Mike Nania

Snapshot of Mike Nania standing in the ocean with a snorkle on

Mike Nania
  • English
  • English Literature
  • English Writing

Class of: 2007

Several years ago I climbed a mountain peak along the Kepler track in Fiordland, New Zealand. As an avid outdoorsman, I did what any good mountaineer does when they find this rare type of breathtaking solitude- I sat down to reflect. Gazing out over endless alps gouged by deep, crystalline fjords, I contemplated the decisions that had directed me to the strange place I now sat. Where would I be if I had made different ones? Was it possible to have any regrets about a path that took me to a place like this? A thud interrupted my thoughts, and I looked over to see a brightly-colored alpine parrot that had plopped down on the rock next me and cocked its head, winking repeatedly. Against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, it sported a tropical plumage and seeming unawareness that it was extremely out of place; doing the only thing I could think to, I winked back at it. Looking taken aback, it hopped twice, let out a screeching “Keeeyaw,” and promptly flew off, seemingly startled at the sound it had produced. I started laughing loudly and carried on for a good bit, partly due to the fact that I could do this where I was and not appear insane, but mostly in reverence of this type of unique experience that had become almost commonplace in my time since graduating. Just five years before, as an aspiring biology major at a small liberal arts school in Montana, I never had imagined the possibilities and adventures that awaited me.

Studying English at Carroll awakened in me a sense of adventure and thirst to experience the world that has only grown since. Aided by the well-crafted words of the many great authors I studied throughout my curriculum, as well as the valuable insight into human experience that great literature offers, I decided to set out and create my own story. Since graduating in 2007, I have worked, volunteered, and wandered across numerous countries and continents, writing about the characters and adventures I have had along the way. My travels have taken me spear-fishing in a shark nursery in Australia, motor-biking to remote villages in Bali, and hiking through coffee plantations on Guatemalan volcanoes, to name a few. During time spent volunteering with a non-profit conservation organization on a small island in Honduras, I used my skills to help write grants and secure funding for the protection of marine areas and sustainable community development on the coastline, allowing me a unique opportunity to experience another side of the isolated culture there. In essence, the literature I studied at Carroll, paired with an encouraging and open-minded staff, spurred and enabled me to get out and create for myself the special human experiences I had read about and become enthralled with.

I would never have had the skills, courage, or confidence to embark on my adventurous lifestyle if not for the close-knit faculty of the Carroll College English department. In classes that averaged a mere handful of students, I was held accountable but also offered all of the resources and tools I needed to be successful by a staff whose greatest reward is to watch their students engage and absorb the material. Always supportive, all of my professors were quick to listen whenever I was hung up on something and never offered criticism without helping find a creative solution through positive reinforcement- a teaching methodology that helped me build immense confidence to pursue my degree through tailored avenues that best suited my learning style. The flexibility afforded in studying English helped my creativity thrive and allowed me to focus my energies into the areas that I was truly passionate about, a focus that I have carried past my education and applied in daily life. The practicality of the coursework and team-building projects such as the Carroll Literary Festival gave me a valuable skill-set that has helped me find employment in numerous arenas throughout my travels and provided a great foundation for the further education I am now pursuing in sustainable community-building, supported by several of my former professors with valuable letters of recommendation.

Language not only enhances life but enables one to experience it in a richer, more meaningful way. My studies at Carroll opened the world to me, creating opportunities academically, professionally, and above all personally. Charles Dickens believed that “every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” As a seasoned ‘experience-seeker,’ I am forever grateful for the home I found at Carroll’s English department and indebted to the wonderful professors who provided it for me.