PARIS FRANKLIN; Opinion Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Denae McGaha recently won a scholarship to travel around the world after graduation, proving her life motto to be true.
If there’s one thing Denae McGaha knows, it’s that nothing is impossible.
“Honey, the only thing stopping you is you,” the senior Lute said when asked what summarizes her life philosophy. She took the quote from a favorite childhood movie, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, specifically the version with Brandi and Whoopi Goldberg.
McGaha feels like that film provided her a mantra that encourages self-sufficiency and trusting that everything will fall into place.
“I’ve learned that if I want to do something, it is my responsibility to go for it. God provides people to support you on the way, but you have to put in the work and make a decision … There is so much available to you, and so many people that want to support you if you ask for help,” McGaha said.
The soon-to-be-alumn recently won a contest with StudentUniverse in conjunction with Flypside and Homestay apps. These organizations sponsored her, funding her travel to nine new countries across the globe.
In late June, she will begin her journey in Japan. She will then head to Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Hungary, France, Spain, Portugal and Denmark before returning to the United States. She will blog about her experiences the whole summer as well.
“I would be positively chuffed if it could turn into some kind of travel writing opportunity.”
While she doesn’t have plans following her time spent traveling around the world, there is no doubt that she will end up somewhere amazing. In the words of Rogers and Hammerstein: “It’s possible.”
In her time here at Pacific Lutheran University, she has been able to join a diverse array of organizations on-campus, develop a unique fashion sense, perform in countless open mics at Northern Pacific Coffee Company and study away. Out of all of her favorite things about PLU, McGaha loves how “they made it really easy to study abroad, which were some of the most informative experiences of my life.” McGaha is majoring in Communication with an emphasis in Communication Studies and minoring in Scandinavian Area Studies, both of which were able to lead her on her journeys abroad. During her sophomore year, McGaha spent the spring in London, England, and this past fall she spent the semester in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“London was a good lesson in learning how to check your expectations because we hear so much about it in our culture. You have to learn to experience for yourself,” McGaha said. “It was also a good lesson that if you want something to happen in your life, you have to depend on yourself to make it happen. We were in such an American bubble in that program, so if you wanted to meet British people or go out and do fun things you had to make the plans yourself.”
As for living in Denmark, “It gave me confidence in planning trips and figuring out problems and also knowing when to accept help from strangers and being able to trust God when stuff goes wrong and goes right,” said McGaha. While in Denmark, McGaha was even able to continue her music career and perform original songs at open mics in Copenhagen.
In addition to her experiences abroad, McGaha has been active in the music scene at PLU and in the surrounding area.
“HERmonic is a great group of girls,” McGaha said about her participation in the all-female a Capella group at PLU. McGaha performed in this year’s International Championship of Collegiate a Capella regional competition, as well as the many other shows the group had during the academic year. During her college career, McGaha was also a part of the on-campus faith groups Ignite, For the King and Intervarsity.
“It is really fun to see how you start to fit into different communities as you change over the four years,” said McGaha.
“It’s been influential with helping me understand God more, especially when you’re questioning faith and purpose so much during school. It’s been a really good anchor to come back to.”
Outside of campus organizations, McGaha found her bearings within her major. “I like that you can tell that faculty and people at the university care about finding what you want to do. I feel very supported,” McGaha siad. “I found a couple of gems in the Comm department.” Some of the most influential professors have been Art Land and Dr. Wells. “I love how [Land] looks at the world and encourages students,” McGaha said. “Dr. Wells in Comm is also supportive. It is nice to see how much the faculty in general want you to succeed and want to connect you with the next big thing or the next step.”