Szoka's expanded world view brings understanding

Kai Szoka at habitat for humanity

Kai volunteers at Habitat for Humanity.

Growing up while his father was a teacher with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools and being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints allowed Adams State junior Kai Szoka, 25, to experience life in different countries and cultures. Szoka came to Alamosa after living in South Korea, Japan, England, Holland, Italy, and Brazil.

Szoka is an elementary education major with an emphasis in social studies. He originally wanted to join the Air Force and eventually become an astronaut. However, Szoka's dream changed when he served as a missionary in Brazil in 1999.

Kai Szoka portrait

Kai Szoka

"I enjoyed teaching people when I was a missionary, so I thought it would be fun to do in real life," Szoka said.

According to Szoka, members of the Mormon Church usually take a two-year mission trip between the ages of 19-25 in order to teach people about the Mormon religion.

While he was a missionary in Brazil, Szoka remembers living in houses with dirt floors, rooms with no insulation, washing his clothing by hand, and walking almost everywhere. Szoka said he walked an average of five miles per day and went through five pairs of shoes before the end of his mission because the soles quickly wore out.

"Living like that gives you a respect for how much we have in the United States and how much we take for granted," Szoka said.

Szoka said the general happiness of the Brazilians impressed him.

"Despite living in conditions we would think are pretty rough, these people were happy," Szoka said.

He said his experience in Brazil helped him to grow and change as an individual.

"I learned so much about what I believed and I have a better understanding of things," Szoka said. "It helped me to become a better person."