The lessons that Dr. Jamie Olsen, of Dakota Dunes, learned while on his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stayed with him throughout his life. It may have only been a two-year assignment, but it was exactly what Olsen required to propel him toward a future that included medical school and a career in urology.
“The mission itself was fantastic,” Olsen said. “It was just what I needed, I met some of the people I needed to meet in my life to really keep me on track.”
Olsen was born in Utah and moved around a bit before spending his middle school years and the majority of his high school career in Topeka, KS. The summer before twelfth grade, his family relocated to Estherville, IA. Olsen went from a large district that required try-outs for high school basketball to a small town where many students had been together since kindergarten.
“I moved there my senior year of high school to Estherville,” explained Olsen. “My parents are still there and that’s where I graduated high school from [in] 2002. I was the oldest. There are four boys, so I had three younger brothers. Everyone has graduated from there.”
For college, Olsen enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, UT. It was an “eye opener” for him. The Division I school had a student body of approximately 34,000, which meant classes were large and competitive. Olsen went from being a top scholar in high school to doing somewhat poorly at the start of college.
He turned 18 years old the summer prior to starting BYU; due to the church’s guidelines at that time, Olsen was not eligible for a mission trip right out of high school. Therefore, he completed one year of college before going on a mission. The church’s requirements used to state that males had to be 19 before serving on a full-time mission and females had to be 21. The new guidelines, enacted in October of 2012, specify that males are now eligible to be full-time missionaries at the age of 18 and females are eligible at 19.
The chance to serve God and travel on a mission was welcomed by Olsen, as he was displeased with his grade point average at BYU and had doubts about returning. Olsen applied for a mission assignment as soon as he was eligible. While some people wait until post-grad to serve, many are like Olsen and apply as soon as they are able.
“What I usually see is [that] I think it’s good that it is at the age it is, because there were kids that wanted to get their degree or do other things first. And I’d say almost every single one of those kids that decided to do that did not end up going on a mission just because all of sudden now they had jobs or this and that,” Olsen detailed. “I think you have to catch these young high school – early college kids that are still young and bushy-eyed.”
See full story in this week’s Dakota Dunes / North Sioux City Times.