Larry Silverberg is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who co-founded the Namibia Wildlife Aerial Observatory Project.
This past fall, Silverberg led students on a pilot study abroad program of the development a wildlife aerial observatory in Namibia.
The students and instructors used unmanned aerial vehicles to study animal wildlife, a practice which Silverberg hopes can help save animals from poaching and transform African tourism. As an addition to our student Global Storytellers series, Silverberg recently sat down with NC State Global to discuss his own travel to Namibia as well as his plans for the future.
What was the best part of your experience in Namibia?
Like every international experience, the best part is meeting new people and learning about new cultures. What you find out is how similar people are; although cultures have their differences, there are actually more similarities. Everyone loves feeling connected, and that feeling of global engagement is important. The thrill is in the connection.
In Namibia, I visited the San people, which are composed of three to four people living in the savannas. The San people are very empathetic, but like any other culture, some are not. Superficially, I would say the San people are different, but in reality, we would get along well with those people, and they appreciate that too. Connections are a wonderful thing in human nature.
To an extent, we have something unique to offer, but one must be careful not to come off as arrogant. I see sometimes we Americans focus on how we are going to help other people, when others could, in fact, teach us something we don’t know.
What is your best memory from Namibia?
My best memory in Namibia were the animals. We came in close contact with a lot of wild animals, even some jaguars and lions that did not want to move from the road. Although, such close contact was the best part of it.
How has traveling changed you?
When you travel and meet people from around the world, it makes you have a better appreciation for other people and other countries. You have good and bad people everywhere and some countries are better managed than others, but it gives you a better perspective. It’s hard to say to what extent it solves problems, but there is a tremendous personal achievement.
What would you tell people planning to study abroad or travel for work or leisure?
If you have the opportunity to travel, do it. It’s exciting for anyone and everyone. It gives you personal satisfaction, and every person can find what that satisfaction is. You can make new friends, and now it’s never been easier to keep in contact with people from around the world.
What are you most proud of today?
I hope that I have made good relationships with people; that is the most important thing. I also enjoy that the students have liked the Namibia program.