Students embark on Siberian expedition - 2008-08-01
PAUL SMITH'S COLLEGE CLASS EMBARKING ON SIBERIAN EXPEDITION
Students planned journey to Altai Republic for expedition course
CONTACT: Kenneth Aaron, director of communications, (518) 327-6297
PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. – When the students in Karen Boldis' Expedition Planning course at Paul Smith's College drew up a journey to the Altai Republic in Siberia this spring, they knew there was only one way to know if their efforts worked:
Make the journey to Siberia.
So on Monday, August 4, eight students in the college's recreation, adventure travel and ecotourism program will board an Aeroflot jet and head to the Altai Republic, which is in Russia. There, they'll spend two weeks camping, living with local residents and discussing ecotourism with local officials. They'll also be joined by Boldis and another faculty member.
"The Altai people have much to teach us, and we have much to learn," Boldis said. "In the Altai, we will experience a culture that is wedded to its physical landscape in deeply spiritual ways. We will visit sacred sites, learn a few indigenous rituals, and learn about the challenges that the local people face in protecting their special places while dealing with a growing tourism industry. And we will spend plenty of time on this trip actually sitting down and sharing meals together with our hosts and with each other, a social grace that is becoming rarer in our individualistic, multi-tasking American lives."
Altai officials are interested in developing their tourism industry using the Adirondacks as a backdrop. The six-million-acre Adirondack Park is a blend of wilderness and development that draws tourists from around the globe; earlier this year, representatives from the region traveled to the Adirondacks for their own firsthand look at the area.
"The Adirondacks are one of the best models out there for ecotourism," said Thomas Bodie, a senior from Endicott, N.Y. in the Expedition Planning class. And ecotourism is part of a hot field: ecotourism, and sustainable travel, are expected to grow quickly in coming decades; that segment of the industry is growing at rate of 20 percent or more annually, according to some experts.
The class worked on plans for the trip since January. They needed to deal with issues such as arranging visas, developing a risk-management plan and lining up satellite phones for use in the remote areas they are visiting. While in the Altai Republic, an area the size of New York State that borders Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, they'll trek through mountains, visit burial mounds and participate in the ritual slaughter of a sheep.
"At Paul Smith's, we say 'It's about the experience,'" Boldis said. "We're expecting a wonderful cultural experience in the Altai, but we're also heightening our awareness of our environmental footprint as we travel and how to make responsible choices."
Paul Smith's College is the only four-year institution of higher education in the Adirondacks. Our programs, in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and the sciences, draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere.