Sara Cederburg ('00) stood above the San Jacinto River in Bolivia.
As part of a team that helped build a suspended bridge for the community of Miguelito, she worked to spread crossbeams across the bridge cables. Wearing a harness, she stayed connected to the bridge, walking on the cables as she constantly unhooked and reconnected them as the crossbeams were spread out.
Her hands grew tired and greasy from unhooking and hooking the cables. The grease soon spread over her arms and face.
"But that was my favorite part," she says. "It was scary, but I liked being over the river."
For Cederburg, every day of building the bridge was an adventure. She participated in the 13-day project in July as a member of Parsons, an international technology company. The team, working with the nonprofit organization Bridges to Prosperity, built the 135-foot-long pedestrian bridge so the 750 residents of Miguelito could have access to nearby markets and schools.
Cederburg, who is a proposal manager for Parsons' Charlotte, North Carolina, office, eagerly volunteered for the build, the fifth the company has sponsored with Bridges to Prosperity. Many of the villagers -- whose houses are usually made of plywood, corrugated metal and dirt floors -- helped out with the project.
The San Jacinto River, located at the bottom of a gorge, is usually clear and gentle, but it can become fast and muddy when it rains. Frequent flooding has led to numerous injuries and one death in the last three years.
The process to build the bridge, which the team constructed more than a meter above the highwater mark, involved filling the towers on each side of the river with rocks; uncoiling and securing the cables to the towers; bending rebar to attach the crossbeams to the cable; spreading the crossbeams across the bridge cables one meter apart; laying heavy deck boards on top of the crossbeams; and installing the deck boards and fencing.
When they weren't building, the team also hiked in the nearby Parque Nacional Carrasco and demonstrated the project to local elementary schoolchildren by making bridges out of popsicle sticks.
Cederburg and the other volunteers slept outside in tents, and could hear the roosters crow at various times throughout the night.
"The rooster sounds would enter my dreams," she says.
But Cederburg has liked being part of nature since her time at UNT. During a student exchange program, she attended college in Flagstaff, Arizona, and began road tripping and camping. When she returned to UNT, she started hiking and camping on a regular basis.
"I like the fresh air and the noises," she says. "I like being outside and being active."
On the last day, her job was to sweep the bridge. Once finished, she took in the sight one last time.
"It was cool to be up there by myself," she says adding that she spent an hour reflecting on the once in a lifetime experience. "It was a huge sense of accomplishment."