Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TTP) of New Zealand and Chile’s Instituto Vertical have struck a deal that will see an annual student exchange program and give some lucky kiwis a chance to go to King George Island in Antarctica.
The deal was agreed after the head of TPP’s Outdoor Education Department, Dave Ritchie, and one of the institute’s recent graduates, Mike Perry, came to Chile for a three-week trial exchange, traveling first to Santiago and later to King George Island.
“It was the best time of my life. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s true,” said 20-year-old Perry of his Antarctic experience. “It was a wonderful opportunity and I wasn’t ready to leave. I was hoping the weather would pack in and we would be stuck there for another couple of days.”
Instituto Vertical, which offers corporate training and leadership programs, runs an outdoor leadership course on the remote island, located some 75 miles (120 km) off Antarctica and almost entirely covered by glaciers. Clients have included masters students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, one of the most prestigious in the world.
“I have never seen so many penguins in my life,” said the enthusiastic Perry. “It was an old school adventure. We flew in and then spent a week walking around with packs on our backs, we slept in tents every night – it was great. We learnt things, but I think the Chileans and Americans learnt from us too.”
Outdoor education guru Ritchie was equally impressed with TPP’s new Chilean partner.
“It is great to see Instituto Vertical using the outdoors to teach business leadership based around personal leadership and team building,” Ritchie said, adding that he learnt techniques that he hopes to apply at the New Zealand-based institute.
In February, two representatives from Instituto Vertical will travel to New Zealand for a similar three week trial, to observe how TPP conducts its outdoor education and ecotourism programs. From 2013, Instituto Vertical students will also get the chance to travel to the wild west coast of New Zealand.