There are many pathways that lead students to Gustavus Adolphus College. Some students know from a young age that Gustavus is the right place for them, while others take longer to make their decision. Daniel Venn spent his freshman year of college at South Dakota State University, but after that year decided he wanted to make a change.
“I transferred to Gustavus as a sophomore in 2011 and have absolutely fallen in love with the school,” Venn said. “The teacher education program is phenomenal and the professors in the department really work to show ways that teachers can make a difference in the world.”
Venn has taken that message and the College’s core values of justice and service to heart. He spent three months of the summer teaching English to students in Ecuador and is now in the middle of another three month teaching stint in the Galapagos Islands.
When Venn finished his finals and returned home to Cannon Falls this past May, his parents had welcomed a foreign exchange student from Ecuador. When the student’s family learned that Venn was studying to become a teacher, they offered to host him for the summer and offered him a volunteer position at an elementary school directed by a close relative.
“When the opportunity to teach and practice Spanish was presented to me, it was a no-brainer,” Venn said. “I moved in with them in Riobamba, a large city in Ecuador tucked in the Andes Mountains.”
Venn taught at La Escuela Internacional San Ignacio de Loyola through July, working mostly with second and third graders. During the remainder of the summer, he helped to organize an intensive English summer camp that averaged about 50 kids ages 7-12 each day.
“The experience I gained in the classroom will be invaluable as I begin a career in education,” Venn said. “It’s difficult enough to reach young students as it is, but having to find ways to communicate ideas to them through the language barrier was a challenge and forced me to really get creative with my lessons. Beyond that, I made great gains in my Spanish fluency and really gained a lot of perspective living in a much different, and often poverty-riddled culture.”
When school wasn’t in session, Venn’s host family took him on excursions all over the country. That allowed him to explore Ecuador’s diverse climate which includes tropical beaches, snowy mountains, the Amazon rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands which are situated approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.
Venn’s introduction to the Galapagos Islands forced him to make another big decision, similar to the one he made when he transferred to Gustavus. After deciding to take the fall semester off, Venn is once again teaching English, this time on the Galapagos Islands.
“After seeing the incredible need for English-language skills in the tourist driven economy of the Galapagos Islands and enjoying my experience working with students in Ecuador so thoroughly, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to spend the fall teaching in the Galapagos,” Venn said. “My graduation from Gustavus will be pushed back a full year, which is alright with me.”
Venn will be back in St. Peter this January and will be on track to graduate in the spring of 2015. He is looking forward to getting back into classrooms at Gustavus with the professors who fueled his passion to travel abroad and educate the world’s youth.
“Every member of the Education Department that I’ve had the opportunity to take a class with has heightened my assurance that education is the profession I want to go into,” Venn said. “Classes taught by Sujay Rao in the History Department have really increased my interest in Latin American culture and history and fueled my desire to travel.”