We got a quick Q&A session in with NOLS Scandinavia Manager Carrie Dodge regarding her work with students in NOLS Scandinavia.
If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:
The staff at NOLS Scandinavia are dedicated, hard working, and passionate about the programs we run, aiming to provide the best possible experiences for the students. We have a great mix of local staff, with amazing knowledge of the area and culture, and international staff representing up to five continents, bringing their unique experiences and perspectives to the courses.
How long have you been NOLS Scandinavia director?
I have been managing the program in Scandinavia for just over a year and look forward to many more to come. Scandinavia is a place I have wanted to live and work for a long time, so I am thrilled that I get to spend so much time there now!
What is your background with NOLS? Or how did it all begin for you?
I first came to NOLS as a student in 1999 on a semester in the Pacific Northwest. I knew I wanted to work in the outdoor field and went to college to earn a degree in outdoor experiential education. After working for some other programs to gain experience, I found my way back to NOLS with an internship in 2007 at Headquarters in Lander. I knew immediately that I wanted to stay with NOLS longer, so I applied for my instructor course and began looking for more full time work within the school. Since then I have held various positions working in town while also teaching hiking and sea kayaking courses for part of every year. It's the perfect balance of getting to spend time with students in the field and exploring new places and also supporting the courses and developing the programs at the branch as well.
What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?
The Northern Scandinavian landscape is quite stunning. We have mountains, rivers, and lakes to explore all right there next to the base in Sweden, and just a short distance away are the dramatic fjords of Norway, which are enjoyed on courses by hikers and kayakers alike … even the van drivers on the way to drop off or pick up a course. I never get tired of that view with the high peaks plunging right into the ocean. It’s breathtaking!
What unique or particularly appealing aspect of this location do you think potential students should know about?
NOLS Scandinavia, which now boasts a large tipi as the main staging area for all courses, is located in the far north of Sweden right on the border with Norway. So, our course areas span the two countries with kayak routes exploring the fjords and hiking routes starting right out the back door. Students can throw their packs right on, start walking across the mountains into Norway, and keep heading west until they hit the ocean, where a boat will be waiting to bring them back to the branch—or they’ll get dropped off on the coast and hike all the way back to the base in Sweden, where a warm cup of coffee (a Swedish staple) and hot sauna will be waiting for them.
Along the way, students get to experience the remoteness of the mountains and also the unique opportunity to learn about the culture through stories and language lessons from local instructors, visits to museums and historical sights, and spending some time with the indigenous Sami people, learning some of their traditions and how they lived with the land.
What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?
I’m not sure everyone initially realizes that the NOLS Scandinavia base is located North of the Arctic Circle—the land of the midnight sun. This means that there are 30 days in the summer when the sun doesn’t go below the horizon, and we have 24 hours of daylight nearly the entire summer. Some courses enjoy the novelty of traveling in the night, arriving to camp in the wee hours of the morning, and then enjoying a nice sleep in before continuing on with the day.
Anything else you'd like to add about your part of the world?
Visiting NOLS Scandinavia is a great and easy way to link an educational journey with some additional international exploration. The base is located right on the train tracks, so connecting travel from other European countries is simple. Sweden is part of the Schengen area, so depending on your home country and length of stay, many students won’t even need to obtain a visa before coming. Some students make plans to meet up with friends or family for a personal trip while they are in Europe, and others have continued their education by connecting their NOLS course with a study abroad program.