It goes without saying that Outtatown has been the most influential experience of my life. It shaped how I understand myself, how I view the world, and how I relate with God. (Sound familiar?) In many ways, Outtatown South Africa ended when we gave our tearful hugs goodbye last April. But in some, and arguably the most important ways, Outtatown has not yet come to a close.

For starters, I chose to live at CMU and attend classes there, along with 12 others from my site. The community, possibly the best part of Outtatown, has stayed together. Our relationships are as strong as they’ve ever been and have expanded to build a larger one in the residence building we all live in.

One of the benefits I have experienced as a result of Outtatown is a self-confidence and strength I didn’t have before. This has led to my ability to take part in events and experiences that would have left pre-Outtatown Evan feeling nervous.

Evan with Posa; Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

Outtatown provides an immense amount of spiritual learning, and this has become something I rely on as I tackle issues of faith with my peers. We often have heated discussions surrounding pressing issues, and it is through an Outtatown-learned perspective of curiosity and respectfulness that I can productively participate. Challenging topics like predestination, universalism, homosexuality, and evangelism are tackled eagerly.

I feel obliged to admit that hardly a day goes by when I don’t wish I was still trekking (ha) around South Africa with Zach, Anthea, Katiemom, John, and my 32 student peers. I made the joyful mistake of following Outtatown on Instagram and now I am frequently reminded of all the awesome experiences I had.

Jumping out of planes, off of bridges, and into oceans. Seeking relationships that matter, seeking care for those who need it, and seeking personal growth that gives strength. That’s what I’m missing. But those experiences have fostered our rallying cry “Seek Adventure!” and let it become a phrase that quietly shouts in the back of my mind as I live my post-Outtatown life. And so, those things that I encountered for the first time on Outtatown, they remain with me every day.

Evan Balzer is one of CMU’s Student Ambassadors