IVS Alumni Spotlight: Sam Hruban

IVS Alumni
Traveling abroad with IVS is often a stepping stone for students interested in developing international careers. IVS alumni have gone on to work in a variety of fields such as international education, human rights, and sustainable development. Many of our students also have chosen to focus their efforts in their local communities. We take great pleasure in being part of each student’s development in becoming responsible global citizen and are excited to showcase what our amazing alumni are doing.

Sam Hruban is an IVS Alumni who has travelled extensively with the Institute For Village Studies to Thailand, India, and Burma.

IVS Alumni

When did you study abroad with the Institute For Village Studies and which trip did you go on?

I went on the Himalayan Cultures and Ecology Program my freshman summer in 2013. I returned my last year at WWU for Global Health in the Himalayas in the fall and Northern Thailand and Burma in the winter.

What influenced you to choose this type of study abroad experience?

I was very interested in IVS’s unique trips because students got the opportunity to interact face to face with the local community instead of the typical classroom learning. IVS gave me the opportunity to learn about the problems communities face and how they are overcoming their problems. I was also drawn to the beauty of the locations, getting the opportunity to travel to remote places like Ladakh, India. 

You went on quite a lot of trips with IVS. What kept you coming back?

There were many reasons why I decided to go on my first IVS trip to India: travel, new experiences, traditional food, but the reasons why I returned for a 2nd and 3rd trip were: long lasting friendships, global service, community connection, and exploration.

How did traveling abroad influence your academic or professional goals?

I became very passionate about community development, cultural exchange, and travel during my IVS trips. My experiences during my study abroad trips have stuck with me to this day. I continue to learn about other cultures and look for opportunities to volunteer.

What are you doing now?

After graduating from WWU, I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia.  I am currently working towards my Master’s degree in Archaeological Material Sciences in Portugal, Greece, and Italy.  

What advice would you give to a student to make the most of their experience abroad?

My first piece of advice would be to leave all expectations at the door. By starting your trip with and open mind and observing eyes you’ll be able to learn more than you ever thought! My second piece of advice is to go back! My returning trips allowed me to gain even more insight into the challenges communities face and the role community development can play. 

What does being a global citizen mean to you?

To me, being a global citizen means, seeking out opportunities to learn about others. It is through these opportunities that we learn how to engage meaningfully, create compassion, and foster change in this crazy world we share. 

What was a highlight(s) from your study abroad experience? 

There are many highlights from each trip. An incredible dance party at Jhamtse Gatsal with all the kids, listening to a teaching by the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, and my amazing homestay in Thailand where I learned meditation, traditional cooking, and explored caves!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

To anyone reading this, I hope you all take a quarter away from rainy Bellingham and sign up for an IVS trip!

If you are an IVS Alumni and would like to be featured, let know in the comments!

A Private Audience With The Dalai Lama

Our Ladakh summer program has come to a close and the group departed Delhi early this morning. They arrived in Seattle on August 7th at 1:10pm. One of the highlights from the trip was a very special experience we have never had before in 18 years of running programs in Himalayas – a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama!

Just before we had left the US for India, the Dalai Lama announced he would be hosting a three-day teaching in the Zanskar Valley during the time we would be there. A good friend of ours, Geshe Yonten, was the Zanskari translator for the event and said he could arrange the meeting with the Dalai Lama. We were a little apprehensive at first to accept this gracious offer.The Dalai Lama’s time is very limited and we wondered if it would be better spent with local Zanskaris. Geshe Yonten thought the cross-cultural programs and water projects that we are doing in Stongdey are important and said it would only be a brief visit. So we agreed and had the incredible honor of a private audience with the Dalai Lama.
He started by asking us what we had learned in Zanskar and then talked about the importance of compassion and unity in creating a more peaceful 21st century. He said that America is the leader of the world and was founded on great principles of democracy, liberty, human rights, and freedom. However, he thought the current America first agenda has it wrong. While we need to represent our citizens a first priority, as a global leader, we also need to represent the world, especially with global warming. He emphasized the oneness of humanity and said it is false that the different regions are not dependent upon one another. He closed by challenging all of us, and particularly the younger generation, to work to the best of our abilities towards contributing to humanity and creating a better world. 
It was a special moment for all of us and one that we hope to live hope to his challenge.
Dalai Lama
Our meeting with the Dalai Lama was a great honor and something we will remember forever!