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Free falling fun

From bungee jumping to skydiving, elephant rides to hikes at sunset, Detroit Lakes graduate Lindsay VonRuden is spending her days abroad in South Africa, jumping into adventures some only dream of experiencing. Submitted Photo

It’s not likely that many people can say they bungee jumped, skydived, swam with sharks and hiked a mountain over their spring break this year. One person can though — Lindsay VonRuden.

“Over my Easter holiday as they call it here — spring break basically — I rode ostriches, went skydiving in Cape Town, hiked Table Mountain  — one of the seven nature wonders of the world — shark cage dived and bungee jumped off of the world’s tallest bungee jump, Bloukrans Bridge,” she said.

The “here” that VonRuden is referencing is South Africa, where she is studying abroad for five months.

A 2012 graduate from Detroit Lakes High School, VonRuden said she had always dreamed of studying abroad. As a freshman at St. Cloud State University, VonRuden said South Africa was the only program offered to freshman, so she took the opportunity.

She said her cousin had studied abroad in South Africa as well and loved it so VonRuden decided to go for it.

“I am so thankful I had the courage to go because I know I would have regretted it if I didn’t,” she said.

Gone Jan. 29 through June 23, VonRuden attends Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. The town, which is about 1.3 million in population, is nicknamed “The Friendly City,” she said.

At the university, she is taking the same generals she would be taking at St. Cloud State University, “so I’m not setting myself behind in credits or anything.” She said she’s thinking about a major in elementary education but isn’t positive yet.

While there, VonRuden lives in an international student housing area.

“It is made up of 30 separate flats. It is called Annie’s Cove. It is really cool because there are people from all different countries that are also studying abroad,” she said. “We have a pool and a braai area (South African barbecue).”

During her free time, VonRuden said she goes to the beach, which is near where she lives, goes on weekend trips around the coast with friends, eating the “amazing” food there, goes hiking and watches soccer and rugby games.

She also spends her time volunteering with a homework club for children who can’t afford education. It is “sponsored by a program called Masifunde Learner Development. Since they are sponsored, they are required to come to Masifunde after school each day to get their homework completed and signed off,” she explained.

Like many people when they visit somewhere quite different than home, she said she’s learned to appreciate what the United States has to offer.

“I have really matured a lot during this trip and realized how great we have it in the States after visiting some townships here in South Africa,” she said. “There is so much to be thankful for. The little things truly are the big things.”

Though it’s been difficult to keep in contact with family and friends back home simply because of the time difference (she is seven hours ahead of Detroit Lakes), VonRuden said she has been able to Skype with her family one or twice a week. She also keeps in contact via e-mail.

VonRuden said she is enjoying her time abroad so much that it likely won’t be her last time abroad.

“I definitely want to study abroad again if it works out.”

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.