There and Back Again: An Intern's Tale

By Cole Medders

Aug 31, 2015

To the Wilderness

21 years old, working part time jobs, unsure about finishing school, and in desperate need of an adventure ... that's exactly where I found myself a little over a year ago. Where was I going? What was I doing with my life? These questions frequently ran through my mind and I desperately needed to find a solution.

Just a few short months later, I was on a bus with 12 other young men heading deep into the Absaroka Mountains about to begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Over the next three months I cross country skied in primitive back country, managed medical emergencies, climbed rock monoliths 1,000 feet high, navigated deep desert canyons and took raging white water head-on in a canoe. My NOLS Spring Semester in the Rockies showed me that my struggle was not unique, that many other young men and women battle with the same ideas of finding purpose and direction. I strongly believe that, after just three months, 13 men emerged from the wilderness with renewed confidence and purpose.


Intern Canyons Hiking in the canyons of Utah. Photo by Cole Medders



Intern River White water canoeing on the Green River. Photo by Hank Halverson



Intern snow My home in the Absaroka Mountains. Photo by Cole Medders.



As I packed my bags and prepared to go home I realized that I may have left the wilderness but the wilderness had made a permanent residence within me. The past three months were just not going to be enough.

So I did what any starry-eyed young adult with a lust for the outdoors would do ... I applied for a PR and marketing internship at NOLS Headquarters and made a tent in City Park of Lander, Wyoming my home ... and it was the best decision of my life!

Back to NOLS

My internship with NOLS began the first of June, 2015 and runs until December. It has given me experience in various departments such as marketing, public relations and journalism. My internship has included writing blog posts, managing social media accounts, answering customer questions, hosting social events, writing press releases and so much more. I have been able to gain real work place experience and continue my adventures at the same time.

In almost no time at all I had been adopted into the incredible NOLS family and became a part of the tight-knit community of Lander. I will admit that being an intern can require some creativity, but with free camping and low-cost housing at the Noble Hotel, free food from the hotel, house sitting gigs, and a community around you that wants you to succeed, the ends always meet.

As much as I learned in the office, it was my time spent outside of the office working on projects or just playing in the mountains that made this summer so incredible.


city park 5 Shenanigans at the International Climbers' Festival. Photo by Cole Medders.


Life as an Intern

A highlight of the summer was working the International Climbers' Festival. Not only did I represent NOLS at a booth during the festival, but I was also able to participate fully in the festivities. In addition to the festival, I have represented NOLS at outdoor expos, instructed rock climbing classes through the school, enjoyed company picnics and built a strong group of peers. The internship also created other opportunities for me, work and play, that would have never been possible otherwise

Recently, I was able to be an instructor for two programs teaching children and teens how to climb through the local Parks and Recreation. I was also a camp counselor for a program run by Central Wyoming College, Stronger than Diabetes (a retreat for families with diabetic children). I spent the weekend mountain biking, fishing, caving and rock climbing with an incredible group of families.


Intern weekeend hike Me and my fellow NOLS employees enjoying a weekend in the Wind River Mountains. Photo by Kirk Rasmussen



But life is not all work as an intern. With beautiful afternoons starting at 4:00 and weekends always fast-approaching, there is more than enough playtime. Since the beginning of the summer I have been able to climb the Grand Teton and Wind River Peak, rock climb at Wyoming's best crags, white water kayak, overlook beautiful vistas after a long hike and shred down some hills on a mountain bike. Even if you don't have an epic adventure planned for your afternoon or weekend, it's nice to just kick back and relax with your fellow interns.

What's Next?




intern mountain Standing at the lower saddle of the Grand Teton. Photo by Jordan Jack


As I look to my future with NOLS I hope to take my instructor course this upcoming spring. Because of my internship, I have been able to learn a tremendous amount about the dynamics of the school and build my outdoor resume. I feel that without this internship my goal to become an instructor would still be much farther away. I have also been given the chance to take a sea kayaking course in Baja, Mexico as a part of my internship to gain experience in a field I am unfamiliar with.

Half a year ago I had no direction, but now I feel that NOLS has placed me on a trajectory that I am passionate about. I am thankful for the experiences I have already had and I anticipate greatly what is to come.

Cover photo by Kirk Rasmussen.

Written By

Cole Medders

Cole Medders was the PR and Marketing intern during Summer 2015

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