Ani McMannon

Campus Ambassador: University of Vermont

My name is Ani and I am a WRFI 2021 Montana Afoot & Afloat alum! I am a fourth-year student at the University of Vermont where I am pursuing a major in Spanish and a minor in Environmental Studies. I grew up in Colchester, Vermont and from a young age, my family instilled in me a love and appreciation for nature and time spent outdoors. We went on many camping trips and hiked in the Green  mountains and, eventually, I started to dip my toe into the world of backpacking with some shorter trips here and there. I had always craved finding a group of like-minded, adventurous people to go on longer backpacking trips with and WRFI was just that.

I found out about WRFI one day when I walked by a bulletin board on campus after class and one particular poster with a photo of a tent stopped me in my tracks, reading something roughly like: do you want to live in a tent and take a semester-worth of college credits? I snatched it up and was in contact with WRFI the next day. In the midst of the pandemic and online-learning, I felt so refreshed to feel excited about learning again.

My experience on WRFI is hard to put into words because it impacted me on so many different levels: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and socially. To start, sharing such a unique experience with a small, tight group has given me friends for life which has been really special. Our instructors care so much about every single student and have so much knowledge to share which led to daily thought-provoking classes on course. When we were not in the backcountry, WRFI organized meetings wit incredibly interesting guest-speakers from all walks of life which personally pushed me a lot to think critically about land-use and different perspectives.

I can’t express enough that the knowledge and experience that I gained on WRFI have been more valuable than any lecture has ever taught me. I’ve always been a hands-on learner and WRFI helped me feel much more connected with my own education again. I always love to talk about it so please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or if you just want to chat!