Running Without Borders

Rebekah Icenesse

Mackenzie Dixon had always been afraid of flying. Since she was little, she had never thought of stepping onto an airplane until last ummer when she got the opportunity of a lifetime. The sophomore biology Pre-Med major and Women’s Cross-Country runner conquered her fears of flying when she flew nine hours from Chicago to Amsterdam to Cape Town for a month’s stay in the small African country that captured her heart.

Living in South Africa was a big change from her normal life in Edwardsville, Illinois. Growing up with a younger sister and divorced parents, Dixon lived in a small family that was always supportive of her dreams and ambitions. Traveling through South Africa helping people was her most ambitious experience yet.

She went as a part of the Ecological studies program at Millikin and traveled with Dr. Judy Parrish, a Biology professor at Millikin, and a small group of six students.

“I thought this was such a good opportunity to travel and be able to do that with them,” Dixon said. “If you go by yourself you may miss things and you may not understand [the cultures.]”

She did not only travel throughout South Africa, but she also ventured into Botswana and did Ecological projects for school credit. Ecology was the main focus of the trip, but she also got to see the different cultures in the country and visited many historical sites.

“It really changed my perspective on things,” she said.

One of her favorite parts of the trip was going on the safaris and riding in the jeeps through the savannas looking at the animals. Seeing the culture and animal interactions with the environment was an extremely important and memorable part that made the trip more special to her.

“[Seeing the] culture was really important to me because I value that so much,” she said.

Running Cross Country had nothing on the beautiful landscapes and cultures that she saw firsthand traveling through South Africa and Botswana. Even though Dixon has been running Cross Country since she was nine years old, she loved being able to help people more than competing in her sport.

“I would love to go back there [to visit] or go back there to work,” she said.

After graduating from Millikin, she plans on going to graduate school to get her Doctorate’s degree. She wants to be a doctor, and the ultimate goal in her career is to be a part of Doctors Without Borders. It would be a dream come true for her to have a career that involves two of her favorite things, traveling and helping people. There are a lot of options in her field and she is open to any opportunity she can get to kickstart her aspirations and make her life worthwhile.

“It’s a really good field to travel in and I have a lot of options,” she said.

Looking back, Dixon is thankful to have overcome her fear of flying.

“It was an irrational fear that I have had and I had to get on a plane to get over it,” she said.

If she had not taken a step onto the plane, she would not have experienced the South African countries that humbled her and made her realize her true dreams.

Running may be a huge part of her life, but there is a lot more that she wants to accomplish besides collegiate sports. She wants to continue to travel and see everything she can in the world and if she can give medical treatments to others while doing so, she will be living her greatest dreams.