Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation
Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation

"I am always looking for adventure and new places to explore, constantly reading magazines and books, looking on the Internet or requesting information to various exotic destinations. In my own little world, these adventures are what make me happy. They are the reason that I want to be successful in life. The experiences that are unique are the ones that are the most rewarding. They are the things in life that are most important to me because they teach me about myself and make me believe in what a special and unique person I really am. ."
- Kate Svitek

Kate's Writings

University of Vermont Application

Why is UVM a good college choice for you?

The University of Vermont is the best college choice for me because it fulfills all the requirements I am looking for in a University. First off, location is a very important part of my college decision. I want to be in a place that is not too far away from my home in Philadelphia, but that is far enough away that I don’t feel strangled by the same environment and surroundings that I have lived in for the past seventeen years. My high school career has been spent at a small college prep school (only 110 people in my graduating class), and I am looking for a college in which I would have contact with a larger pool of people. UVM is the perfect size! 7,500 students is large enough for diversity but not so large that I would feel lost in the community.

I am also a nature lover. The mountains and beauty of Vermont’s landscape bring a sense of peace to me. I have spent the past three summers doing various outdoor activities including backpacking, camping, rafting, climbing, etc. In the summer of 1994, I went to the four corners region of the United States for a six week program with America’s Adventure. In the summer of 1995, I enjoyed the beauty of the Pacific northwest on a six week program with Wilderness Ventures. Most recently I had the extraordinary opportunity to participate on an Outward Bound twenty-two day alpine mountaineering course in the North Cascades. The outdoors means a lot to me because it has allowed me the opportunity to grow as a person. For this reason I have every intention of making them a continual part of my life. The University’s Outing Club is attractive to me because it suggests there will be other people at UVM who appreciate the outdoors.

The most important reason for my wanting to attend the University of Vermont is because I agree with the teaching philosophy. I believe that it is important to have skills in writing and public speaking. I like the way the University stresses the importance of becoming a strong writer in much the same way my high school has. I have worked hard in high school to improve my writing skills and like that this will not just end in high school. In this way, I agree with the University of Vermont’s liberal arts background in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world. The University of Vermont also seems to be a hands on learning experience. This is very important to me because I believe it is the most dynamic and fulfilling way of learning. I learn best in an environment in which there is more to learning than just books and note taking. The class in which I have learned the most about the world around me is in Biology II nature studies course. In this course we do more than just learn in the classroom we branch out and do field studies and plot surveys in order to learn more about the world in which we live.

The University of Vermont’s "work hard, play well" philosophy is very much what I believe in as well. I am a very active person and I believe that my college learning experience involves more than just academics. I like that UVM has hundreds of clubs for me to get involved in.

How accurately does your academic record accurately reflect your intellectual ability?

Unfortunate to say, I believe that my academic record does not reflect my intellectual ability at all. I have recently acknowledged this, and am ashamed of myself for my poor display of academic talents and effort in high school. I consider myself to be an intelligent person. I never really pushed myself to my limits in high school and find this to be one of the biggest regrets I have been faced with in my life so far. Despite what my grades reflect, I am a person who loves to learn. I soak in all the new knowledge that I am exposed to and enjoy the feeling of being able to apply that knowledge to everyday life. Where as I don’t consider my grades and academic record to be horrible, I certainly wish I could say that I was proud of them. From this I realize that I am responsible for my actions and from my mistakes I can only grow more determined as a person. I feel that from my grades I have learned a life long lesson. If I want to be successful according to my own standards then it is important for me to go at everything I do with tremendous effort and determination.

Please describe how your intended major relates to your career plans.

Although I’m not sure what I want to be when I "grow up", I’m almost positive that it will have something to do with the environment or be nature oriented.

I intend to apply "undeclared" to the college of natural resources. I have not yet decided on my exact career plans or goals because I still have a lot to learn about myself and the impact in which I would like to have on others in the future. I believe that conserving the environment is crucial in our path into the twenty-first century. People have a lot to learn through nature and the environment. I know that the experiences I have had with nature have been very rewarding. This past summer I spent my time on a twenty-two day Outward Bound course. Being alone with nature, does remarkable things for me. My time on Outward Bound has changed my life forever. I want to spend my life helping people to better understand our natural world and appreciate it in the same way I have done by becoming part of nature. Our natural world is a powerful force and I want to try to provide people with the opportunity to grow through their interaction with the environment. I believe that the School of Natural Resources is my best choice for this. 

