Alumni Spotlight: Avery Kirk


Avery is a young traveller who has spent her college-aged years educating herself through travel and enriching experiences. She has been traveling and living abroad for the past four years and has been to 22 countries and 36 US states.


Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Queenstown Adventure Guide Program because I was looking to cultivate my skills in both rock climbing and hiking. The adventure guide program caught my eye because it is a truly immersive program that automatically gets you a foot in the door in all areas of guiding-not just specifically hiking and climbing related jobs. I thought that this program had an extensive amount to offer for the cost and what better place to explore than the south island of New Zealand!

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own

Thankfully by doing the Adventure Guide Program, there's really not a lot that I needed to organize ahead of time. Of course you will need the essential travel requirements like a passport and visa, but those are very simple to obtain for those coming from the US. I also needed to book my own flight and accommodation for the days I was in New Zealand prior to the program start. Otherwise, essentially everything is provided by Pure Exploration. Students are provided accommodation for the duration of the program, a weekly stipend for food, all program-related transportation and most of the gear that you would need while on program (tents, climbing equipment, harnesses, helmets, etc.). You need to bring your own backpack, hiking poles, sleeping bag/liner, sleeping pad, etc. and I would recommend bringing your own climbing shoes, but if there's anything you don't have, there are many shops in Queenstown that offer gear at discounted rates for Pure Exploration students.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The number one piece of advice I would give to someone who is going on the adventure guide program is simply: enjoy it. Enjoy every minute of your time in New Zealand because it goes by FAST. I blinked and next thing I knew, three months had gone by! There is so much to do in Queenstown and the surrounding area, it is the adventure capital of the world, so spend your days off exploring and having fun! While on program, enjoy your time with your program-mates and instructors. If you're able to do that, this will truly be the best three months of your entire life.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

This is an intensive program, so you are on essentially all the time during the week. You will alternate between full weeks of rock climbing and hiking and often times you will be sleeping somewhere other than your own bed. During the week, you won't have much downtime, but on your weekends, you will have plenty of time to rest and explore. Your instructors will understand that the program can be intense and tiring at times, so they are very understanding of how you feel on program-it's just very important to communicate with them if you are feeling extra tired or down!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going into this experience was being the least fit person in the group and not being able to keep up with the intensity of the program. I'll be honest, I ended up being the slowest hiker in the group- even if somedays it was more mental than it was physical. In the beginning, this really stressed me out. I remember on our first bush week, I was hiking along (out of breath, of course) and asking myself if I had made a mistake doing the program. I felt embarrassed. I told my instructor that I just felt like I was holding everybody back with my inabilities and he very quickly assured me that I wasn't holding a single person back and that over the course of the program I was going to get stronger and grow so much-and I can confirm now, that he was right!

I grew a lot over the course of the program both physically and mentally and by the end, those fears that I had at the beginning of the program were no longer at the forefront of my mind. It's important to know that the reason you should join this program isn't because you are the strongest person in every room you walk into, it's because you are excited to grow and become stronger over the 12 weeks of the program.

What kind of career opportunities do you have after completing this course?

There are a lot of different paths that people take after this course. Of the 8 of us who completed the full 12 week program, 3 stayed in New Zealand and the other 5 left to pursue jobs elsewhere. Personally, I was able to get a job in Alaska guiding tours of the arctic region! Another one of my program mates became a raft guide, another is guiding tours out of Queenstown. So it's easy to say that this program opens a large varieties of doors for you career wise!