Blog: Severson Reflects on Time Away, Looks to Path Ahead

The Gustavus student experiences a new culture -- and a new way of looking at the world -- during her January travels.
Posted on January 28th, 2017 by

Emily Severson '17 is spending January in Chile.

Gustavus Adolphus College senior Emily Severson is spending January Interim Experience in Chile through the Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Education (UMAIE). She, along with students from other colleges and universities in the Midwest, is taking the course “Sustainability through a Business Lens: Exploring People, Planet, and Profits in Chile.”

Now back in the United States, Severson reflects on her Chilean experience:

Saturday, January 28, in Minneapolis, Minn. —

Overwhelmed didn’t fully express how I was feeling, but standing at the baggage claim in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the exact same place I started my whole journey just three weeks before, I didn’t want to say goodbye. No part of me wanted to meet the parents of my new friends who were there to pick them up and take them back home, or give hug after hug and say “let’s get together soon,” because it didn’t feel right. I never quite understood what people meant when they said that studying abroad was a life-changing experience, but now I know, yet I still don’t know how to describe it.

Severson in Valparaiso, Chile.

So I’m back in Minnesota, headed into my last semester at Gustavus, uncertain of what I’ll be doing or even where I will be after graduation. Before I left for Chile I was feeling pretty comfortable with the future. Now I’m starting to realize that what I used to see as a pretty safe and easy path ahead of me has suddenly been blown up and there are as many opportunities in the future as I could ever imagine. My experience this month has certainly not made any future decisions easier, but how grateful I am to have this new view of my own purpose. All of a sudden I can see myself studying, living, and growing in a place like Santiago. It sort of reminded me of my first semester at Gustavus — exploring new buildings, meeting new friends, and trying the classic Caf foods. I learned how to make Gustavus my home, and now I know that I am able to make anywhere feel like home.

I am thankful to have always been aware of my intense desire for connection, and so I seek it out wherever I go. According to StrengthsFinder, “Connectedness” is my second highest strength (the first is “Achievement,” but that’s a whole different conversation I won’t go into now), and this means not only drawing connections between events, but seeking out and making connections with people. One afternoon on a bus ride in Valparaiso I sat next to two of the funniest, goofiest, and sweetest 12-year-old boys I have ever met. They didn’t speak any English, but oh my, were they patient with my Spanish! And besides that, I learned that a smile could say so much more than my words could. They told me all about their school, their soccer team, they poked fun at each other, and they thought it was funny when I explained to them just how much snow we really can get in Minnesota. It was just a short bus ride, but those two boys became an important theme during my time in Chile. After that, everywhere I went I tried to meet the people around me. Even if it was just a short conversation with the man in the restaurant or the woman at the museum, I wanted to connect with everyone because their stories weren’t always so different from my own.

Heading into my final months at Gustavus, I am starting to realize how grateful I am to have this place as a part of my story. Just like my short time in Chile, I’m learning just how quickly life really does pass us by. I used to roll my eyes when my mom would squishily (yes, that’s a word) hug me and say “you just grew up so fast!” I know how she must feel, because if I could squishily hug my Gustavus experience, I would say the exact same thing to it. Where has the time gone? I have no idea. But just like I wanted to do as I left for my month in Chile, I want to walk into this final semester at Gustavus with absolutely no expectations.

I can’t begin to imagine what these next couple of months have in store for me, just like I couldn’t imagine what my month in Chile would be like, but I kind of like not knowing. Rather than set some crazy expectations for the conclusion of my Gustavus experience, I am going to live in each and every moment. I will accept all things as they come, good or bad, and see each as a gift. Maybe not a gift in the usual sense, but as an opportunity to grow, to lean in, to sit back, to give, to receive, and most importantly, to make connections that will grow and grow even after I leave Gustavus.

– Emily Severson ’17

Read Severson’s first reflection here.

Read Severson’s second reflection here.

Read Severson’s third reflection here.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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