Will Norris ’17
Spirit Lake, Iowa

Romanian rover

A native of northwest Iowa, Will has always been interested in traveling and learning about other cultures. In high school, he was introduced to Romanian culture during a mission trip to the country’s capital city. When he discovered that Northwestern had a study abroad program that would enable him to work with Romanian youth, he knew he had to return to the Transylvanian Alps. When he’s on campus, Will runs for the college’s cross country and track teams, is a member of the Black V improv troupe, and writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, the Beacon.

Family room
Living with a Romanian host family was the most stretching and rewarding part of my entire experience. I lived in a two-bedroom apartment with six other people and shared a room with two of my host brothers (the room was converted into the living room by day). Of the six family members, only two of them spoke English, learned mostly from watching American television shows like Friends and Prison Break. Figuring out how to live in such close quarters with people and navigating through a substantial language barrier was very challenging. However, I feel like that experience caused me to grow the most.

Redefining faith
While in Romania, I took classes in Eastern Orthodoxy, which is the main religion practiced in the country. I also took courses focused on integrating my faith with the way I approach community development studies. Living and learning abroad forced me to look at how much my faith has been influenced by the people and places I have been surrounded by my whole life. It was so good for me to be challenged by learning about faith in the Romanian context. I had to find ways to develop my own understanding of what spirituality looks like for myself.   

Waving goodbye
One memory that stands out during my semester abroad was when my IMPACT youth development group threw a going-away party for me the last week I was in Lupeni. They played games, served snacks, and all signed a huge Romanian flag that they gave me as a parting gift. That club brought me so much joy throughout the semester, and them doing something like that for me as I was about to leave was something I'll never forget.

World of adventure
New Horizons Foundation, the nonprofit organization I worked with in Romania, lives by and promotes the motto “Let your adventure change the world.” The community at Northwestern has enabled me to take a good hard look at where I am on my own adventure, and the people I have met in Orange City and overseas have inspired me to empower others to be the best they can be.