SWU Story: Nathan Stegenga

SWU Story: Nathan Stegenga


– My name is Nathan Stegenga. I am a senior at Southern Wesleyan and I am from the upstate
of South Carolina. Getting to grow up at a state park, getting exposed to nature and the outdoors at such a young age really instilled a passion inside of me to share those type of
experiences with other people and it really just ignited a curiosity that I have carried with
me even until today. The leadership for outdoor
recreation education program is a very new program. And so when I came in as a freshman, it was actually one of the first years that it had been up and running. The outdoor program prides itself in being an experiential learning process to where there is the academic side but there’s also the hands on side where you’re going outside, you’re working with people, you’re fine tuning those skills and it’s a very inventive
learning environment. NOLS is the National
Outdoor Leadership School and it is essentially the world’s leader in outdoor education. They focus on developing leaders through intensive outdoor
wilderness experiences. Even though I stayed stateside, I was still immersed
in a different culture and some of the unique places we got to go on our semester was the
Wind River Range in Wyoming, the Desert Southwest, and the Absaroka Range in Wyoming. One of my favorite memories is coming around the cirque of the towers over at the high pass called Texas Pass and then we camped by this
lake called Shadow Lake and there was a bunch
of snow on the ground. It was really cold. It was probably in the teens, fahrenheit, and one of the only
ways we could stay warm was by playing hacky sack. And so we just played
hacky sack in a circle and it helped keep the spirits up and that was really fun. I would say the most impactful
experience that I had was learning what it’s
like to be a novice. Because I think it’s
really easy to forget that, especially growing up in the outdoors, being really familiar with
several different skill sets and wanting to work in
the outdoor environment, you sometimes forget what
it’s like to be a novice and I found that it was very valuable to be back in a place where
I had to ask people for help and where I was scared. So those situations where I was put back into the novice role was really, really helpful and those experiences have really helped shift my
perspective when I’m working and I get to put myself in their shoes. It’s okay to be a novice, it’s okay to be uncomfortable because I know what that’s like. Some of the career paths
I’m currently considering is continued work with
Christian Outdoor Ministry, such as Peak Seven Adventures, working in wilderness therapy, becoming an instructor for NOLS and also going to grad school and hopefully one day working
in a college outdoor program. One of the great things about
my education and my experience culminating through Southern Wesleyan and the National Outdoor Leadership School is that it set me up to go into a variety of
different career paths and I was incredibly blessed
to have that opportunity.

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