Two McMaster students have embarked on a summer journey they’ll likely never forget — one that involves survival training, hundreds of kilometres of wilderness trails, and bucketloads of fish.

Andrew Case and Anthony D'Ambrosio were two of the recipients of McMaster University’s Jolie Ringash and Glen Bandiera Renaissance Award, which gives students $25,000 do something completely outside their field of study. The idea is that the journey will help them be better students and citizens.

That took Case and D’Ambrosio to the shores of Newfoundland to spend an entire six weeks outside on the East Coast Trail. CBC News caught up with the two in mid-June, when the capelin were just starting to roll up onto the beach in Middle Cove.

'It's not about making good time, it's about making time good.' - Andrew Case, McMaster University student

“I've heard about the capelin rolling, but never seen it myself, so I'm so happy to be here," Case said.

The small fish come inshore to spawn, and many of them will roll up onto the rocky shores. It’s a common sight for Newfoundlanders, but not so much for two university students from Hamilton.

“This is nothing that I would get in southwestern Ontario, so I don't care how long I have to wait today,” D'Ambrosio said. “I want to see it."

McMaster University students Andrew Case and Anthony D'Ambrosio hiking in NL

Andrew Case and Anthony D'Ambrosio plan to live off the land — so everything they'll need to survive is being carried along with them. (CBC)

This is the kind of genuine, spontaneous experience they came here for. The two plan to live off the land — so everything they'll need to survive is being carried along with them. They made sure to leave their smartphones at home.

They also underwent survival training, which should help the two keep going on the more than 500 kilometres of rugged trail that runs along the Atlantic coast of the island’s Avalon Peninsula.

They won’t even be carrying water — instead, they’ll use hydration packs to filter their own clean water on the way.

“Along the trail, we fill this up with any fresh water, and we take this tube on the side of the pack and suck it through, and it filters it clean as it comes through, so it's drinkable," D'Ambrosio said.

Journey of self-discovery

Along the trek across the trail, the two also plan to read some of the classics by nature writers like Emerson, Thoreau, and Grey Owl on a “journey of self-discovery.”

The husband and wife team of Drs. Ringash and Bandiera launched the award back in 2013. The two are both graduates of the university’s DeGroote School of Medicine, and they both now practice in Toronto.

The point of the $25,000 award is to make it possible for McMaster students to do something the award’s funders wish they had gotten to do before finishing their own studies.

Case and D’Ambrosio are keeping journals on the journey, and want to use the trip to promote outdoor education.

But for now, they're just taking things slow, to fully absorb everything Newfoundland’s wilderness has to show them.

"It's not about getting through this as fast as we can,” Case said.

“It's not about making good time, it's about making time good."