A group of 17 HWS students recently embarked on the adventure of a lifetime abroad, exploring their way through Wales with the Colleges’ summer outdoor education program.
From May 25 to June 15, the students took a three-week course with the Colleges’ partner institution, University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen. Titled “Theoretical Issues in Outdoor Pursuits,” the course is a combination of academic theory and hands-on outdoor activities, such as cliff jumping, mine exploration, rock climbing, caving and kayaking.
“The whole idea with outdoor education is figuring out how you make sense of experience and turn it into a pedagogical experience to learn,” said Assistant Dean of Hobart College David Mapstone ’93, who is accompanied the students on the first week of the trip. “The main question is ‘how do you go about learning from your experiences?'”
The activities are a way for students to examine a range of academic themes such as sustainability, personal and social development, and the duality of risk versus adventure, in addition to gaining firsthand insight into Welsh culture. During the program the students take part in lectures, reflective writing assignments and numerous field experiences that facilitate experiential learning, Mapstone said.
Kayla Littler ’15 said that unlike learning about Welsh culture in a classroom setting, she hoped that “completely engulfing in Welsh culture” would help her “come to terms with their lifestyle.”
Time that is spent in the classroom prepares students for practical activities, gives them the opportunity to review experiences, and provides the necessary background knowledge essential for the various assignments. Students also took a half credit Reader’s College to prepare for the trip in the spring semester with Mapstone.
The first and third week of the trip are spent on campus, in which students are lodging in one of the university’s dorms and taking day-trips and excursions to the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Prembrokeshire coast. The second week is spent camping in Snowdonia National Park as students hike through the picturesque mountains that surround the park.
“I hope to gain new perspectives on how I approach things I have never done,” said Hailey Dietrich ’16. “Being that this is an outdoor adventure experiential learning trip, I feel that there are so many skills – such as communication, how to face adversity, leadership, and so much more – that you gain partaking in things we are going to do that you cannot gain from the classroom.”
In addition to providing students with a hands-on learning experience, Mapstone says one of the goals of the program is to give students additional opportunities to go abroad.
“I chose this trip because being that I am on the William Smith basketball team, it is extremely difficult to go abroad for a semester long program,” said Dietrich. “I had heard such great things about the Colleges’ study abroad programs and decided to apply.” Littler, a member of the field hockey team, also says she chose the program because the three-week, active outdoor program worked best with her athletic schedule.
The program, now in its fifth year, is a popular and transformative course. The George B. Riggs ’12 Endowed Student Experience Fund, which was established by a gift from the Riggs family to honor Hobart Dean Eugen Baer P’95, P’97, HON’07 and Associate Dean of Hobart College Chip Capraro, helps to ensure that students can attend the program.