"I've achieved real personal growth out here," senior Craig Dixon declared after three exhausting weeks journeying through parts of New Zealand's wilderness. The communication major traveled with 17 other Appalachian State University students in an Outdoor Programs expedition May 12 - June 5.
Dixon's attitude was prevalent among students on the trip, one of many opportunities for experiential learning and global connection that are available at Appalachian.
The New Zealand expedition gave students from seven different academic majors—recreation management, biology, health education, public relations, art, business and communication—the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge in real-life situations.
Through extended excursions in kayaking, backpacking and rafting, as well as taking turns in leadership roles and interacting with New Zealanders, the students experienced the outdoors as a teaching tool and as a metaphor for life's challenges. They sharpened their outdoor leadership skills, explored a new culture and practiced greater environmental kindness by planting trees and purchasing green power to offset the carbon dioxide emissions associated with their travel.
They also accelerated their ability to navigate a changing world by testing their patience, pushing their physical and mental limits, and exceeding their own expectations.
Skills learned in this type of adventure, especially in a foreign culture, benefit a person in many ways, said Jennifer Grady. "It's definitely applicable to other parts of your life—such as school work and how you study or put forth your effort," said Grady, a senior business management major.
Recreation management lecturer Jerry Cantwell, one of the trip's leaders, puts it this way:
"There's no substitute for being out here and being cold, being hungry, being excited going down a Class IV or V rapid, being wet. All of those things are very real. You can mention these things in class and talk about how challenging they can be, but coming out of this (firsthand experience) is their personal power. They're different human beings."