Although a civilian teenager, he trained aboard the starship as a shuttle pilot, likely as part of his attempt to make it into Starfleet Academy. He missed out on getting the chance to take the final Starfleet Academy entrance exam by only 32 points, and as result became somewhat depressed and fearful of what his father would think of his failure.
While the Enterprise was in orbit of Relva VII, he stole the Type 7 shuttlecraft Copernicus, intending to join a freighter on Beltane IX and asked Captain Picard to tell his father he was sorry for his failure and for stealing the shuttle. However, his anxiety and inexperience got the better of him, and he accidentally unbalanced his dilithium reactor, causing one of his engines to shut down. The shuttle became caught in Relva VII's gravity well, headed for a burn-up in the atmosphere and almost certain death. Kurland began to panic, but Picard was able to calm Kurland down and talk him through a shallow re-entry into the atmosphere. With Picard's help, Kurland was able to re-start the engine and build up enough speed to bounce the shuttle safely off the atmosphere.