“Going on this trip will change you for the better.”
Those were the inspired words of Katie, who was one of three Kolbe Catholic College students to travel to the US this year for the Alcoa Nature Bridge Scholars program.
Katie was joined on the trip by with fellow Kolbe student Nathan, while Hannah was part of another group.
Both trips, however, comprised two weeks working in teams of students from around the world to explore ecosystems, build ideas of environmental sustainability, and understand the impact of human behaviour on the environment.
The students took all this in while hiking through some truly majestic landscapes.
Hannah was part of the program in July, visiting Washington’s Olympic Peninsula National Park, where she saw first-hand the impact of human behaviour on the Anderson Glacier, which has lost 90 percent of its surface.
Among the most physically demanding aspects was a six-day hike, often at an elevation of more than 1000m.
But it was offset by spectacular scenery and knowledgeable company.
Nathan and Katie made their trip in August, with their focus being California’s Yosemite National Park.
Their six-day hike included Tuolumne Meadows and Ireland Lake, through to the High Sierra region and into Yosemite Valley.
Nathan was taken aback by the overall biodiversity and camping at stunning locations while Katie was fascinated to learn how wildfires play a big role in cleansing ecosystems.
The Alcoa Nature Bridge Scholars Program is designed to bring young people together from all over the world and educate them about environmental issues from a global perspective.
Katie found joy in meeting and making new friends.
“[We would] play music from our own countries and popular songs in general and all of us would be in a big circle singing and dancing together,” she said.
“This moment just ties the whole feeling of love and acceptance together.”
All three students agreed that being chosen by their college was “life-changing”, and encouraged others to grab similar chances with both hands.
“This experience has made my views towards acting more as a steward of creation stronger, I feel a lot more connected to nature now and I am eager to get back in the wilderness in the hopes of making a difference,” Nathan said.
Hannah said she has learnt to appreciate nature and value its beauty and utility.
“Since arriving back home, I actively make more environmentally-conscious decisions whether it be to recycle, conserve water, use less fossil-fuel-based products or change my travel habits,” she said.
Nathan shared some of thoughts on his experience in a Naturebridge video.