For three weeks, 12 HWS students journeyed to Wales to participate in the Colleges’ Outdoor Education Program where they participated in extracurricular activities, such as cliff jumping and kayaking, while learning about the surrounding environment.
Unlike the instruction they’d find in the typical classroom setting, students partaking in the program acquired their understanding through experiential learning, hands-on involvement. Among this year’s experiences were hiking, climbing, kayaking, gorge walking, mountain biking and cliff jumping.
“I figured out that what keeps me from reaching higher heights and attempting harder climbs is a fear of falling combined with self-doubt,” says Arianna White ’14, who participated in this year’s program. “Reaching out of your comfort zone and figuring out what is standing in your way puts you on the path towards bettering yourself.”
The students took a half-credit course with David Mapstone ’93, assistant dean of Hobart College, prior to the trip in order to get prepared. In the course, they studied the theories they would be practicing and learned reflective education. The class was divided into two parts.
“Part one was the history and culture of Wales to prepare the students for the cultural experience of being in another country,” Mapstone says. “It’s a rich and proud country that seems to be constantly dominated by its big brother, England. We studied the country’s geography, environment and landscape in which they would be actively engaged.”
“The second half of the course focuses on experiential education, what it means and how you can use experience in the outdoors to further develop yourself and an intellectual grounding for solving problems, developing personal relationships, and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses,” he added.
In light of the experience, Evan Schwab ’16 says he chose the trip in order to push his physical and mental boundaries, but has also learned more about group dynamics and how to be a leader.
“For me this entails taking chances and trying things that I know I’m not comfortable with, and then reflecting on what happened that day,” Schwab says. “For example, why someone will freeze up on the wall when they’re climbing or why they won’t want to go off the big jump into the water. Yet the flip side of that is why someone would want to jump off a 50-foot cliff into the ocean since every single time you jump your body and mind scream at you telling you this is not natural and to stop.”
The students plan to use the skills they have attained on the trip in their futures, both personally and professionally. Building their self-confidence and image as well as developing leadership skills has prepared them for applying to graduate school and jobs.
“Study abroad brings a new perspective to outdoor education for me, as we don’t do school mandated physical activities,” says Harrison Schutzer ’15. “Seeing the students here, whose entire career and education are based around outdoor education, is absolutely stunning and inspiring.”
The HWS students who participated in the program included: Catherine Forman ’16, Andrew Hoy ’15, Schemeka King-Ward ’14, Caitlin Petty ’16, Arthur Piantedosi ’15, Emily Pitkin ’14, Jacob Rayburn ’15, Harrison Schutzer ’15, Evan Schwab ’16, Douglas Van Der Hyde ’14, Gabrielle von Bradsky ’16 and Arianna White ’14.