Meet Kaia Preus and Michael Langseth: A Couple of Global Travelers

"We shared our first class together in Interntional Relations at 8 a.m. freshman year," Kaia Preus '13 said. "I saw Michael in a show at Minnetonka during high school and he worked at the coffee shop in our hometown – he probably served me tea without me knowing!"

“The craziest thing is that we live less than a mile away from each other,” Kaia’s boyfriend, Michael Langseth ‘13 said.“But it took getting on a plane to Geneva to finally really meet.”
 
The story of Michael and Kaia’s relationship certainly transcends your typical boy-meets-girl scenario. The two spent the last five months traveling from Switzerland to South Korea (and everywhere in between!) as a part of St. Olaf’s Global Semester program, having never really met one another before the trip abroad began.
 
“I was drawn to Michael’s charisma and his sweet nature,” Kaia said. “He has a way of making everyone around him feel special and valued. And he’s hilarious!”
 
The feelings were reciprocated. “This girl’s like the Energizer bunny,” Michael said. “She’s constantly upbeat and has such a positive outlook, but also thinks so deeply about things.”
 
The two began dating and, very quickly, they quite literally took on the world together. The Global Semester program took Kaia, Michael and 26 other eager Oles to Switzerland, Egypt, India, Thailand, China and South Korea. “I loved having such a great group on Global,” Kaia said. “Every person was a fabulous addition to the caring, thoughtful and fun-loving group of students.”

Though many memories stand out, one of Kaia’s favorite moments was climbing to the top of Lantau Peak in Hong Kong, and hiking down the mountain to the Big Buddha. Michael loved playing cricket with all of the kids at the center the group stayed at in India. “It was fun to be so accepted playing their game in their environment,” he said. “Even though I was awful, they kept asking me back to play!”
 
The two also had moments for themselves as well. “I’d have to say my favorite moment was the kiss atop the camels in Egypt!” Kaia said. The two found that, despite being so far from home and having such a roller coaster experience, having someone to count on was a tremendous source of strength. At times, they struggled to find a balance between spending time with the group, with each other, and trying to squeeze in alone time too. “We definitely got to see the very best and very worst side of each other while on Global,” Michael said. “But because of it, we got incredibly close very quickly.”
 
Their experiences on Global have influenced both Kaia and Michael’s future plans dramatically. “After going on Global, there is no way I can treat this life passively,” Kaia said. “We are lucky. We have a responsibility to turn it around and give back.”

Michael, a political science major with a concentration in management studies, has a hankering to discover his own country. “I want to do my best to get my feet wet in the states for a little bit,” he said. “After I’ve networked and start to understand the industry I go into, then I want to take my skills abroad and hopefully extend my reach more globally.”

Kaia, on the other hand, is ready to jump back into international experiences. “I’m not much of a planner,” she said. “I’m not afraid to do something a little crazy and move to another country. I’m confident that I can appreciate anywhere I find myself.” She says that she especially desires to return to India to teach or volunteer.
 
Until then, the two must get used to life back at St. Olaf. “A lot of people tell us that Global isn’t real life,” Michael said. “And, to a certain extent, it does seem like a dream, but it was our reality for five months.”

Their reality now is a little more relaxed. For Valentine’s Day, the pair will go out to dinner. “We may not be experiencing new cultures and foods at the same rate as we did on Global,” Kaia said, “but we’re making our time together back in Northfield an adventure too!”