After almost four months on the other side of the world, it's good to be back at Valpo for a spring semester of studying for classes, reuniting with friends, and working again for the VAN. My semester in Africa was one filled with excitement, experience, and personal growth. I along with one other Valpo student met up with 16 other students from across the United States to spend three months studying and experiencing life in Namibia and South Africa. Although we attended classes through Augsburg College in Namibia, our time there was widely focused on experiential learning-and what an experience it was. I lived with three host families including one in a Namibian rural village, spent time hearing from both government and non-governmental leaders, and immersed myself in Southern African life. While our program was based in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, we were able to travel to many parts of Namibia and South Africa including Johannesburg and Cape Town as well as Victoria Falls, Zambia. Beyond the adventures of game drives, dune climbing, and white-water rafting, I spent much of my time studying social justice, international development, and the impact of apartheid on today's society.
Although I may have been on the other side of the world, I did have a few experiences that reminded just how close Valpo really was. Besides the letters and packages I received from friends back at VU, one particular night reminded me that you're never too far away from the Valpo family. Out at a local restaurant in Windhoek, Namibia, I was talking with a Namibian friend when he introduced me to the woman standing next to him. He said, "This is Maryn Olsen". After a year of working for VAN, the name immediately rung a bell in my head as I realized I was standing with a fellow VAN member and a Valpo graduate. I knew Maryn had worked for an AIDS Action Program in Namibia, but she lived almost 7 hours away. How great to run into her through a common friend nearly 8000 miles from VU!
Going into my semester I figured that the topics I'd be studying would have little relation to my major of Actuarial Science. Coming out the semester, however, I now realize just how rewarding and beneficial a well-rounded education truly is. My semester changed many of the ways I look at the world, my priorities, and even my future career. From thrilling adventures to experiential learning, it proved to me once again that I made a great decision when I chose Valpo and took advantage of the great opportunities the school has to offer.