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Course Recap – Johns Hopkins University

Course Recap – Johns Hopkins University

Ecuador Service & Mountaineering
Johns Hopkins University 2013

This January in Ecuador, 2 Summit instructors had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks with 10 students from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The group included whitewater kayak instructors, backpacking/rock climbing instructors, semi-professional photographers, the JHU Experiential Ed Coordinator, and a “Hopkins Honeybee.” Students from this group saw the tops of 3 peaks while in Ecuador: Rucu Pichincha (15,696 ft), Cayambe (18,996 ft), and Cotopaxi (19,347 ft). These students also stepped into classrooms at Remanso de Amor and taught advanced computer skills, explained their travels and studies at JHU, and shared bits of their lives with Ecuadorian students that were eager to hear their choppy, textbook Spanish (which progressed throughout the course).

“Why did these students from Baltimore, Maryland decide to spend 2 weeks over their winter break with Summit in Ecuador?” On day 1, when asked this question, responses included: the opportunity to attempt and/or summit a substantial peak, the desire to become closer friends with others in the group, the benefit in experiencing a different culture, to learn more about themselves, to grow from the challenges they will inevitably face, and to do these things together.

jhuecuador-2   jhuecuador-1

The phrase “we’re like a family” was said at least 7 times throughout the 2 weeks because these students chose to fully invest in their experience as a whole, rather than simply individually. Believe it or not, during day one a student had decided that she wasn’t interested in updating Facebook during her time in Ecuador because it would detract from her experience. Because she shared this with the group, they all decided individually to follow suit. As a social media-focused generation, it’s difficult to let go of keeping everyone you know up to date all the time, but they chose to do just that. As an instructor, I was blown away. I whole heartedly believe that the group’s investment in and gain from those 2 weeks was greater because of that decision.

At Summit Adventure, we give students (like those from JHU) the opportunity to serve alongside Ecuadorian ministries, climb high-altitude peaks, and immerse themselves in a different culture because we believe it leads to growth. When asked, “How well did this course meet the specific goals and objectives of your group?” one student answered, “The trip far exceeded my expectations and goals. I got so much more out of it than I originally intended. Not only did I get to the top of a mountain, I got close to my peers and was able to share an amazing and unforgettable experience with them.” For the same question, a different student answered, “On top of learning the fundamentals of mountaineering and getting the introduction I desired, I developed so much as an individual and as part of the JHU Outdoor Pursuits team. Additionally, I gained a remarkable, unexpected experience from the service and the attempt to assimilate to Ecuadorian culture.” We continue to see value in combining service and adventure because of the growth articulated by these JHU students.

A loud “hear, hear!” goes out to these students who successfully (in many different regards) completed the JHU & Summit Adventure Service & Mountaineering course of 2013!
Kelli Stansell

*photo credit: Will Shepherdson
*video credit: Kari Post