Paddling for at least eight hours a day for 28 days? No big deal.
Planning and executing a kayak journey across the Baltic Sea from scratch — there’s the challenge. Comparatively, at least.
This summer, five Gettysburg College students with various academic interests landed in Stockholm, Sweden, and took float on sea kayaks to embark on a 250-mile trip across the Baltic Sea. Their final destination: Helsinki, Finland.
The trip was presented to the students by the university’s Office of Experiential Education as a sort of “let’s see if you can get us there” proposal, according to Emily Hereen, one of the students involved.
It was more than a sightseeing, muscle-building, once-in-a-life time experience.
It was a project; it was a challenge.
So how did the Hereen and her friends get from sitting around a conference table in the spring of 2011 to sitting in kayaks on the sea this June?
“Spending every day out on the water was great,” Hereen said. “The hard part was back at the office during the school year, trying to get everything lined up. Trying to raise funds was a stress point.”
Hereen, along with Benjamin Swanson, Emily Kohlbrenner, Haven Whipple and Stephen Little, attended weekly meetings to collaborate on the progress of their preparations.
They each worked on different aspects of the preparations, so the weekly meetings were vital to touch base. Someone would work on finances while others worked out hotels and flights. They dealt with outdoor companies to get bargains and worked with the kayak manufacturer among other responsibilities.
“It was a crazy opportunity to be handed,” Hereen said.
A crazy learning opportunity, that is.
“All the prep that we did have to do was a huge professional learning experience, corresponding with companies and engaging with different people,” she said.
Though the students were accompanied at sea by two directors, a professor and professional kayakers, it was the students’ duty to work out the logistics.
“It was nice to have the responsibility and expectations to do the things, but also have the background and support from the experienced people,” Hereen said.
Even with professionals and adult faculty, the dynamic of the group lacked hierarchy. The faculty would help and guide them, but according to Hereen, it was a “very level playing field.”
The students would navigate, find places to stop, figure out where to go and manage elements like the wind.
“It was a learning experience in the boat itself, kayaking with top kayakers in the world.”
Before the trip, Heeren considered herself an active person, a runner, but not necessarily an avid kayaker.
“The first day, we were pretty sore,” Hereen said, laughing.
The students were encouraged to get in shape before heading out, but they became even more fit throughout the trip, too.
Each day, they’d get up, have breakfast, break down camp and get in their boats.
“And we’d paddle,” Hereen said. “We’d paddle for a long time and take breaks about once an hour.”
For their lunch break, they’d picnic on a small island or find a cool, local town.
At night, they’d make dinner and air out their belongings.
“We’d pass out, do it again,” Hereen said.
When asked if she’d do it all over, Hereen said, “In a heartbeat.”
“Just being able to pull something like this off was awesome,” she said.
Powered by Facebook Comments