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Catching Kruger Feelings

Kadin Peterman spent a semester studying at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. During his time there, he got to visit Kruger National Park. Below, he talks about an incredible experience at the park, and he describes the impact that his semester abroad had on him personally.

It’s 5:30 am, ahead of my normal wake up schedule. Coffee is brewing and my nose is captivated. I slip out of bed and rummage around in the dark for my clothing. My girlfriend and I make a quick breakfast of eggs and toast; we throw them back so we can stay ahead of the sun, but its fingers of light are already creeping above the horizon. We get into our little red Hyundai and drive to the gate entrance. As we go down the road, we disturb solitary springbok that bounce away. Then we hit the jackpot an hour in, 10 feet of the road is a whole pride of lions; the alpha male sitting with his head high as he watches over the lioness laying near him and the cubs wrestling in the background. There’s no flash of a camera because we don’t want to ruin the moment. This is part of the wonder of Kruger National Park, South Africa. In total, I spent two full days driving around this park and was awestruck of what I was seeing. This experience served to be one of the most transformational for me.

I’ve always been drawn to environmentalism, and I’ve always had a desire to help conserve the natural world around us. Taking hikes, going to zoos, and hearing reports about the state of things has always bolstered this notion, but nothing compared to seeing Kruger. There was a level of rawness and severance to the natural world there that I had never experienced before. In the back of my mind, I knew that this place wasn’t a strong stone that would be able to withstand the severe weathering of time; this place was fragile and could even be ephemeral. Humanity through direct actions of land disruption and passive action of climate altercations was tearing away at the foundation that made this place special. This helped to fuel my desire to make the world a better place and do my part to balance the natural world with the needs of humanity. I am currently studying Paper Science Engineering and have refined how I wish to use this degree in my future career. I want to work on reducing the degrading nature of industrial processes. I want to alter the feed stocks facilities use away from fossil fuels and towards renewable biomass systems. I want to help reduce industrial heat consumption and find less carbon intensive ways of producing it. I don’t want to see my standard of living come at the cost of losing natural wonders. Seeing beauty in this world strengthens the imperative notion I feel to make sure we don’t blemish it, but that we keep humanity’s effects minimal, and I am eager to do my part.