A Q&A with Alumni and Family Travel leaders – St. Olaf College

Dave ’80 and Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen ’80 traveled to Argentina with a group they led as part of the St. Olaf Alumni and Family Travel Program called “Patagonia in Depth: Hiking, Glaciers, Culture, and More” in March 2022. I visited

For over 40 years, St. Olaf’s College has helped college graduates, parents and friends achieve their travel goals.

St. Olaf offers study abroad and study away programs in more than 40 countries around the world for current students, as well as approximately 10 programs annually for alumni, family and friends.

Led by current and retired faculty and hosted by campus leaders, these alumni and family travel programs enable Orez to explore and learn new parts of the world.

Dave '80 and Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen '80 lead the St. Olaf Alumni and Family Travel program to climb the mountains of Argentina.
Dave ’80 and Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen ’80 lead the St. Olaf Alumni and Family Travel program to climb the mountains of Argentina.

Two of the leaders of these programs are Dave ’80 and Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen ’80.

In addition to being St. Olaf graduates, they are also the parents of three Aures. Nathan Van Wylen ’10, Thomas Van Wylen ’11 and Madison Van Wylen ’16. Dave, he taught biology at St. Olaf for over 20 years, and Pat worked with a visiting fellow at the university. Over the years, they have guided St. Olaf’s students through study abroad programs, preparing them for their current role in leading the university’s adult research travel program.

Alumni and Family Travel Director Heidi Quiram P’21 recently asked Van Wylens to share his thoughts on guiding both students and lifelong learners at St. Olaf.

What is your life filled with these days?
Traveling and learning different places, I realized that attitude is important and life changes are positive. In 2015, after living in Northfield, Minnesota for many years, I moved to Holland, Michigan. At the time, our parents were all living in Holland and that was the big draw to moving.

Dave served as Dean of Natural and Applied Sciences at Hope College for five years before becoming Principal of Hope’s new Office of Possibilities, the university-wide innovation office. Pat is Hope He is a College of Global Studies He is a Travel Coordinator and now runs a business that helps seniors. We currently live in a surprisingly unusual apartment above a local downtown shoe store. We like to simplify our lives and walk or bike to our destinations.

We enjoy traveling, so our carbon footprint is bigger than we like. We regularly see our children and grandchildren in Minnesota and Rhode Island. One of his current highlights is undoubtedly leading St. Olaf’s Adult Research Travel Program.

What’s the most fun thing about a first-class school trip?
We enjoy learning and understanding more about the world and hope to be a conduit to facilitate this with fellow travelers.When it comes to the best aspects of being a program leader, people and locations are difficult to distinguish. They are inseparable and we are immensely grateful for both. We are thoughtful, fun, curious, inspiring, wise and fundamentally good people I traveled with and met Together we have experienced and learned so many amazing places and even enjoyed connecting with interesting locals from all countries.

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What would you like to tell your readers about the difference between interacting with 18-22 year olds and interacting with lifelong learners?
In general, this adage is true. Older learners like to sleep at night and students think sleep is overrated. So, not surprisingly, seniors are in high spirits for early morning departures and stay awake on the bus when their guides give mini-talks. have enthusiasm While college-aged students have relentless energy to explore and try out new activities in their free time, older learners are more balanced in how they use their energies. There are certainly exceptions to Regardless of age, everyone shares in great amazement and appreciation when experiencing the natural beauty, fascinating culture and beautiful people of a newly explored country.

Do you have a favorite story from a student, adult learner, or both?
The question, of course, is where to start.

During the 1998 Asia Program, our group spent several days in a Karen village in northern Thailand. Our family, including her three children aged 11, 9 and 5 at the time, were assigned to dorm rooms and slept on hardwood floors with sleeping bags.As I was getting ready for bed, I realized a few things. very There are big spiders on the walls and ceiling (getting bigger and bigger each time you tell a story). I calmed the children down by telling them not to move the spider, turned off the lights and climbed into their sleeping bags. But the spider didn’t stay there. These spiders were so large that you could soon hear them scurrying around the hardwood floors, ticking with their “feet” like fingernails tapping on a table. OK, now I’m freaking out and can’t even sleep anymore. Always a rational thinker, Pat said our hosts wouldn’t have put us in a room where guests routinely die from spider bites. This alone gave me a little peace of mind. Finally, with the kids joining us in sleeping bags, we pulled the sleeping bag over our heads and finally fell asleep. When we woke up in the morning we didn’t see any spiders and apart from the restless nights we were all fine.

Other highlights include:

  • A group of 6 adults celebrated their 60th birthday by bungee jumping from the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand.
  • One student laundered his passport, rendering his stamped visa useless for the rest of the program.
  • A nighttime hike to Mount Sinai provided an incredibly inspiring sunrise from the top of the mountain.
  • Learn the big difference between e-bikes and self-powered bikes in the strong winds of the Dutch North Sea.
  • Safely traversing the crazy streets of Cairo, away from the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which has housed so many St. Olaf students over the years.
  • Snorkel with sharks and fish at Heron Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
  • In Patagonia, see the visual beauty of Mount Fitzroy, hear the creaking and calving sounds of the Perito Moreno Glacier, taste and smell incredible food and local wine, and let your sensory systems thrive. I’m on high alert.
Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen '80 and her fellow global semester travelers have come together to reunite in the summer of 2022. Read more about the lifelong impact that studying abroad has had on the group in the latest issue of St. Olaf Magazine.
Pat Lunderberg Van Wylen ’80 and her fellow global semester travelers have come together to reunite in the summer of 2022. Read more about the lifelong impact that studying abroad has had on the group in the latest issue of St. Olaf Magazine. Photo credit: Peter McCrae-Hokenson ’19

What have you learned in your previous roles, current role, and research trip leader?
In fact, I appreciate St. Olaf’s well-structured programme. Yet some of our best experiences have come from responding to unplanned moments or creating opportunities in the middle of a day when nothing seemed to work.

This summer there was a reunion for the 1980 Global Semester, with Pat’s fellow St. Olaf student and field supervisor Bill Carlson and Char Carlson reuniting. Besides being a wonderful reunion, it made me realize how traveling and studying abroad changes the way we look at life and how it affects our lives and our future decisions.

We open our minds to new experiences, immerse ourselves in unfolding events, postpone judgments, and work to process those experiences later in a safe and sensitive environment. , the more attentive you are, the more you can learn.

Amazing hospitality and generosity exist all over the world and we are so grateful. When we have visitors to our country, we appreciate every opportunity to share their hospitality in return.

You can join Dave and Pat in Spain from September 8-23, 2023 or in Vietnam in February 2024. For more information on these travel opportunities and more, visit his website for Alumni and Family Travel.

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