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Charlie’s Namibian Adventure

This summer I had the trip of a lifetime.

My name is Charlie McClay and I am a senior majoring in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at NC State University. I had the privilege to study abroad in Namibia this summer as part of the FW 465, African Ecology and Conservation course. The group consisted of 13 students and one professor, all from NC State except one student from Wisconsin. It was interesting to me that most of the other students were in animal science and only a few others in my major; to them this trip was mainly just to go to Africa and see the animals, while to me it was those things as well as learning how to apply the wildlife management techniques I have learned at school in a different environment.

This trip was an opportunity for me to gain some global experience, learn how my skills apply in an environment outside of the Southeastern United States, and check visiting a country in Africa off my bucket list. Leading up to my departure I was coming straight from exams, and actually ended my RA duties on the morning of the day I had to leave, so I was pretty stressed out leading up to it. But, on Saturday, May 13th I left and began my adventure.

When we arrived, we had a strict itinerary to stick to, so we immediately began working and learning. From our time at N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary, to the arid Namib Desert, and the coastal, tourist town of Swakopmund, we had a very diverse and broad view of Namibia and what it had to offer. Namibia is about 1.2 times the size of Texas, and only has about 2 people per square kilometer, so the country is very sparsely populated. I was very interested in seeing how this very different place compared to my home back in the United States. Everyone I talked to cautioned me to be careful and seemed concerned for me travelling to this part of the world. But, I felt welcomed and safe my entire time in Namibia. The cities of Windhoek and Swakopmund were both very modern and comparable to cities back home. This cultural experience was not what I was intending to get out of my trip, but it was one of the most important parts of the trip to me. I now appreciate how blessed I am to have been born in the United States and awarded all the opportunities I have had. It also made me realize that America loves to present an image that everywhere else in the world especially countries in Africa are drastically different than us, and everyone I talked to beforehand’s attitude definitely showed that. What I found on my trip was a land that is still clearly developing in some areas, but full of kind people no different than any other people back home.

One of the areas I feel I improved the most was my photography. I was surrounded by picturesque landscape, stunning wildlife, and the most amazing night-sky every night, I took almost 5,000 photos on this trip. I wanted to capture as much as possible and be able to share my experiences with others. While a lot of them didn’t turn out well, I kept shooting and trying to capture the best images I could. My favorite part of coming back from my trip was being able to share my stories and pictures with my family and everyone who supported me on this trip. I have found a new passion for travelling and photography and cannot wait to continue to grow and enhance my skills.

While I don’t know if I will ever return to Namibia, I know that this experience has taught me a lot about myself and showed me even more opportunities I can pursue in the future.