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My Outdoor Education Experience

Yeongnam Alps (The Korea Herald)

Living in big cities has separated man from nature in the past centuries. We have grown less fond of it in its beauty and grandness. The simple convenience of living with easily accessible food and water, bright street lights at night, air conditioning in the summer, and heating in the winter creates a safety net that prevents us from learning more about nature. Yet, being familiar with nature is such an essential part of being human; we must first be familiar with nature to start caring about it and take action.

Every year, students of Chadwick International have the opportunity to step out of our safety net, our comfort zone, to take on challenges in the wild. Groups consist of two expert instructors that ensure the safety of 9 to 12 students. Students must practice living in the wilderness for 5 days without electronics and modern facilities. I was chosen to participate in hiking. Our long bus ride led us to the Yeongnam Alps, a group of three peaks near the east coast of Korea. On the first days, my fellow students complained about the lack of convenient facilities and the hassle of traveling on foot. It truly was a grueling experience to hike tough terrain for three days straight, not to mention having to carry our essentials with us everywhere we went. During the nights, the cold winds of the mountains mercilessly blew, and we shivered in our sleeping bags.

Despite the cold and all the inconveniences, I found the Outdoor Ed experience one that was unforgettable and valuable. We hiked past beautiful mountains and found nature’s hidden beauty in fountains, deep forests, and waterfalls. We learned to appreciate the things we were missing from our modernized life: the scent of forest and soil in the fresh air, clean, drinkable water from natural fountains, and the colorful sight of late-autumn leaves swaying above the narrow dirt trail. Occasionally out of the corner of my eyes, I would spot sudden movement, and turn to glimpse a squirrel dash away. In a way, it was a reminder that as fresh and unfamiliar as our surroundings in the countryside may have been to us, the truly strangest were us, humans; after all, nature had existed for far longer than the history of human beings, let alone our entire lifespan. To us, it is a constant. Nature exists regardless of us. It is only our ignorance of nature in our daily lives that allowed us to be so marveled at feeling so much freshness, greenness, and harshness of the world outside our comfort zone.

56% of the world’s population live in cities, under the snug, forgiving wings of easy transportation, air conditioning, heating, electricity, and cheap, mass-produced products. The convenience of life in a city, such as job opportunities, as well as the fact that they are the leading causes of global warming, can’t be denied. However, when their inhabitants become oblivious to what we are paying in exchange for comfort, the world may collapse into an unsalvageable condition. The purpose of Outdoor Education wasn’t simply to teach how to set up a tent or to challenge our physical skills, it was to open our eyes to what is worth protecting, the beauty and necessity of nature that many aren’t aware of.

Because we live in an environment so secluded from nature, where we can’t directly see the damage we do, we don’t think of the implications of our actions when we drive close by or do not recycle responsibly. Save-the-Earth campaigns often prove to be ineffective because even if people might be aware of the consequences of their unsustainable practices, simply knowing isn’t enough to make them go out of their way to change. And this cannot continue, starting now; more people have to open their eyes to the environment we should protect. Even camping trips in the wilderness with your kids or students, or visiting a national park to learn about what beauty lies beyond the city are ways to take a step closer to nature. Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. The strength to become sustainable.

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