“Different is Good,” Dylan Bester on studying abroad and embracing new cultures

Dylan Bester, a 19-year-old sophomore international student from South Africa, has been traveling for years. Throughout all of his travels abroad, Bester has gathered small pieces of wisdom that have shaped not only his worldview, but also the way he sees those around him.

As an entrepreneurship major, Bester dreams of one day starting a company in the United States, with the hope of eventually selling it and using the money to start a school in Somalia, India or another country. Like most college students, he is unsure about post-graduation plans, but trusts that the Lord will lead him exactly where he needs to go.

Bester’s faith in God’s leading grew as a direct result of his journey to Ouachita, seeing as he never expected to end up studying in the United States. God obviously had a different plan.

“Ouachita chose me,” Bester said, as he recounted his own “Ouachita story.”

While in South Africa, he attended the same high school where Vice President for Community and International Engagement Ian Cosh’s brother works. Cosh spoke to the school at an assembly and told the student body all about Ouachita. At this point, Bester didn’t have any interest in attending the university and had completely different plans for his life; however, those plans would soon be “blown out of the water.”

Later, his father received an email from Ian expressing Ouachita’s interest in his son, whom he eventually convinced to move from South Africa to the small town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas for at least one semester. Bester has been a Ouachita Tiger ever since.

He grew up with one younger sister and both of his parents in what he considers “a very comfortable environment.” Bester’s close relationship with his family is evident in their extensive travels together.

Before coming to Ouachita, his father took him on a trip to 10 different cities—three in Brazil and 7 in the United States. His grandpa, with whom he is also very close, surprised him on the last leg of their trip with a stop at Disney World. This was meaningful to Bester because he was finally able to experience the magic of Disney World with the man who had told him countless stories of its joy. Of all of the adventurous places he has traveled, Bester says that this was the most special because of the people with whom he was experiencing it.

His favorite city, however, is Oslo, Norway, which he describes as a place full of beauty, folk culture, cleanliness and people whose accents sound like they are singing. This beautiful culture stands in stark contrast to the Amazon jungle—another favorite travel location of Bester’s. Throughout his travels, Bester has grown a deep appreciation for cultural differences. He has learned that travel grows an intuitive nature that looks deeper than face value at any situation and asks, “What was the experience that built that action?”

The romanticized culture of Oslo is vastly different from the culture of the Amazon.

“Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just different. And different is good,” Bester said, recalling words of wisdom passed down from his father.

Bester also suggests that people should seek to understand others more and to never assume anything about a person, explaining that culture plays a major role in the way people think and act. For example, to assume that international students don’t have faith because their beliefs differ from the American view of Christianity is a very false assumption.

“You can’t assume that [an international student does not have faith] because they’ll blow your mind with how much faith they might actually have,” Bester said. “When we assume things, we limit God’s ability to use us. He’s going to get his work done no matter what, and if we’re open to it and not assuming anything, we aren’t taking His love for granted in people’s lives and there’s way more new things to learn.”

Dylan truly has a heart for travel and for living life to the fullest by learning about the diversity of this world. His years of adventure have given him a very distinct and loving view of people and, more importantly, the God who made them.

“Travel makes you adapted to change and makes you readily able to connect with anyone no matter their background, ethnicity or language,” he said. “Being in your little bubble is very unhealthy because if we are going to connect and work together to make this world a better place, our bubble has to be the whole world.”

 

By Camryn Reeves, staff writer

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