews? One of the differences, that I think was due to it being an Austrian Adventist college, was that we called the teachers by their first names, without “professor” or “Mr.” Classwork was a lot easier as well, but because it was language immersion, learning wasn't restricted to the classrooms. The pace was much different and more relaxed than here at Andrews, and it was even more in the country than Berrien Springs. That was both delightful and a bit boring at times.
What do you hope to do when you’re done with school? I am starting a combined Masters/PhD program in Oregon in the fall for social psychology. When I eventually complete that, I hope to become a university professor, so that I can teach and do research in my field.
That’s awesome! What school do you hope to be a professor at? Honestly, I haven't thought too much about where. As you may have noticed, I really like the Behavioral Sciences department here, so I might prefer teaching at an Adventist university.
What is your favorite thing about the field you are in? I love the variety of topics that psychology covers. It was really hard for me to narrow down my focus for the first few years in college, since almost every topic interested me. We have great classes and fantastic teachers in the Behavioral Sciences department, so that made it hard for me to pick a specific part of the field to go into for graduate school. I also love how immediately applicable information and research is with psychology. When I took Learning and Behavior, it was really fun because the topics in class cover learning techniques, so I was literally learning about how to learn.
On a more serious note, I also love how much you can help people in the field of Psychology. Mental illnesses make life a lot more difficult for many people, and psychology gives us a chance to reach out and help those people. Even beyond mental illnesses, psychology can help everyone with simple things like stress management and, as I mentioned before, learning techniques. It can make you more aware of different aspects of the world around you.
What are your hobbies? Well, I really like baking, a habit which I have developed because I also love eating bread. I find baking fun, relaxing and delicious. I also love travelling and although I only know two languages right now, I would love to try to pick up more. Playing the piano and reading are two of my other hobbies, but ones I don’t get to enjoy while at school quite as much. I was almost tempted to become an English major when I was still in high school, because I enjoyed reading so much. However, when I really thought about it, I realized that the only analysis I really enjoy doing on books involves looking at the characters and is simply a synthesis of my enjoyment of reading and interest in psychology. While at school, I don’t have the time and energy for most of these hobbies. Here, I mostly just use Netflix and once in awhile play piano, as my relaxation of choice.
That’s so cool you love to bake. Have you created your own recipes? I haven't created my own recipes per se, but I have altered recipes to change flavors or to adapt to what I wish and need. I would love to get to that point though. The Great British Bake Off is one of my favorite shows and it inspires me to experiment more with what I bake.
You mentioned you were tempted to be an English major. What advice do you have for those who are struggling to choose a major or are uncertain about the major they currently have? Well, if they are in high school, I would say they should just make the best guess they can based on what is interesting to them. It's hard to really tell if you are in the right major when all you're taking is gen-eds, but when you get to more specific classes in your major, they should start to either confirm or negate your choice of major based on how well you do and how interesting and enjoyable you find the class. Everyone has different experiences, but this is what I've found. As a freshman or a high school student, it can help to look into or take classes in areas you are interested in and research up on potential jobs.