COTR students visit Europe for hands-on learning

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Image shows a group of hikers in the Pyrenees Mountains
Participants in College of the Rockies’ Mountain Sustainability Field School took part in a five-day alpine trek through the Pyrenees Mountains as part of their two-week experience.

Mountain Sustainability Field School in Andorra enhances the student experience at home

Eight College of the Rockies students from diverse programs including Tourism Management, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University General Studies, Business, and Environmental Science recently returned from a hands-on learning experience in the Principality of Andorra.

Led by Tourism, Recreation, and Business instructor Becky Pelkonen and Manager, International Projects and Partnerships, Kerry Brinkert, the group took part in the College’s first-ever Mountain Sustainability Field School.

“The field school took place in one of the most unique countries on Earth – the microstate of Andorra, which rests high in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain,” said Brinkert. “With Andorra serving as a living laboratory, our students were able to compare and contrast mountain sustainability issues that we face at home with those found in mountain societies in Europe.”

This learning opportunity featured a five-day alpine trek through protected and mountainous areas that feature intensive human activities. Students were also able to summit Andorra’s highest mountain, the Coma Pedrosa. Additionally, participants engaged governmental, non-governmental, and industry representatives on topics like how the natural environment is a driver for tourism, the impact of tourism on the environment, the effects of climate change on winter tourism, and more.

“This trip was a formative experience for me as an instructor,” Pelkonen said. “I am convinced of the immense benefits of education through “living lab” opportunities and have been in awe of the transformative power of experiential education, especially in a cross-cultural setting. I witnessed every student exceed their own expectation and reach new levels in compassionate, resilient actions and thought. Andorra is a stunning and welcoming place; a perfect location to discover cutting-edge, real-time strategies in sustainable development.”

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) student Kevin Cloutier-Defoy never thought that a trip to Andorra could serve as an elective credit as part of his nursing studies but returned to Cranbrook extremely grateful for the experience.

“I am so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to travel,” he said. “I believe it has expanded my understanding of cross-cultural communication, which will hopefully translate well into my career as a nurse. I also received a great introduction to environmental sustainability which has opened my mind to adopting practices that support the health of our planet. I would encourage students to seize any opportunity to travel with the College. It was an experience that I will remember for a long time to come.”

The Mountain Sustainability Field School is just one of the international experiences that have been made available to College of the Rockies students.

Learn more at: cotr.ca/opportunities


About College of the Rockies

For more than 45 years, College of the Rockies has provided post-secondary education that meets the needs and aspirations of the people, industry, and businesses of our region. Each year, we welcome more than 10,000 full-time and part-time students into a full range of programs, including: skilled trades, university studies, adult upgrading, early childhood education, health and human services, business, office administration, tourism, hospitality, recreation, fire services, continuing education, and contract training. Through smaller class sizes, highly personalized instruction and dedicated support services, our students are primed to succeed in the job market, or in the next stage of their academic journey.


Media Contact:
Deborah Carty
VP, External Relations
College of the Rockies