Aaron graduated from WAC in 2013. We caught up with him to see where his training has lead. Where are you currently employed, and how long…
My name is Charlotte Gruneau, and I attended West Coast Adventure College from 2017 to 2018. When I think about my time at WAC and what I gained from the experience, it is difficult to quantify my deep feeling of gratitude toward the college and professors. I’ll start by saying that I would not be who I am today had I not done this program and pushed myself to do something I never imagined I could do.
I remember that my parents were skeptical when I expressed desire about attending the college, being that I was already working in the tourism industry at the time. I think their ideas about a potential career for me were different than what I was envisioning for myself. I knew that this didn’t have as much to do with a career than it had to do with gaining independence and a feeling of self reliance that I craved, but wasn’t quite sure how to manifest on my own. After I finished the program and spent my first summer away working for a grizzly bear watching company in the Broughton Archipelago, I came back home the following fall to hear my dad say:
“You know what, I take it back. It was worth every penny.”
He was referring to my newfound sense of confidence and noted that the way I carried myself was different. I have to say that I agree, and that the biggest thing I gained from this program is confidence; not just in my abilities, as the college equipped me with lifelong skills and a capacity to experience the outdoors in an entirely new way, but confidence in myself as a person. That spring after I finished school, I set out on my first ever solo hike in hopes of photographing a rare coastal wolf, and had a life-changing encounter, one that I wouldn’t have had the courage to do had it not been for WAC.
Since graduating I have worked in a remote location I never thought I’d have the opportunity to explore, with a species I never thought I’d really get to know. For someone who has struggled with mental health issues and agoraphobic symptoms in the past, the idea of me taking the initiative to move away to a wilderness setting and work around one of nature’s top predators would have seemed completely far-fetched.
I remember thinking prior to attending WAC that I couldn’t imagine myself driving a boat, or being able to handle the responsibility of managing a group of people in an outdoor environment. I think that is one of the things that makes this program so special. West Coast Adventure College is not just about completing some certifications and fast-tracking you to a job in adventure tourism. It is about facilitating facing your fears, in a close-knit community setting with like-minded people. There is no getting around the fact that achieving your dreams is often accompanied with a certain degree of being uncomfortable. Growth is never easy, and the college recognizes that, while giving you a safe space to explore what it means to decide that you want to grow and become the best, proudest version of yourself.
I have now started my own wildlife art company called Owling Wolf, and continue to follow my passion for wildlife photography and guiding. My favourite part about working in this field is that it has given me the opportunity to explore my passion while working. I feel that my experience at WAC has given me far more than I could ever sum up in words, but if I were to attempt to describe it, I would use the following quote by John A. Shedd, that I believe I first read in one of my texts for the course: “A ship in a harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” You were built for great things, and without a doubt this program will help you get there.