Twenty-one Hobart and William Smith students hiked, biked, kayaked, swam and explored their way across Wales during the three-week program “Outdoor Education: Theoretical Issues in Outdoor Pursuits.” Delving into issues of sustainability, personal and social development and the duality of risk versus adventure, students engaged with Welsh history, culture and natural resources through a partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
While grounded in the theories of experiential learning, perhaps the most important lessons were “the ones that we learned through the experiences themselves,” says Alyssa Deem ’18. “I learned to challenge myself to work to the best of my ability and to encourage others to do the same.”
The group hiked the three highest peaks in the country, including the knife’s-edge ridge of Mount Snowdon, and explored the Welsh coastline. Audrey Bates ’17 says, Coasteering, a combination of rock-hopping, shore-scrambling, cave-exploring and cliff-jumping, was the most challenging part of the program. “It was also one of the most rewarding because I learned new skills, as well as that it was okay to say no.”
“One thing I was able to take away from this experience was seeing the value in experiential learning,” says Jake Chipman ’18. “Instead of spending most of our time in a classroom, we spent most of our time outside, physically experiencing these lessons.”
Hobart Assistant Dean David Mapstone ’93, who serves as the program coordinator between the HWS Office of Global Education and Trinity St. David University, says experiential learning is an important outcome of the program.
Mapstone also taught the Reader’s College course during the spring that introduced students to the theories underpinning the course: “the value of experience to inform education and reinforce democracy,” as well as the benefits of “putting the learner in charge of what he or she wants to learn,” he explains.
Bree von Bradsky ’16, who assisted Mapstone and maintained the program’s blog, participated in the Wales program previously. She recalls how “the program helped me grow and understand how these theories connect to the classroom, to internships, to work.”
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 and Associate Dean of Hobart College Chip Capraro, helps to ensure that students can attend the program. The Wales program is one of several rotating short-term programs offered by HWS.