Campus Connection: a student from MSC Sud-Est traveled the world and vice versa | Local
An adventurous spirit led Amber Buysman, a nursing student from her hometown of St. James, Minnesota, to travel and live in Mexico, Israel and South Korea.
Today, she is back in Minnesota, where she is studying the prerequisites for an associate degree in nursing at Minnesota State College Southeast.
âI love it here – I think this college is a gem. You get the best quality education for the best value. If I had known, I would have seriously considered a college like the South East after high school, but I didn’t have that foresight.
Amber began her graduate studies at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she began in social work but eventually majored in health and physical education. After two years, running out of scholarships, she transferred to South Dakota State University at Brookings.
In 2007, she graduated with distinction, earning a Bachelor of Science in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Inspired by a missionary trip to Mexico, she also obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with a specialization in teaching.
But six years of college created a heavy burden: student loan debt. âIf I had known how much debt I would have incurred, I would have been a lot more careful with my loan money,â Amber recalls. âI was told not to worry because I wouldn’t have to start repaying until six months after I graduated. They assured me that I would have a job by then.
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Amber found work in Ohio teaching adapted physical education to students in Grades 1 through 12 and Spanish to students in Grades 6 through 12. But during a volunteer trip teaching English to an Arab village in Israel, she was told her job had been cut.
She gave up her apartment, returned to live with roommates, and managed to get by with private tutoring and substitute education.
âI could barely make ends meet,â she recalls. âI wanted to volunteer for the Peace Corps, but they didn’t accept me because of my student loans. I couldn’t meet the financial demands.
Instead, a friend helped her find a job teaching English abroad. âIn 2011, I flew the world to work in Daegu, South Korea, which was an adventure. Asia has never even been on my radar. I would consider myself fine in geography, but I had to look at a map to find out exactly where South Korea was!
It was supposed to be a one-year teaching contract, but she stayed for almost six years. Amber started a family in Daegu. His daughter Sofia was born there in 2014.
In November 2016, her second child was born prematurely and with serious medical problems. Erick was released after 41 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, but then began having life-threatening seizures. This was all Amber could do to arrange for her return to the United States for advanced medical treatment.
âWe went straight from the airport to the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital,â she said. “Erick was not very stable and he was hospitalized for another five weeks.”
When Erick was released from the hospital, Amber accepted her brother’s invitation to stay in his Minnesota City home. She became a certified nursing assistant in 2019 and started working at Legacies, a group home.
It was a first step towards making a dream come true. âEver since my daughter was born, I wanted to be a nurse-midwife,â Amber said, noting that Erick’s fragile health made her even more motivated to become a nurse.
Now living alone in Winona and working part-time at the Benedictine Adult Day Center, her daughter Sofia is in first grade and goes to daycare after school. Erick is almost five years old and needs 24 hour nursing care.
âMy son’s life status is still considered protected. He is developmentally delayed and suffers from severe epilepsy and irreversible brain damage. He lost the skills he had at seven or eight months. You are constantly mourning all the things you have lost. He doesn’t walk, crawl, speak – endless losses, âshe said.
âBut he’s a blessing. You never forget the value of health and the value of a smile.
The next step in realizing her dream was to start the prerequisites for the nursing program at Minnesota State College Southeast. This fall, she is studying anatomy and physiology, chemistry and microbiology.
âUltimately my goal is to become a registered nurse. I have to provide a living wage for my family, âshe said.
Amber praised her teachers, especially her chemistry teacher.
âLeah Schnaith is just amazing. I’ve never really “gotten” chemistry before. In high school, it was my worst class. I took him to South Dakota State University with about 150 other people and got a C, âAmber said. âThis is my third time taking a chemistry class. Leah exposes everything so that it is easy to follow. If you make the effort and ask her questions, she will help you.
Arriving at MSC Southeast with six years of undergraduate study, two bachelor’s degrees, the experience of word travel and her staunch determination to provide for her family, Amber shared the perspective she gained.
âDon’t underestimate the trades; they are so vital to our economy and our daily lives, âsaid Amber. âAnd you can save thousands of dollars on general education courses. The South East is the best quality education for your money.
Photos: Ribbon cutting for the Minnesota State College Southeast Manufacturing Initiative Program