An Introduction to a New World

Professor Parrinello and his students taking a break. | Photo courtesy of Divad Smith

By Ilvea Lezama

Have you ever wanted the study abroad experience but closer to home? Well, York College has the perfect class for you; PE 178 ‘Outdoor Living’ taught by Professor Joseph Parrinello. As a New York State Licensed Mountain guide, he takes York students to explore the outdoors and disconnect from reality for a few days.

“I learned the importance of slowing down and clearing my head of all problems,” said Divad Smith, a physical education major. “I tend to take in the little moments I see in nature, like sunsets or just flowers blooming.” 

Professor Parrinello is an alumnus who took the class 50 years ago, eventually came back as a volunteer and has been an instructor for the past 35 years. 

“If a student can walk, then they can hike,” said Parrinello.

The accelerated class meets three to four Saturdays before the big trip. But it all depends on the size of the class. At the beginning of the semester, students are advised to walk at least two to three miles just to get in the rhythm of things, according to Parrinello.

Students get a taste of what their hiking trip will be like when they go to local parks approximately 45 mins from York College. There, they practice team-building activities and learn basic things like how to travel in the woods, prepare food in a single pot, light a camp stove, read the compass and basic map reading skills. York College provides students with most  of the needed equipment, such as sleeping bags, pots and water filters. 

“This course presents a unique opportunity for students to gain some skills not just from the outdoors but for life in general,” said Parrinello. “The structure of the program provides them with security while challenging students to participate in activities well beyond their comfort zone. It is in the conquering of these challenges that they gain confidence and inner strength.” 

He also has seen students who have experienced the class be encouraged to go on more extensive travels and even study abroad. “I feel that students leave this class more self-aware, more tolerant of others, more introspective because they are allowed to view their current lifestyle in contrast to the life they live in the woods. Life in the woods is simple and being unconnected to social media gives students a different perspective to life,” he said. 

An introduction to a new world close to home is how he wants students to view this course. And he said he hopes to continue to do this for many years. He recommends this course for students who need a break in their daily life and an interval to revise their life. “PE 178 is a great place to feel connected to York, fellow students, and nature. Students leave the course rejuvenated, with a new group of friends and looking for more outdoor opportunities.” 

The class is offered to everyone, regardless of their major, during the Spring and Fall semesters by the Health and Human Performance Department. 

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