Summer is supposed to be for leisure. I should have been on the beach wearing merely a bathing suit, not sitting in the guide shack in Mt. Rainier National Park with the hail beating down on the tin roof, and wondering if the soaking wet capiline underwear on my back and synchilla fleeces in my backpack were going to be enough for the long, steep trek ahead. Suddenly, I wanted to be with my friends back home, prancing into the ocean every so often at the hot, sandy Jersey shore in order to cool off from the unbearable July sun. Instead I was 3,500 miles away from home in the middle of a snow storm.

Despite the weather, we had made it to our "10,000 foot high resting place", Camp Muir. It was at Muir that we cooked up and forced down the rubbery, overcooked globs of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. "It will give you the energy you need to get to the summit," the guides assured us numerous times. Although it looked nothing like Mom’s mac and cheese, I forced it down. It was only four o’clock in the afternoon but we were told to try and rest. We would be awakened at midnight to start the trek to the top.

It was cold and I was getting anxious as I lay zipped into my sleeping bag, in drenched socks and underwear trying to get to sleep and stay warm amid the chatter and snoring that filled the small bunk. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so well. I sat up debating whether or not I should try in the darkness to make my way outside to the "hole in the ground" bathroom. Yes, I had to get up. As I stumbled out of my bag, trying not to wake anyone up, I felt that hardened ball of macaroni that had earlier fallen to the pit of my stomach slowly making its way up my esophagus. This wasn’t the right time or place to be getting sick.

I battled the door open against the fifty mile an hour winds just in time to vomit all over the fresh blanket of white snow. With each step toward the outhouse I grew sicker, leaving small trails of throw up behind me. I leaned my head over what I thought was the hole, and instead threw up all over the floor and seat cover of the outhouse. It seemed as if my retching would never end. My hands were trembling. A tear trickled down my face. My heart filled with sorrow. I figured there was no chance of me reaching the summit. I had barely enough energy to get back to the cabin.

I was awakened at midnight. As the group scurried around to find all their belongings, I lay there wondering what to do. I had never felt sicker, but reaching the summit was the event of the summer I had been waiting for most. I had to at least give it a try. Perhaps the fresh air and excitement would revive me. The worst had to be over.

Unfortunately, the worst was not over. I exhausted myself just getting to the first rest stop. The winds were getting higher and the temperatures had hit the negative numbers. As I decided to turn back, wishing the group bound for the summit a "Good luck", I realized my journey was still only half over.

Unable to concentrate, my head spinning, I kept tripping over the rocks and my own feet. Time after time I fell down, pulling the people tied to my rope close to danger. We were almost back to Muir when in the depth of my sickness, frustration and embarrassment, I saw the sun rise among the clouds over Mt. Baker’s snow capped peak hundreds of miles away. The overwhelming misery of that night’s fiasco was transformed. The beauty of the scenery around me left nothing for me to complain about and I realized how lucky I was for even getting the opportunity to be doing what I loved best.

Although I didn’t make it to the summit of Mt. Rainier that sunrise, near the top of the world, gave me a new perspective on life. I realized the importance of challenging one’s own limits and ingenuity even if you are not able to achieve a goal. That sunrise placed into me a sense of wonder that had nothing to do with whether or not I made it to the summit. It is not always necessary to achieve an ultimate goal, because the reward of self satisfaction was enough from within.

