Here we do our best to provide comprehensive answers that:
- Convey what the programs are so that potential participants and their families are comfortable with the experience Round River seeks to provide
- Familiarize people with safety concerns and what we do to address them
- Give information on academic considerations
- Be informed as anyone can be before venturing out on a Round River program
Of course, more comprehensive information can be provided on a phone call, so please do not hesitate to call Doug at (406) 529-8175 or Alexandra at (507) 360-3194
What happens if a student gets sick or injured?
We have a comprehensive emergency and safety protocol and take each student’s safety very seriously. All students are enrolled in emergency medical evacuation insurance through Global Rescue. We are able to receive medical advice from qualified physicians via phone contact; and if an evacuation is deemed necessary one will be coordinated. Instructors are trained in wilderness first aid (see above) and carry a satellite phone with them at all times in case of emergency.
Has Ebola affected your programs in Africa?
No. There are currently no cases of Ebola in Botswana, Namibia, or any neighboring countries. Affected countries are thousands of miles to the north. For more information, please visit theCDC’s website and NPR’s website on the subject. The health and well-being of our students is our first priority, and we are monitoring the news to ensure that we are taking all necessary steps to keep our students safe and healthy.
We strongly recommend that students traveling to Namibia and Botswana do not fly through West Africa on their way to southern Africa. Students should fly directly from the USA to Johannesburg, or fly through Europe or the UK; our travel agent will help students book flights.
What is a typical day like?
There is nothing “typical” about Round River’s student programs. Our program leaders and faculty make sure students are exposed to the most fulfilling opportunities possible. Program schedules will be flexible and dynamic and students rarely have a dull moment. Most days will be spent in the field, collecting data for various on-going conservation projects. A “typical” day will have students rising early, cooking breakfast together, spending most of the day conducting fieldwork, having an hour or so of down-time before dinner to read or throw a Frisbee, cooking dinner together, maybe having a discussion or reading around the fire, and then crawling into their tents under the stars. Other days will be more relaxed, with students spending half the day reading or working on their field journals, meeting as a group in the afternoon for a lecture and discussion, going on a short hike, and then eating dinner with a visiting researcher or community member. Though our programs are rigorous, our program leaders will ensure that students enjoy a balance between work and play, and that everyone has time for themselves as well as with the group.
How is Round River different from other programs?
Most former students say something to the extent that they weren’t sure what they were getting themselves into, other than stories from RR alumni that never could really explain it either, but said it was unlike anything else they’d done in their lives. They were initially attracted by the small group size and the potential to get involved with efforts bridging research, education, and grassroots wilderness preservation. Round River programs are small, generally accepting no more than 10 students per program. We don’t have to be too selective, as we are blessed with our participants doing that for us: curious, motivated folks that want to be in big, wild places not simply as tourists or students, but as someone contributing to actual conservation work alongside people that live there. The programs are small to minimize our own impact on the people and wildlife with whom we are working. Being small allows every student to participate in every aspect of the research, whether that is recording Traditional Ecological Knowledge of a Tlingit elder, or conducting wildlife surveys in Namibia’s desert plains.
How do I know which Round River program is right for me?
The answer to this question is largely up to each student. Which landscape do you want to immerse yourself in? Many people have always wanted to see Africa, and the opportunity to work with elephants or rhinos or the Himba people is what is driving their interest. Others want to use their Spanish in Chile and are intrigued by the huge mountain landscapes of Patagonia, or want to hike deep into the Wyoming backcountry. If the answer isn’t obvious there are plenty of people that can offer advice. We have alumni that have done one, two, and even three of the programs and can offer some important perspectives on the differences between each program and how those may fit your own interests. Contact Alexandra or Doug to gain their insight on what program might be best for you, and to get in touch with past Round River students.
What are the qualifications of Round River instructors and leaders?
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the student programs, program leaders must have well-rounded experience in education, field research, and community research. Our leaders possess a minimum of a Masters in a natural resource-related field and at least two years of field experience. They are also required to possess current Wilderness First Responder and CPR certifications. They are people dedicated to conservation and demonstrate a desire to share their knowledge and experience with others. They take seriously the responsibility of being entrusted with the safety and well being of the students that join the Round River organization. Some of our leaders are former students that have gone on to complete graduate school and their own research. We also have opportunities for alumni to return as Teaching Assistants.
Our instructors teach courses on each program. Additionally, we have other individuals contribute to academics, such as PhD’s in a related field, researchers, or local experts, who’s experience in teaching and research is directly associated with Round River’s efforts. Oftentimes these instructors are Round River senior staff who lead the conservation efforts in each place, or researchers in our local partner organizations with similar qualifications as their US colleagues. We also rely upon local community experts to provide information and perspectives that are particular to people that have lived and worked their entire lives in the area. Insights from these community members are often the most memorable and relevant input on such a place-based program, and certainly cannot be taught or learned in a typical American classroom.
How competitive is it to get accepted?
We are fortunate in that the type of person that applies to our programs is generally a motivated and intelligent individual. We encourage students to be thoughtful in their applications, and often spend time speaking with prospective students on the phone before accepting them. While it is important that we have a good sense of who the students are and what their experience is, it is just as important for students to understand what the programs entail, to make sure it is a good fit. Applications are viewed on a rolling basis, and it is always best to apply early.
How long has Round River been running programs?
Round River has been running student programs around the world since 1991.
What is your safety record?
