When Olivia Berglund first heard about Passages, she was already in the midst of planning several international experiences, including a semester abroad in France. “I remember someone telling me not to jump at the chance, because I was already doing so much and I had my whole life to do some of these kinds of things. I just don’t like being told what to do, so I signed up right away,” she laughed.
Olivia’s passion for international travel began when her family rented a car and drove through Europe right before she started high school. A few years later, she participated in a cultural exchange program that allowed her to live in France for a summer and then host her exchange sister in Colorado for a few months. After arriving at George Fox University as a Studio Art Major and French Minor, she continued to take every opportunity to travel abroad.
When Olivia heard about Passages through the Honors College her sophomore year, she knew Israel would be next on her list.
One of her favorite memories from her summer 2018 trip was going through Hezekiah’s Tunnel on their first full day in Israel. “We all ended up singing as we were walking down this tunnel and just laughing and having a blast. The previous school year for me had been super exhausting academically and I specifically remember the moment going through the tunnels where I just felt like this is the most fun that I’ve had in such a long time,” Olivia said.
But Olivia’s trip, in addition to being a good memory, also opened her eyes to something she hadn’t experienced before on other international trips; she was fascinated by the co-existence of the three Abrahamic religions in such a small geographical space.
“The whole Old City of Jerusalem was our first two or three days [of the trip], and I remember being in awe of the mix of history and contemporary life and the mix of all the cultures I saw there,” Olivia said.
This experience inspired her to propose a photography project exploring the relationships between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in the U.S. for the Passages Leadership Incubator.
Olivia was recently awarded 2nd place in the competition and a grant to pursue her multimedia project on interfaith relations.
In addition to this project, Olivia had been accepted to several more international opportunities after her graduation in 2020, including time back in Israel through the Galilea Fellowship, but the pandemic unexpectedly delayed these plans.
For now, Olivia continues to pursue her passion for international work through her involvement with global organizations. She served as a Passages intern earlier this year and currently works for AfricAid, a non-profit organization that provides mentorship to secondary school girls in Tanzania, as Development & Communications Coordinator.
If she had to give advice to other alumni, Olivia would tell them “to continue their involvement with Passages post-trip. It’s opened so many doors for me that I’m really grateful for.”
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