When Kyle Berg, a senior language arts education major at Union College, signed up for a year of teaching on the island of Palau, he knew that communication with friends and family would be limited. Geographically located within the Micronesian island chain on the other side of the world, Berg anticipated nine months of relative isolation, after which he would return to a seemingly foreign Union College campus. He never expected the opportunity to watch sermons, vespers and ASB events live, or to chat with a church full of his friends and teachers.
But thanks to the new live stream technology, which enables anyone with an Internet connection to watch events live, Berg and others like him can continue to participate in the happenings at Union College, whether they are sick in their dorm room or halfway around the globe.
In Palau, Berg quickly began to forge meaningful friendships and discover opportunities for fun and growth. Despite his relatively easy adaptation, he occasionally felt the pangs of homesickness. He was able to send messages to friends via Facebook and email, but increasingly they would reference ASB events on campus, or worship services at church, or basketball tournaments in the Thunderdome, and he began to feel left out. “I was having the time of my life in Palau,” Berg said. “But it would have been nice to also feel included in the campus life.”
“It seemed unrealistic at the time,” he added, “but I wanted the best of both worlds.”
Then he got an email from Union College chaplain Pastor Rich Carlson, asking if he would be willing to do a video call during a Friday night vespers. “I didn’t even know that was possible,” he said. “I began looking around the Union website and learned they regularly streamed events live like worship services and sporting events. And the ones I had already missed were posted online to watch anytime.”
The service, dubbed UCLive, was pioneered by Tom Becker, former director of information technology at Union College. In the experimental stages, quality of the broadcasts was limited by free software, bandwidth and hardware that only supported a single camera.
Last school year, management of UCLive transferred to the Marketing Communications department, and the school switched to using LiveStream, a video streaming service that allows unlimited viewers on many platforms, including Windows and Macintosh PCs, Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, and Roku video players.
After his retirement, Becker donated the funds to purchase a switcher, which uses multiple cameras to broadcast events, greatly improving the viewer experience.
Not only did Berg participate in the video call, allowing him to speak personally with his closest friends and hear the entire church wish him a happy Sabbath, he mastered the technology that allowed him to engage with the campus while still living and working in Palau. “I definitely would have survived without it,” said Berg of UCLive. “But I was so much happier being able to engage with others and feel like I was still part of the family.”
“It’s a really special opportunity for those who aren’t able to be there in person,” he added. “I am grateful for that opportunity, and I will continue to use it after I graduate.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of OUTLOOK. It was written by Michael Rohm, who graduated from Union College in August 2014. He now works for ADRA in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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