Travel has been a part of Colleen Dillon’s life since she was an infant. Her family's camping vacations throughout the U.S. have left an adventurous streak in the junior communication arts major from Hillsboro, Ohio. So when Dillon started praying for a summer opportunity where she could both learn, experience a new culture, and be forced out of her comfort zone, God answered.
Dillon applied and was selected to be a summer journalist for Trans World Radio (TWR). Yet, instead of heading to a well known and widely accepted culture, Dillon was to reside in Bratislava, Slovakia; a place many people have barely heard of, let alone would be able to point out on a map.
"I embrace change, I was craving it," said Dillon. "I never gave any thought of cultural differences before going to the Slovak Republic, I just went."
But the culture shock was more powerful than she thought it would be. "The first week was tough," she said, "but knowing God had raised over $4,700 for me to sleep, eat, breathe, walk, and work on that continent all for him, comforted me and gave me true purpose."
Dillon’s grandmother worked as a teacher with TWR in Bratislava for two years. It was through her that Dillon found the organization and decided to apply. Dillon worked for her supervisor by researching on radio in the days of communism, writing articles and radio scripts, and transcribing interviews. A week of her internship was spent in Vienna, Austria, working with the main TWR European office in the European region.
Tina Valentova, editor of TWR’s InfoServ magazine, housed Dillon in her apartment in downtown Bratislava. Dillon interacted with and became close with Valentova’s family who smuggled Bibles into people’s homes and private churches during communism.
In Vienna, Dillon lived with her co-worker Anne White on the public relations staff. She lived in a small town outside Vienna: Brunn am Gebirge, meaning fountain on the mountain. From there Dillon "went to town every night after work to soak in Vienna," she said. "Both Bratislava and Vienna are beautiful places, they both feel like home." [Photo: Downtown Bratislava, Slovakia]
Aside from the time spent interning, Dillon was able to visit Budapest, Hungry; Prague, Czech Republic; Salzburg, Austria; and Munich, Germany. "God is so good," said Dillon. "The opportunity I had still overwhelms me when I think about it."
Trans World Radio works to reach lost people with the gospel through the media. Their work in Slovakia is geared mostly toward the modern youth generation and the Roma or "gypsy" people, a people who are mistreated, ill used, and shamed in their Eastern European society. Broadcasts reach these peoples in the far corners of Slovakia, which is a land of mountains, castles, small villages, and quaint beauty that is trying to thrive away from the past plague of communism.
"I think people have perceptions about Eastern Europe: the people are harsh, fierce, cold, and the landscape vacant, dull, and gray," said Dillon. "There are these realities. But they exist here in the U.S. too. The people I met were some of the most giving, welcoming people I have ever encountered. They look past what communism has left behind in their home land and try to better it, themselves, and see beauty through each other."
—Colleen Dillon is a junior majoring in communication arts from Hillsboro, Ohio.
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