Kara Sharff isn’t your typical Mandan native.
She knew at an early age she loved God and church.
“Within the church, we went on a mission trip to Mexico, and that was my first experience with another culture and different customs and ways of living,” said Sharff.
She said her high school Spanish teachers and the members of the Mandan First Lutheran Church taught her to love and embrace other cultures.
So at 22, Sharff did just that, making the life-changing decision to walk away from North Dakota and all she knew to move to Bolivia in 1999, for what was supposed to be a six-month trip — but everything changed.
“I met a girl who studied at a bible college in Argentina, who was Argentinian, and she had studied in the institute and went to Bolivia as a missionary and she talked to me about going to Argentina to study in a bible college,” said Sharff.
And that’s what she would do, leaving Bolivia for Argentina.
There, she would spend nearly 20 years in Buenos Aries teaching English to students who had plans to travel the world as missionaries. She said teaching English while also studying the bible in Spanish at Bible College nearly broke her.
“I cried three times a day. I cried in the morning because I had to go to class, I cried when the class was finished because I didn’t understand the classes and then when I had to sit down and do my homework I cried because I couldn’t do the homework I couldn’t take notes I didn’t understand, but everyone just embraced me at the bible college, they helped me there,” said Sharff.
But things would get easier. After graduating from Bible College, Sharff and a friend would open a store selling necklaces and small pieces of jewelry, but to make ends meet they also lived in the store.
“It was 10 meters, so it was 6 meters, the store, and then we blocked it off and then that’s where we stayed, as far as just two beds and boxes so it was really just beginning steps,” said Sharff.
But after 18 years in Argentina, the economy changed drastically and she returned home to North Dakota, but even that proved to be a challenge.
“Coming back here, everything is just so advanced with so much technology, so that was very hard for me to come back to,” said Sharff.
Sharff would eventually become a board member at Bismarck Global Neighbors and now teaches English to refugees and immigrants at the Adult Learning Center, and at Century High School.
“It is just amazing when you can come home every single day and say I love what I do and I love the people that I work with. And at the Adult Learning Center, I work with the adults and that is just so rewarding,” said Sharff
She said if she could go back and do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I live two languages, two cultures, coming back to the U.S. I feel very much, like, I’m American, yet I’m an immigrant as well,” said Sharff.