Students Flourish on Tech Treks Alaska

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Heralded as an “epic” experience, Tech Treks Alaska teaches students real-life skills and builds the confidence they need to persevere through the most challenging of transitions. College-bound young adults are placed in one of the biggest, most exciting and rather disorienting environments on earth â€" the wilds of Alaska. If this sounds like a metaphor for the freshman year experience at college, then you get it. And so do the instructors and students at Georgia Tech.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Matt Marcus, Adventure Recreation Coordinator at Outdoor Recreation at Georgia Tech (ORGT), and Sarah Weber, an incoming freshman Biology major from Athens, Georgia, about their experience this summer on Tech Treks Alaska. According to Matt, “It was thrilling to take eight incoming students and expose them to living in the wilderness. This is the second year of the program and students really grow from the living-learning skills we teach to them â€" it is a significant factor in making their transition to college a success.”

In reviewing the learning objectives for the program, it is easy to see why students embrace the program so easily. Students not only learn the basics of outdoor adventure, such as gear use/care and map and compass (or GPS technology!) reading skills, but they also learn to function independently as well as to work effectively in a group. “One of the highlights for me was learning how to lead the team given the various skill levels,” Sarah said. “This was truly a trip of a lifetime and a real investment in me. It makes me want to get involved in future opportunities like this throughout college.”

Students also learn to evaluate “judgment calls” as well as critical thinking and problem solving techniques. And of course, no trip to Alaska would be complete without a crash course in bear safety and how it relates to risk management. Parents can also rest assured that students learn other handy life skills such as first aid, grocery shopping, creative cooking (i.e. kelp soup), deep appreciation for laundromats and stress reducing yoga â€" all necessities when it comes to living away from home for the first time.

Upon returning and starting classes, I asked Sarah if she keeps in touch with her travel buddies. “Quite honestly, that has been one of the immediate benefits I am reaping. The trip is like a live-action Facebook for all of us. We are very fortunate to have this built-in social network as we start freshman year.” For Matt, he looks to future possibilities, “It is such a great program with positive outcomes. For Tech Treks Alaska, one of our biggest challenges is coordinating all the awesome things to do â€" there is just so much. Down the road, we really want to expand our global reach with these programs… we already have a Tech Treks Southeast program which is successful and we are looking into Costa Rica, China and India as possible destinations.”

Tech Treks is a joint program sponsored by ORGT and Success Programs/FASET. For more information on Tech Treks Alaska and Tech Treks Southeast, visit our Freshman Outdoor Orientation Program Web site.

For more outdoor adventure opportunities that any student, faculty, or staff can take part in, please visit the ORGT Web site.


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    Rachael Pocklington
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