Hi! My name is Leila Gabrys and I’m currently attending my third year at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where I’m majoring in Atmospheric Sciences and Environmental Studies, with a certificate in Data Science. I participated in the WRFI Cycle the Rockies course in the summer of 2021, which undoubtedly changed my life!
I love being outdoors, no matter what I’m doing: hiking, camping, backpacking, or even my newfound love for cycling. I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin, but I can say with certainty that my heart lives in the mountains out west. After my first trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone before college, I found myself itching to go back. My advisor told me about the Wild Rockies Field Institute while I was in the process of declaring my major in Environmental Studies. That night, I sat down and promptly filled out my application, eager to do something so exciting after a long year of COVID quarantining and wallowing in my room. I decided that all of the offered courses at WRFI would give me a summer to remember, so when I was offered a spot in the Cycle the Rockies course, I was over the moon.
What made my experience with WRFI unique was that I was not an experienced cyclist. This added a whole new level of nerves when I arrived at WRFI Headquarters in Montana at the start of the trip. By the first time out on the road touring, my instructors and classmates encouraged me to push on through every obstacle we faced: treacherous heat, long hills, and powerful winds. With every day, I felt stronger and more a part of the team, but most of all, I felt the happiest I had ever been. Nothing beats riding down a mountain at 30 miles per hour surrounded by your best friends and all that nature has to offer.
Earning college credit was one of the most rewarding aspects of the course. We met with regenerative ranchers, local activists, and indigenous peoples to learn about energy consumption and climate change from many different perspectives. Our instructors provided us with countless resources to tie our findings together on the tour. Having the opportunity to learn from all sorts of angles gave me a purpose in this world worth fighting for.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have about WRFI, Cycle the Rockies, UW-Madison, or just about anything! I always look forward to sharing what I’ve learned on this course and more!