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Start Dreaming: Summer 2020 Expeditions Now Online

By NOLS on Jul 31, 2019
Photo by Ari Bruns

Dreading the end of summer? We are too, just a little.

But don’t despair: looking forward to next year’s outdoor adventures is a great way to shake off the end of summer blues.

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Topics: Events, summer, Adventure Courses, NOLS semester, NOLS Expeditions, Announcements, classic courses

Finding What Makes Others Tick on a Baja Semester

By Alison Peterson on May 8, 2019
Photo by Alison Peterson

Two months into our fall semester in Baja and dinner had just ended, wrapping up a weary day of classes and cleaning the kayaks. I strolled over to my coursemate, who was writing on the beach, asking if I could join in. In waves, a few more came to join us.

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, NOLS Mexico, Baja, NOLS semester, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories

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

By Tricia Ballard on Mar 7, 2019
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 mySemester 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: Study Abroad Stories, NOLS New Zealand, NOLS semester, Gap Year, inspiring women, outdoor semester, Semester in New Zealand, Stories, Student Stories

Why I Left School for a NOLS Semester

By Claire Burgeson on Oct 15, 2018
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 Stories, NOLS Mexico, NOLS semester, Gap Year, outdoor semester, Semester in Baja, Stories, Student Stories

What You Learn on a NOLS Semester

By Brooke Ortel on Aug 30, 2018
Photo by Jordan Cranch

On her Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator semester, Erin Phillips skied backcountry mountains, canoed whitewater rapids, and hiked more than 100 miles across the Utah desert. Each new landscape brought fresh experiences, including the day she and her coursemates hiked for hours to reach a water source in the desert’s slot canyons and danced in celebration.

The desert awakened another kind of thirst as well, a burning curiosity about the beautiful and harsh environment that surrounded her: “Escalante taught me a very special lesson: to stop. To stop doing and start listening.”

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Topics: Semester abroad, Leadership Skills, Semester, culture, NOLS semester, education, outdoor semester, Leadership

Pay It Forward: How My NOLS Semester Helped Me Lead My Own Backcountry Trips

By Carolyn Highland on Jun 27, 2018
Photo by Carolyn Highland

November 21, 2012 was one of my favorite days on this planet. Up until this point, the idea of identifying a favorite day had seemed impossible, like choosing your favorite drop of water in a rushing river. But this was a day that made you realize if you couldn’t identify days that made the shortlist, you hadn’t yet experienced the type of day worthy of it.

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Topics: Leadership Skills, Semester, Skiing, NOLS New Zealand, NOLS semester, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories, Leadership

What I Learned About Resilience from Swimming an Icy Canyon Pond

By Maddy Eschholz on May 30, 2018
Photo by Lindsay Nohl

Limb-numbing cold water drips down my shirt and pants. Uncontrollable, body wracking shivers. Shallow, quick breaths don't quite fill my lungs. Tears that I couldn't hold in any longer rolling down my cheeks. I hate this. I want to go home.

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Topics: Semester in the Rockies, NOLS Rocky Mountain, NOLS semester, Utah, Canyoneering, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Why I Went Back to NOLS

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez on Apr 3, 2018
Photo courtesy of the NOLS Archives.

All my life my dad had preached the power of NOLS. The first summer he moved to the United States from Venezuela, he completed the four-week backpacking course in the Wind River Range.

Speaking little English, he cruised with his team through snowy mountain tops, only to be caught in a snowstorm at 8,000 feet with an instructor who had a leg injury.

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Topics: Semester in the Rockies, Skills, Backpacking, NOLS semester, Alaska backpacking, outdoor semester, women in leadership, Stories, Student Stories, Leadership

Lessons from Escalante's Desert Canyons

By Erin Phillips on Feb 13, 2018
Photo by Erin Phillips

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

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Topics: Semester, Semester in the Rockies, NOLS semester, Outdoor Educator, outdoor educator semester, Stories, Student Stories

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

By Sarah Buer on Jan 25, 2017
Photo courtesy of Tucker Cunningham

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 16 college credits for my course, ranging from wilderness first aid to Leave No Trace principles).

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, Semester, NOLS Mexico, Sailing, Skills, Backpacking, Kayaking, NOLS semester, Gap Year, Stories, Student Stories