Why a Semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School would be beneficial to me:

I have been receiving a NOLS catalog of courses for quite a few years now. Every year when I receive it in the mail I run upstairs and read the thing from cover to cover doggy earring all the courses I dream of being a participant on. Before I know it the whole booklet has pages marked down and I have to spend more time rereading and then narrowing down the possibilities. I have always done things like that, dreaming of all the places I would like to go and all the things I want to do. I am always looking for adventure and new places to explore, constantly reading magazines and books, looking on the Internet or requesting information to various exotic destinations. In my own little world, these adventures are what make me happy. They are the reason that I want to be successful in life. The experiences that are unique are the ones that are the most rewarding. They are the things in life that are most important to me because they teach me about myself and make me believe in what a special and unique person I really am. A NOLS experience would be the tip of the iceberg in my journey through life, but if I never break the tip I will never get to where I need to go. I want to be challenged physically, mentally, socially…I want something to be proud of; this NOLS experience is very important to me.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my future. I have been working hard in school this year to try and get good grades. Aside from the academic standpoint, I have been working hard to be able to achieve the goals I have been setting for myself in the latter years of life. As you may or may not know I want to own my own business that specializes in adventure travel/ecotourism/outdoor education, a company along the lines of Backroads or America’s Adventure. I firmly believe that a Semester with NOLS in Patagonia would really be the basis for me to be able to lie a solid foundation in the industry of recreation. By going away this coming semester, I believe I am putting myself ahead of the game. Next summer I would like to work for a company that takes teenagers on adventure trips, and by completing a NOLS semester I will be extremely qualified. I figure by starting to work in the industry at a young age, it will give me more time to make connections and really get a feel as to the operations of an adventure travel company.

Nature is a very amazing thing. The concept of humans being so powerless in the natural world never really hits home until you are alone in the wilderness, a part of it for an extended period of time. Being able to take a breath away from any advanced civilization is a very empowering experience for me. Very few people take advantage of exactly what the natural world has to offer. Fortunately, for myself I have, and it has really made me the person I am today. For three summers I went on extended trips in the backcountry, some more intense than others did, but none the less all equally important. Each of the summers I came home a happier person, a more independent person and a person more content with the person I am becoming. I can’t imagine that being in one of the world’s most remote beautiful places in the world for almost three months without civilization won’t change me for the better. An opportunity like this really cleanses the mind and would give me time to evaluate my life so far and help me in deciding what needs to be changed for the future.

Aside from the spiritual aspect of three months in the wilderness, it would certainly get me into shape. I think it is obvious to many of the people that know me, that my body image has always been something I have struggled with. I once again have hit rock bottom in my fight against being leaner and more content with my body. Everything in my life has to be affected by these feelings either directly or indirectly, and I don’t like that. I want to feel good about myself because that would make me a happier person. Sadly enough a small part of the reason I am so excited to go away is because I know I will come back thinner and "buffer". I really need that right now. To know that I have challenged myself physically without a break for that long, there is a lot of self-confidence to be gained. I am very aware of the person that I am mentally and I am quite proud of her. I think that she is a strong independent woman who knows what she wants and needs and will get it. Sadly enough my physical appearance gets in the way of the rest of the Kate that I am so proud of, and would like to share with the world. Perhaps this trip will really give me the opportunity to achieve that.

Being in a remote setting for three months with only sixteen people will be a challenge. There will be times when all of us get along, times when we all hate each other and so it. There is no question that there won’t be a time when all of us are longing for a shower or some real food. On this trip, working with people and communicating will be key to the trip’s success. I think it is obvious that working with others and having to compromise in order to get the job done is something that I could use some help with. This is the ideal situation. I will be in a small group environment, which is what I really need in order to be heard and also, I will be in an environment that makes me happy to achieve a common goal. On all of my other trips this has proven true, especially outward bound, and it really feels good to know that you are able to work hard and compromise your own needs and wants to get a result that is good for the whole group.

Lastly, this is a leadership course that will teach me all the skills I will need both in the backcountry and my own real life experiences. I will be learning more in this 2.5 months than any lifetime at any University could ever teach me, and that is what counts. I have learned over the years that I am a person that learns by doing. Some people live their lives by the book, literally. I think that it is obvious to myself that I don’t. For one, I am excited about a profession that is a little out of the ordinary for a kid who grew up in the environment that I have. What is important to me isn’t necessarily how well I may or may not do on my statistics test next week, but what is really important to Kate Svitek as a person, and discovering who I really am on the inside looking a fun and rewarding life journey ahead.