We do work in remote areas and take preventative measures in an attempt to avoid illness and injury. One advantage of working in small groups is that we can more easily monitor student health and well being. Round River has an excellent safety record. We are registered in the US State Department’s Safe Traveller Enrollment Program, which is set up to inform us if their are any travel warnings or concerns in any of our program areas. Each area in which we work is safe politically. Our support staff in the USA is on-call during programs and available to respond quickly and efficiently to any issues that may arise; another benefit of studying abroad with a smaller organization.
How can a participant and a parent connect if there is an emergency on a course at home?
A list of emergency contact information is provided to the student and family prior to participating on a program. Doug or Alexandra can then reach the student group while in the field to convey information. Even though student groups are often in remote areas, means of communication are established (usually via cell phone or satellite phone) and the group can be reached.
Is there financial aid?
Yes. Our need-based scholarship, the Edward Abbey Scholarship, is available to qualified students in amounts up to $5,000. If you are receiving federal financial aid you can also apply these funds to our tuition. Check with your school to see if their financial aid will transfer to external programs. We are more than happy to work with you to find ways to finance your study abroad experience.
Can I speak with alumni of Round River programs?
Yes. Doug or Alexandra can provide you with Alumni contact information, and often we are able to connect you with students from the same school as you. This is a great way to hear a student’s perspective on our programs and to ask school-specific questions about transfer credits, financial aid, etc. We also hope that prospective RR students will visit our page on Facebook, where you can post questions to alumni, hear update and see pictures from current programs, and stay abreast on RR news.
When and how can I apply?
We accept applications on a rolling basis; there are no strict deadlines but we recommend applying early since we keep our programs small. Our suggested early application deadline for Summer programs is February 15th; general application deadline is April 1st. For fall programs we recommend applying by May 1st. Our suggested early application deadline for Spring programs is October 10th; general application deadline is November 5th. For our January Term program, we recommend that you apply by October 1st (early) or October 15th (general). Depending on space availability, applications may be accepted following general application deadline. Contact Doug or Alexandra about availability if you are interested in applying.
You can either submit your application online, or you can download our application form and send it to our office in Salt Lake City. The application requests information about your academic and extra-curricular interests, references, and a short personal statement. Accompanying your application should be a $50 application fee and an official copy of your most recent school transcript.
How does academic credit work for Round River programs?
Our courses and instructors are reviewed by Westminster College of Salt Lake City. Our programs are therefore accredited through Westminster, and every student participating on a program for college credit will request a transcript at the end of the term. How credits are transferred depends on a student’s home university and individual department. We have schools that allow our courses to be equivalent to upper division courses offered on their home campus, while others may transfer as general electives. Each applicant should have their academic advisor review our courses and syllabi to see how courses will be accepted and credits transferred – before going on our program.
Since Round River is a conservation field program, will I experience local cultures?
Yes. In each of the places that we work, Round River has been invited by a local individual or organization to provide scientific or land planning expertise, and people power in the form of the student programs to assist with their conservation issues. In this way, Round River is careful to work with the initiatives of local people so as not to push an agenda that they do not see as beneficial to them and their land. Because of this relationship with local groups, students are welcomed by the local people that we work with, and as a result spend a great deal of time working closely with them. That may be going into indigenous communities in Namibia to conduct community values interviews, listening to stories from Taku River Tlingit elders, or attending park guard training workshops in Patagonia.
How rigorous are the courses?
The coursework is rigorous, but because of the applied nature of the material we have found that students without a science background find the coursework engaging and are able to succeed. Still, this is not a program a student should come to expecting they will not have to work hard to earn their credits. Upon leaving the program, many students express they feel they have learned more in a semester than all of their previous time in school. This is due in large part to the relevance of the material when it can be seen in practice in the field. On a Round River program, the academics are an extension of the fieldwork, and emphasis is placed on applying concepts learned in lectures and readings to the practical field methods carried out.
Can you do the program if you are not a science major?
Yes. While most of our students study wildlife biology or environmental studies, our students have diverse interests and come from a wide range of academic fields. We have had students majoring in Physics, Music, Photography, and International Studies (to name a few). Round River does not have any prerequisites for our programs; anyone can join as long as they are in good academic standing at their home institution, interested in conservation, love big wild places, and are motivated to be a research assistant and work in local communities. We will teach you everything you need to know to participate in our field projects. We believe that a diverse group of students will guarantee a more interesting and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
How many student are on each course?
You can expect six to twelve students, and two or three RR instructors, to be on your program.
Small research crews are necessary not only to ensure higher quality instruction and research, but also, to limit our own footprint on the environment. It is intrusive to the wildlife and local communities we work with to be any larger. You can do so much more, and get so much more out of your experience when you have a small compact group. Whether you’re piling into a Land Rover to do wildlife surveys, backpacking through the boreal forest, or setting up camp in the Chacabuco Valley of Patagonia, you’ll be glad to be part of such a small and intimate group.
Can I participate on the program after I've graduated from college, or after high school?
Yes. We frequently have students that participate on our programs following the completion of their undergraduate degree. Generally, the goal of these students is often to gain experience before applying to graduate school, or it may be because of interest in a particular region and a recognition that they want to experience it in a way that our programs provide. As long as an applicant is 18 they can participate on our programs, and we have people doing so during their Gap Year. We have found that students participating early in his or her college career gain great insights into the pursuit of their interests in college.