If You Dream it, You can Achieve It

By Josefine Vestergaard Holm

Country of origin: Denmark
Age group: 
Reason for going abroad: 
Study abroad
Grant: Spring 2016


Hi my name is Josefine. I am a 25-year-old Dane currently living in the USA in the small town of Ellensburg, Washington.

Ever since I watched “Gorillas in the mist” and all the wildlife shows on the nature channel as a child, I have been fascinated by wildlife, especially primates. Through several months of volunteering with wildlife throughout Africa, I was hooked! I knew that no matter what it would take I would find a way into this line of work. I started off studying biology at Aalborg University, Denmark, and after the first semester, I was already looking into more specified degrees in wildlife and primatology. I am a traveler by heart and decided a long time ago that if I ever got the opportunity, I would study abroad, and so I took this opportunity to combine these dreams.

After months of searching I found a degree in Primate conservation and Ecology at Central Washington University, USA. Then for two years, while finishing my bachelor degree, I worked every waking hour to save up money for my adventure. At the same time, I worked through the intense amount of paperwork to be accepted into a graduate program abroad and had the degree approved by the Danish government. Finally, in May 2016, two years after I sent my first inquiry email to Central Washington University I received my acceptance letter :) 

I have now been a Wildcat (which is our mascot and therefore the name of students at Central Washington University) for six months and it has been an amazing experience. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed and that I only have a year and a half left. Graduate school is definitely challenging, but every time I open a book I learn more about the amazing creatures with which we share our planet. I am currently working on my research proposal which hopefully is going to take me to South Africa to study chacma baboons, a species that stole my heart six years ago while visiting Africa for the first time.

Outside school I have been exploring America as much as I can. During our last semester break, I took a trip down the west coast, exploring big cities along the way. I drank Starbucks coffee in Seattle, walked the beautiful bridges of Portland, saw sea lions and rode the old cable cars in San Francisco. I visited Google in San Jose, celebrated Christmas in Los Angeles, dipped my toes in the ocean in San Diego and went into 2017 in Las Vegas!




This year I have also been fortunate enough to get a volunteer spot at a chimpanzee sanctuary which is only a 20-minute drive outside Ellensburg. We care for seven former laboratory chimpanzees. Working alongside these seven wonderful personalities is always the highlight of my weekend. Getting experience working with great apes will also be helpful for my future career. If you would like to get to know my seven chimp friends or donate to their incredible work take a look at their website: http://www.chimpsanctuarynw.org/

I could go on forever talking about all the experiences I have had over the past six months, and I cannot wait to see what the next year will bring. I probably should go back to my thesis writing for now, but I look forward to keeping you updated along the way! The one thing I hope you will take from my story is:

“If you can dream it, you can achieve it”

~ Josefine