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The other day a student asked me, “Dean Jacobs, why do you like Africa so much?

I paused for a moment and replied, “That’s a great question.”

Why do I love Africa so much? It’s not hard to answer, but the question has many answers.

Africa offers the opportunity to have experiences that are not available back home. For sure, we have one of the best zoos in the world in Omaha, but to listen and watch wild animals as a guest in their home is an entirely different story.

Africa is a vast place and to be fair, I’ve only seen a small portion of it. But the places I’ve seen, like Uganda, have taught me some beautiful lessons about the world and myself.

I lead students from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity from the University of Nebraska (UNL) to learn similar lessons because I feel safe there. I have a basic appreciation of what to do and not to do, which allows me to avoid trouble.

What did the Sig EPs learn?

“I’ve learned some big lessons,” said Joseph Thomas, a senior at UNL. “First, the people here are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, even though they have so little. In the United States, we are taught those with the most stuff are supposed to be the happiest. I now know that having more stuff is not the key to happiness.”

“Picking between fear and freedom was huge for me,” said David Weed, a junior at UNL. “I was determined not to get trapped into the small box as Dean Jacobs is always teaching us. In doing so, I discovered a new level of courage in myself and a new level of appreciation for the world.”

Ryan Taylor, a junior at UNL, had this to share: “This trip has allowed me to put things into a more healthy perspective. Back home, we get upset when we don’t have a phone signal. Here, people find a way to be happy in spite of all the challenges they face, which includes finding food.”

Taylor continued; “Instead of taking the summer internship, which would have been the natural and comfortable choice, I choose to step outside of my comfort zone, and it made all the difference. It changed me forever in a good way.”

These are the same reasons I like Africa so much. I come here for the opportunities to learn about the world in new and different ways, to deepen my appreciation for the wild things we share the world with, and learn about their struggle for survival — information I can use and share with students back in the United States.

I come to listen to children laugh as we played games and brought some much-needed attention and care to their school with Soft Power Education.

Mostly, I like Africa much as the same Ryan Taylor said; “It changed me forever in a good way.”

Every time I visit Africa, it changes me in a good way. It helps me appreciate what I have, the experiences I’ve had, and what happiness is truly all about.

For those who are determined to live a life of wonder, Africa is calling you.

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Dean Jacobs of Fremont is a world traveler.

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