An academic experience coordinated and organized outside your university’s country can sometimes feel a lot different from the regular school routine.
Because this experience was practicalized in a natural environment rather than inside a university made it extra unique. One major thing that made this module super distinct was that involved master’s students from two study programs, a few PhD holders and bachelors’ students from one study program. The university and my faculty played a significant role in the accomplishment of this excursion because the cost was highly subsidised for all students which prevented financial stress on the participants
The module was tagged ‘’Natural Resource Management in Transformation Countries’’. This has been a regular practice for almost two decades where students take a specialized module to visit a biosphere reserve and other nature reserves in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine disrupted the plans for this year and made the organizers of the module choose a different location but with similar characteristics for the excursion. After several deliberations, the conclusion was to visit Romania which shared something in common with Ukraine: the Carpathian Mountains. Although we visited some other places during the excursion, we spent a longer time in the Carpathians which was the most amazing part of the tour for me. Two groups were to visit Romania but different places, I was with the first group, and I will categorically say that I am happy to have been in the first group.
We started the journey on the 31st of July at about 1:30 with a bus that conveniently accommodated 35 people. It was a long journey but filled with fun. The informative and exciting experience started from the journey itself because we were able to pass through four countries (Austria, Slovakia, Czech and Hungary). We saw several ecosystems ranging from tree species plantations to beautiful landscapes changing slightly or significantly from one region to another. During this trip, I made a few friends as a result of the lengthy journey. We had a long stop-over in Hungary and that was the first time I would sleep in a camping tent. It felt strange but I was looking forward to sleeping in a bag overnight.
On that evening, we went to a nearby local restaurant which was already prearranged for us to have dinner. Apparently, The German female national team was playing against the English national team for the EURO2022 finals. This was being displayed at the restaurant to entertain the customers but to my greatest surprise, only a handful students were concerned about the game. I was so engrossed in the game, cheering the German team and hoping they win the trophy. Unfortunately, they lost the match to their opponents which spoilt my mood a little bit for the night.
We took off early the next morning …
and after a long day’s ride with constant stops for people to stretch their legs, buys some snacks and use the toilet, we arrived at our destination at exactly 1:17am the next day. On the night(day) of our arrival, we were briefly oriented about the dos and don’ts of staying in the wilderness with bears and foxes roaming around at night. We all went to bed, woke up the next morning and then prepare for further orientation on what the plan was for the next few days to be spent on the mountain. After the orientation and breakfast, we all geared up to hike-up the mountain to our base camp situated at about 1,542m altitude. The peak of a mountain I have ever ascended was 300m. While hiking along the path, we had several breaks where the tour guide informed us about the nature of trees growing in this area and how they have transformed over the past decades and centuries.
We also received further orientation on everything related to camping on the mountains including the caution …
to avoid exiting the perimeter of the electric fences without supervision to avoid being attacked by wild animals. Very early the next morning, we embarked on our tour to get acquainted about the natural environment and how it has transformed and developed over the years. We also had a stop at one of the several locations in which cameras were installed to monitor the interaction of these wild animals. At this spot, some clips were shown to us by the wildlife specialist which was super amazing to watch. I couldn’t imagine being on the spot where some wild creatures had moved through in the dark, but it was amazing to have the feeling. Not to bore you with the academic talks involved in this hiking, we had a great time walking through the section of this mountain.
By evening, we were already returning to the base camp. While some people were so eager to take a shower, some of us were so famished that we went directly to the dinning section for dinner. By the time we were done eating, almost everyone had taken a shower. I decided to go take a shower and to my greatest shock, I shivered so hard that I was covered with goosebumps. Damn….it was so windy and cold despite bathing with a warm water.
I was already nightfall and people were starting to retire for the night, but I stayed in the fire house to get warm and have a chat. I made new friends in this process which was cool. It was also amazing to see the stars so clearly that I gazed at its awesomeness for over twenty minutes. I hadn’t had such a gaze at the sky in the last 15 years. I went to bed at about 23:00 and I was surprised to find the blankets as cold as ice. For a moment, I felt I was going to freeze to death before the next day, but I was one the best sleeps I had in a while. It felt so cozy and warm in the blankets.
Series of events happened in the next days ranging from lectures by our professor, foresters, rangers, biologist, to hiking from one part of the mountain to another. It was quite exhausting at some point because it was my first-time mountain-hiking. ‘’Africans don not hike’’…but it was an awesome experience, nonetheless. On the fourth day, we descended the mountain to our initial arrival point, bade farewell to those in charge and then left.
We headed to our next base which was a national park known as COZIA where we spent another two days where we learnt about nature protection and conservation. We had a campfire on the second evening where we had a lot of fun. A musician was specially invited to entertain us, and students also sang several harmonious songs. On the next morning, we all had a tasty Ukrainian soup which was prepared by the Carpathians Biosphere Reserves staffs from Ukraine who had joined us on our arrival at Cozia. After the meal, we headed for Sibiu where everyone was to travel back to Germany. A second group was also expected to meet the organizing team at Sibiu to continue the excursion for another one week.