Guest Blog: Sustainability Field School in Andorra with Kristen McCowan

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I absolutely love traveling, so when presented with the opportunity to travel for school, I couldn’t pass it up. The Sustainability Field School, provided by College of the Rockies, was a two-and-a-half-week program in Andorra where students were able to explore the country while learning more about Andorra’s tourism industry and what sustainable practices they have put into place in order to better preserve the country’s stunning and natural landscape. What better way to expand my knowledge as a Tourism Management student than to travel abroad to another country to learn more about its cultures and customs, while having the opportunity to gain invaluable experience towards the development of my field of education.

Landing at the airport in Barcelona, we boarded a bus and took the three-hour long journey to Andorra, watching the landscape change from rolling hills to mountainous peaks. This was my first time travelling to Europe, so I was extremely excited and very much looking forward to the adventure that was to come. Finally, we crossed the border and arrived in the small country of Andorra. One interesting fact that I found out about Andorra is that the entire country is about the same size as the city of Winnipeg, my hometown. It’s incredible to think that an entire country that seems so vast and expansive is really just the same size as a city, and not even a significantly large one at that. Initially, we stayed in Andorra’s capital city, Andorra la Vella, where we had the opportunity to explore the city, learn more about the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley at the UNESCO Interpretive Centre, and, of course, take advantage of the duty-free shopping that Andorra has to offer. We also took a bus to the town of Sant Julia de Loria where we were able to meet and speak with professors from the University of Andorra, who shared with us their knowledge regarding the sustainable development goals and practices that have been implemented in Andorra.

Later on in our journey, we visited Casa de la Muntanya, which is the Official Tourism Office located in the town of Ordino. Here, we learned about the idea of making the entire country of Andorra into a biosphere reserve to help protect the biological diversity and ecosystems found within the country.

While in Andorra, I was able to take part in some incredible activities, such as hiking up hills and mountains through the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, taking a ride on the Tobotronc sled slide at Naturland, and traversing across the Pont Tibetà de Canillo, which is a 603-metre-long suspension bridge hanging above Andorra’s naturally beautiful landscape. We even had the opportunity to spend a couple of nights sleeping at a remote hostel up in the mountains. This incredible experience provided me with so many opportunities that I never would have had had it not been for the Sustainability Field School.

This experience opened my eyes to what kind of international educational experiences there are, and how insightful such an experience can be. I am grateful to College of the Rockies for providing me with this incredible opportunity and, if given the opportunity to take part in another international educational experience, I would absolutely want to be a part of it. I believe that the knowledge that I gained during the Sustainability Field School will help me immensely in a future career within the tourism industry, and I would highly recommend participating in international travel opportunities to any students looking to further their education, especially those studying in fields related to tourism or sustainable business practices. The opportunity to travel for school is an invaluable one and the memories that I created during this experience will be ones that I will never forget.