Finding support, from 9,000 km away

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Image shows woman working on laptop computer.

When Gaelle Stalder enrolled in the Adventure Tourism Business Operations (ATBO) program from her home in Switzerland, she couldn’t have imagined having her plans derailed by COVID-19. Travel restrictions delayed approval for her Canadian work study permit, however, meaning she would need to remain in her home country.

The College too had made some adjustments due to the pandemic, however, offering most courses online, including the academic courses required in the ATBO program. Gaelle would be able to get started on her program, without the need to travel. With experiential learning a significant component of the ATBO program, she was still worried she would be missing out.

Thankfully, instructor Gideon Smith wasn’t about to let a little distance get in the way of an innovative teaching opportunity. We recently received a heartwarming email from Gaelle, updating us about her experience:

My program involves a lot of field trips and practical courses, which makes it quite complicated to learn online. But thanks to my instructors, and especially Gideon Smith, I still feel part of my program, even from 9, 000km away.  Mr. Smith posted videos and pictures from all his field trips and put them online for me, and another international student, to use as learning material for the assignments. Watching those videos and looking at the pictures helped me understand the course in a great way and made me feel part of it.

“Thanks to this instructor, who went through some trouble to make it possible for me to take part in his outdoor classes, I still got to appreciate the Rocky Mountains’ beautiful nature and to learn so much about it. Hopefully I will be able to actually be there soon to fully enjoy this course. Thank you all for your great help and support.”

Gideon Smith was glad to hear that Gaelle found the resources he provided helpful.

“Though the course I teach is an academic one, it has a significant field component through four full-day field trips,” he said. “These trips are a very important part of the learning experience, both because they help our students experience the natural setting around us, but also because they enable students to see natural interpretation in action through my story telling and conversation. Since the two international students were unable to accompany us on our field trips, I felt it was extremely important to provide them with videos, digital photos, and a variety of resource materials to try to compensate for what they were missing.”

The ATBO program, held at the College’s Golden campus, combines business skills with hands-on adventure. All experiential learning (field trips, backcountry excursions, etc.) follow current provincial health guidelines to keep students and employees healthy and safe.

Gaelle is currently awaiting second-tier approval for her work study and hopes to be in Canada, along with her husband and three children, in November. We look forward to her being able to enjoy the Rocky Mountains in person very soon.

Photo: Gaelle studying at home in Switzerland.