by Jessica Guerra
When family and friends asked what excited me the most about studying abroad in Namibia, I always mentioned being able to study outside the classroom, being immersed in a different culture, doing meaningful work, and of course, being on the African continent.
Although those are still true, the unexpected has happened; that is, I have fallen deeply in love with the Namib Desert surrounding the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre.
When we weren’t working, we were exploring the Gobabeb grounds. We got to go on a nature walk with some Namibian high school students participating in Gobabeb’s training program. Being a horticulture minor, I was thrilled to learn about a tree teeming with ants inside it; the ants provide protection from herbivores, and the tree provides a habitat for the ants.
Sitting with about twenty other high school students, we used the scientific method to come up with a way to compare the plants and animals living at the intersection of three different ecosystems at Gobabeb – the gravel plains, the sand sea, and the riverbed.
Though I enjoy the challenging, fulfilling work we are doing in Namibia, something else will draw me to this great country again and again; it is the Namib Sand Sea, or the countless sand dunes stretching across the entire horizon.
As we made our way up the dunes, each step sinking into the deep red-orange sand became increasingly meaningful. Though we may have been panting, barefoot, and grasping our water bottles as we reached the top, the trek was absolutely worth it.
All the photographs of sand dunes featured in National Geographic and on your computer desktop could not compare to standing atop the crest of a Namib sand dune at sunset. With outstretched arms and wide smiles, we stood on top of the world and soaked in the last of the African sun.
I will have fond memories of Namibia, but I know this will be one of the fondest.
Until next time…