The power of nature

by Sheila VonBergen att. (preprofessional)

My first college class at Walla Walla University was off the main campus in College Place. Being fresh out of high school and taking a year’s worth of General Biology at Rosario Beach in one summer was a wake-up call—with good instruction and planning—to how much one could learn and experience in a few months. That summer made a big impact on my life.

I had never spent time on the coast before, so to hear crashing waves every night, view pods of orcas swimming by, island hop the San Juans, and engage in field outings within the Olympic and North Cascade national parks opened my eyes to the beautiful state we live in and catapulted me into what would be a rich learning experience at WWU. That summer’s education has become part of who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My husband, Scott ’90, and I met that fall at WWU. Interestingly, he had spent many summers working on some of the same hiking trails I had come to love, helping his father on trail and bridge construction for the National Forest Service. Less than a year after we met, Scott took me on my first mountain bike ride at South Fork, canoe trip on the Walla Walla River, backpacking trip in the Wallowas, and on a moonlit cross-country ski excursion in the Blue Mountains. We later took a rock-climbing class together and served on a WWU Maranatha trip to Honduras, where several of us finalized our scuba certifications through WWU along Utila’s coral reefs.

Looking back, I can see how God not only provided me with excellent education and teachers, but He wrapped it all up in a vibrant setting offering healthy outdoor learning opportunities to get to know Him and others better. As Scott and I both headed off to Loma Linda University to pursue our physical therapy and dental degrees, the stark contrast between Southern California and Washington made us realize what a treasure we had living in the Pacific Northwest and planted a seed of longing to return.

Part of what made living in Loma Linda for the next six years easier for us was not just the academic preparation we received at WWU for the transition to professional school, but also our ability to immerse ourselves in nature as much as possible for a good mental and physical reset. As a married couple it was invaluable to our relationship. At the end of the day, no matter what happened, we could count on enjoying the great outdoors together.

After graduation, Scott and I worked at the Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic serving the people of Guam and Micronesia for eight wonderful years. After our girls were born we decided to move back closer to family, and God led us full circle to where we live now near Camano Island—just 35 minutes away from Rosario Beach. Today Scott owns his own dental practice, and I work as a physical therapist in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I feel blessed that our family enjoys so many activities together—hiking, backpacking, trail running, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, and cycling—exploring the natural wonder God packed into this amazing corner of the world. Our daughters plan to attend WWU in the coming years, and we look forward to hearing all about what they learn and discover at our alma mater.

My advice to college students is:
Invest in friendships. Find things you have in common with fellow students and carve out time to do what you love. These experiences can make these some of the best years in your life. We still look forward to getting together with lifelong friends from our WWU days.

Take time to reconnect with nature. Notice little things, get swallowed up in big things, appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Your body and brain will thank you for the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.

Help others. Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about. Even one hour a week can give you a sense of purpose that can fuel a desire to make the world a better place and give you a reason to get up again.

Be okay being alone. Silence and stillness offer golden opportunities for introspection. Lonely times can transform into meaningful moments of connection with yourself and with God.

Remember family. They care about you more than you realize. Keep in touch with them, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, and invite them to be part of your world.

Posted December 2019


Sheila and Scott VonBergen enjoy hiking in the Valley of Fire State Park with their daughters, Leila and Makena.

Event Details

Shown in {{ }}