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Discovering My—Slightly Strange—New Normal on a NOLS Gap Year

By Tricia Ballard on 3/7/19 1:01 PM

 

Photo by Kevin Castellanos
 

I’m normally apprehensive about opening up to people—so I was nervous when I showed up to a random bus stop three plane rides away from home for the start of my Semester in New Zealand. That day, I met nine strangers who would supposedly become my new best friends during the following 77 days in the mountains of New Zealand.

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Topics: Gap Year, inspiring women, leadership, Semester in New Zealand, story

Why I Left School for a NOLS Semester

By Claire Burgeson on 10/15/18 9:50 AM


Photo by Claire Burgeson

The second week of my sophomore year of college, I walked into my 9:00 a.m. history class and asked myself, “What am I still doing here?”

I was doing what I'd always done: what was expected of me. I had graduated high school, chosen a college, and just chosen a major—journalism. I got good grades, had friends—on paper, I was a list of checked boxes.

At the same time, I felt my energy and creativity drain through the holes that the classroom grind had worn through me.

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Topics: study abroad, NOLS Mexico, Gap Year, outdoor semester, Semester in Baja, story

Get Off the Grid for a Gap Year

By Molly Herber on 4/12/17 8:29 AM

Editor’s note: I asked staff around NOLS why they think it’s a good idea to get off the grid for a gap year. We do love our technology, but there’s also a whole lot of value in disconnecting for a while. Here’s why.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Gap Year

Make Leadership the Focus of Your Gap Year

By Katherine Boehrer on 3/23/17 9:42 AM

Backpacking in Alaska. Photo by Tara Pesman.

I took my first NOLS course, Alaska Backpacking, the summer before my senior year of high school. Many things I learned in the backcountry made me better prepared for my final year of high school and starting college.

If you're thinking about taking a gap year, that's a perfect time to hone your leadership skills. The value of travel, work experience, or service during a gap year isn't just in activities—it's also in the intangible skills like teamwork and self-reliance.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Gap Year, leadership

Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

By Carolyn Highland on 2/22/17 10:31 AM


Not every day can be sunshine and rainbows. Photo by Carolyn Highland.

It was four in the morning, it was sideways sleeting, and the tent pole cup was broken. I stood huddled in my rain gear, aiming my headlamp down at my tentmate and my instructor, who were lying sideways on the icy snow, trying to speedy-stitch the stirrup back to the tent body before they lost all dexterity in their hands.

It was four in the morning and I was supposed to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag inside the tent, but instead I was outside getting pelted with rain on the side of a snowy mountain, the blackness around me increasing the sense of being in the absolute middle of nowhere.

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Topics: study abroad, Semester, NOLS New Zealand, Live the Dream, Gap Year

The Big Picture: How I Found My Grit on a Semester in Baja

By Sarah Buer on 1/25/17 8:20 AM
Photo courtesy of Tucker Cunningham.

Tell us a little about your course

Three years ago, as part of a gap year, I took part in a semester-long, eighty-day NOLS course in Baja California.

This course consisted of 15 students and 4 highly-trained instructors embarking on a 100-mile hike from San Juanico to Mulegé, a 120-nautical mile sail on the Sea of Cortez from Loreto to just about south of Puerto Agua Verde, and ending with a 250-mile sea kayaking journey from Puerto Agua Verde to a town called Tecalote. (I also received sixteen college credits for my course, ranging from wilderness first aid to Leave No Trace principles).

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Topics: Semester, Baja, sea kayak, Baja Sea Kayaking, Live the Dream, NOLS semester, Gap Year, education, backcountry, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Just Go for It: Making Gap Year a Reality

By Bailey Barnes on 11/21/16 1:13 PM

We caught up with Fall Semester in the Rockies grad Bailey Barnes to learn more about the challenges—and fun—of a gap year, and the work and planning it took to make her gap year a reality.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Gap Year

Pursuing a Passion: Choosing an Outdoor Gap Year

By Eugene Buchanan on 10/26/16 12:33 PM

Gap year parent Eugene Buchanan writes about his daughter's surprising decision to take a gap year.

The NOLS Decision

“You what?” I asked my 17-year-old daughter, Brooke.

“I’m going to graduate early, a semester, my senior year. I want that to be my gap semester. I want to do a NOLS course.”

Accepting the independence of a teenage daughter is hard enough; seeing it come at the sake of a promising soccer career—one making you a doting soccer parent for over a decade—was perhaps even harder.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Gap Year

5 Gap Year Tips from the Wilderness

By Molly Herber on 10/13/16 8:55 AM

Sometimes, school gets to start with a little adventure.

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Topics: Gap Year

Any Year Can Be a Gap Year

By Shelby Cranshaw on 9/9/16 6:49 AM

I am not entirely sure what I meant when I claimed to “hate nature” for the majority of my life.

But I said it. Often. My dad used to bribe me up mountains with M&Ms every 100 steps. He threatened to send me on NOLS courses during my high school summers when I complained of boredom.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS Patagonia, Semester, wilderness medicine, adventure, Live the Dream, Gap Year, education

Reasons to Take a Longer Trip

By Shelby Cranshaw on 7/12/16 1:47 PM

Spending an extended period of time in the backcountry can seem challenging even to the most experienced of wilderness travelers, but you can learn a lot of humorous and valuable lessons when you're removed from civilization for a long time.

Here are few reasons why you should go into the wild for more time than you think.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, cooking, adventure, Gap Year, education

Where Should You Take Your Gap Year? [Quiz]

By NOLS on 3/21/16 8:40 AM

You’re ready to spend some time exploring before heading to college—but where should you go?

Take the quiz and find out!

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, adventure, Gap Year, education, quiz

How to Plan for Your Gap Year

By Molly Herber on 2/26/16 2:45 PM

Photo by David Morgan
 

Taking a gap year is a big decision, and figuring out how to do it can be overwhelming.

If you’re struggling to make a plan for your gap year, take a look at these guidelines to get ideas for how to plan (financially, academically, and personally), a successful gap year.

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Topics: Semester, Expedition Prep, adventure, Gap Year, education, backcountry, leadership

Why You Should Get Outside for Your Gap Year

By Molly Herber on 2/12/16 1:27 PM

Each year, more students choose to take a gap year before college, spending the year after graduating high school to travel, work, or volunteer. A gap year is a great way to gain experience, learn about yourself, and take a break from the traditional classroom before buckling down for another four years of school. Choosing the right gap year program can be tricky. If you type “gap year” into your search bar, you'll see what feels like an endless list of options.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Semester, Backpacking, adventure, Gap Year, education, backcountry, leadership

A Second Family: My Home Stay in Patagonia

By Caroline Herman on 11/13/15 7:05 AM

Editor's note: Caroline took a gap year between high school and college to spend a year learning and living with NOLS in Chilean Patagonia. This is the story of her home stay with a Chilean family during her course.

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, NOLS Patagonia, Gap Year