Unbreakable Bonds Made Through Volleyball and Travel

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Members of the volleyball team in South Africa.The Comet volleyball team ended its 2019 season in the most remarkable way, with a trip to South Africa. Head women’s volleyball coach Megan Merchant has a tradition of leading her team on an extraordinary trip every four years, ensuring each student-athlete has a chance to travel at least once during her college journey. In addition to personal growth, the trip helps teammates build unbreakable bonds that transfer onto the court and in life.
“I feel very grateful and blessed to have traveled with my team,” said first-year student Madison Floria. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I felt grateful to be a part of this journey to Cape Town with my team as we bonded and got a lot closer. We had an absolute blast!”
The trip included learning about African culture, dining in local restaurants, horseback riding, visiting Table Top Mountain and Boulder Bay, and a traditional African safari, but the team collectively agrees that visiting Mama Rosie’s Orphanage was the most impactful experience on the trip.
“The most meaningful part of the trip was visiting an orphanage that is home to over 100 children and making a small impact in their lives,” said sophomore Drue Mullin. “We painted a whole house blue on the inside and they were so happy with such a small gesture. We also provided dinner to the children and Coach Merchant bought all of the children a new pair of shoes that they could receive on Christmas. In some way, we all were changed that day. We realized that the small things we don’t have aren’t such a big deal. We all wanted to give each child more than we could even imagine. I hope that day meant as much to the children as it did to me.”
“I know visiting the orphanage impacted the lives of all of us and is definitely something everyone will hold in their heart. It was extremely hard to leave all of the children,” said senior Morgan Schneider. “I view the world as more fragile now because you never know the daily struggles others are going through.”
Members of the volleyball team in South Africa.Madison added, “The most fun thing we did in Cape Town was visiting Table Top Mountain. We had to go up in a cable car to reach the point that overlooks the whole city. When we got to the very top, it was breathtaking to look at the whole city and ocean. It was also great to have photos with all of my teammates as well.”
The team also easily agrees on one piece of advice: take advantage of travel opportunities.
“The travel experience with my team meant so much to us as a whole,” said Drue. “We were able to become closer as a team and see each other outside of volleyball. We all formed such a strong bond because, for most of us, it was the first time we traveled out of the country. It was great to get to know our teammates and our coach outside of volleyball. During our season, it is all about our games and playing time but without those things, we got to know one another for who we are outside of volleyball.”
“I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend this trip and experience things I never thought I would,” said Morgan. “Many of my firsts included going on a safari, going to an orphanage, riding in a cable car, eating African-style food, taking a taxi and traveling across the world.”
“I would definitely encourage anyone to travel internationally because it is so worth it,” Madison said. “It is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so the fact that you can go to other places and see how fascinating other people’s lives are is an amazing thing. You would most definitely never forget the experience of going out of the country.”
A member of the volleyball team with a child at Mama Rosie's Orphanage. Global learning experiences are part of the The University of Olivet ADVANTAGE, offering students more than just an incredible education. In addition, the ADVANTAGE guarantees service learning projects, industry-leading internship and research opportunities, and graduation in four years or the fifth year is tuition-free. Learn more about OC by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu.


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