Written by Matt Hagestuen, England 2012
When I first heard of this program, I did not anticipate what the experience would mean to me now. While studying music at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, I was recruited for the SPAN program by my fellow students and professors. Every SPANner does a research project, and I chose to study the music of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. My focus was on religious music and its relationship to this composer’s agnostic beliefs.
In London, I lived with a family whom I met the day I arrived and found so many new friends. I studied voice under a teacher from the Royal Academy of Music and played on an Ultimate Frisbee team. I went to the libraries and museums every day and participated in musical activities all over London. Everyday revealed something exciting, and writing my thesis became a joyful experience. SPAN allowed me to design my own study, which meant unparalleled academic freedom and the opportunity for limitless creativity.
There is nothing like what SPAN offers to its students and I am blessed to have participated. While in the SPAN program, my excitement for learning grew and I continued my education with graduate studies in vocal performance at Baylor University. As SPAN taught me how to love people and the places they live, I have since dedicated myself to teaching students in places like Hungary, Austria, and Malaysia. I also teach specific courses to Baylor international students from Nigeria, work with students at the HFCC Performing Arts Company, and support organizations such as Music in World Cultures and Wycliffe Bible Translation as my love for people of other cultures continues to grow. SPAN was my most formative undergraduate academic experience, and it continues to shape my life even now despite the years that have passed. I will never forget my time with SPAN, the friends I made, or the things I learned. I will forever be thankful that I was a SPANner.
Quite honestly, before SPAN, I was struggling with direction in my career. In SPAN, I became an independent man who is concerned with learning about and helping people in the places they live. The decisions I make in my life today are directly reflective of my time with the SPAN program. Wherever I find myself, I choose to continually teach others, never stop learning, and ceaselessly minister to my brothers and sisters around the world. SPAN is a life-changing opportunity with rewards equivalent to your commitment and dedication to your project. SPAN is an adventure.