Coming from a town with less than 1,000 people and working in a town with less than 200, I was a little apprehensive about making the decision to spend a whole semester in Denver, CO. I knew the change from a small, rural town to a metro area was going to be drastic. My first day of driving into Denver was a sensory overload. The amount of traffic and buildings is something I have never experienced before. I knew it was going to take time to adjust to a new way of living in a metro area. However, the Wartburg West program has been one of the best decisions I have made since coming to Wartburg and has expanded my views on the many different aspects of living in a city.
One perception that has changed since living in Denver, is regarding individuals that experience unstable living conditions (homeless). Coming from a small town that hardly ever sees a homeless individual, was a great shock to me when in Denver you usually see one of these situations on every block. My perception of these individuals changed greatly through my Community Engagement Project. I volunteered at a restaurant in our neighborhood known as SAME Café. SAME Café serves a menu of soup, salad, and pizza from local, organic products. They also only accept payments fair to the individual’s budget or a half-hour of their time to volunteer in the café. Through this experience, I met and worked alongside with many individuals that had unstable living situations and came to SAME Café often to receive a nutritious meal that was a luxury for them. One particular story that stood out greatly to me, was a man that visited SAME Café often and always enjoyed being able to interact with people while volunteering in exchange for his meal. After working alongside of him, I learned he use to hold a career in the restaurant industry until experiencing job cuts. He told me how much he enjoyed coming to SAME Café as much as possible just so he could spend a few minutes back in an industry he had so much passion for. These experiences at SAME Café really opened my eyes to many individuals that have unstable living situations do want to have stable lives but often do not require the resources needed to get them back on their feet.
The Wartburg West program has truly been an experience of “living my learning”, has grown me as a person and will be one of the greatest highlights of my college career.