Amberly Gourlay ’25 was born and raised in South Africa, but when the time for college came, she felt called to attend school in the United States. She had a lifelong interest in justice–with a particular focus on international relations–and God was calling her to step outside of her comfort zone.
As a first-year student, Gourlay left her home country to attend Vanguard University, and although she knew she was responding to God’s call, the experience of moving to a new country was isolating. “I felt very alone,” she explained. “Trying to get paperwork, a job, a car—everything seemed impossible.”
But this challenging transition got her thinking: how might this experience be even more difficult for those who didn’t have a choice in the matter? “What about people who are forced to flee? Who are coming into a new place and don’t speak the language or understand the culture?” Gourlay said. “As I was processing that, the Lord started revealing to me his heart for refugees.”
God’s plan began to slowly unfold for Gourlay. The passion for justice that He had instilled in her gave her motivation as she moved through her studies. As a history/political science major, she is using her spiritual gifts to pursue a career making a difference in the lives of refugees through policy change. Outside of the classroom, she was given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by serving with Voice of Refugees through Vanguard’s College Corps program.
Shelley Youd, Director of College Corps at Vanguard, explained how the program supports students in their career paths. “Often, students are bringing their emerging passions to an established organization, which brings new life and energy.”
For Gourlay, working with Voice of Refugees put a face to what she was learning in the classroom. “They were real people, real stories that were helping me understand the weight of the situation. In that way, it was so powerful,” she said.
Connecting with refugees spurred her onward. While initially, she thought she was wasting time that could be spent on the front lines of justice, she found God had a reason for her to be at Vanguard. “It’s inspired me to study more; I’m even thinking about going into law where I can help with the actual legality to get these people living more comfortably and safely,” she said.
Youd expressed that this is not an uncommon sentiment for College Corps fellows: “The fellows are given personal connection, mentorship, and insight into what may have been theoretical to them previously…In Amberly’s case, I believe her experience solidified what she imagined her future career could be and gave her direction.”
This year, Gourlay is interning for the College Corps program and hopes to continue to stay connected with those she met through Voice of Refugees. In the meantime, she is continuing to follow God’s plan for her as He reveals it, one step at a time. “I don’t quite know what He’s revealing to me or what he wants me to do, which is so exciting,” said Gourlay.
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