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What You Learn on a NOLS Semester

By Brooke Ortel on 8/30/18 9:10 AM


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: outdoor semester, Semester, Semester abroad, Behind the Scenes, leadership, culture

Research Connects Wilderness Experience with Stronger Problem-solving Skills

By Shannon Rochelle on 8/28/18 9:11 AM

Photo by Justine Cornelison.
 

Last summer, the Antler River was a knee-deep stream flowing through a broad meadow deep in the mountains of Alaska. Now, it was a moving lake, flooding the entire meadow.

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Topics: Semester, Semester abroad, outdoor semester, Behind the Scenes, Research, Problem Solving, leadership

Tolerance for Uncertainty: Sea, Mountains, and Culture on a Patagonia Semester

By Molly Herber on 7/30/18 7:01 PM

Enjoying rainbows in Patagonia. Photo by Ignacio Martínez.

“Learn, just learn about this unique and remote place in the world, connect with the people, nature, history, and its wild places—the glaciers, ice fields, rivers, lakes, islands, and sea.”

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Topics: Semester in Patagonia, Semester, Live the Dream, Sea Kayaking, mountaineering, culture, chile

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

By Carolyn Highland on 6/27/18 10:00 AM


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: NOLS New Zealand, Semester, leadership, Live the Dream, skiing

Lessons from Escalante's Desert Canyons

By Erin Phillips on 2/13/18 8:33 AM

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.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

—David Wagoner

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Topics: Live the Dream, Semester, Semester in the Rockies

A Letter to My Future Self

By Carolyn Highland on 11/29/17 8:39 AM

Editor’s Note: Carolyn wrote this letter to her future self on a one-night solo near the end of her Semester in New Zealand.

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Topics: Live the Dream, NOLS New Zealand, Semester

Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

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

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: Live the Dream, NOLS New Zealand, Semester, 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 fifteen students and four 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: backcountry, education, Baja, Baja Sea Kayaking, sea kayak, NOLS semester, Semester, Gap Year, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, Live the Dream

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

Thanking the Wilderness for Letting Me In

By Maya Johnston on 6/7/16 9:12 AM

To family and friends alike (and to the other people who care to read my rambling with the hope that I might, just might go into detail about how long my armpit hair is, or how many times I had to poop in a bag over the course of two and a half months):

I am writing from the train as I think about the past 80 days.

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Topics: Alumni, backcountry, Live the Dream, NOLS Pacific Northwest, Semester

9 Tips to Help You Deal with Homesickness

By Molly Herber on 3/9/16 11:58 AM

No matter how excited you are about heading out on a trip, it’s likely that you’ll feel homesick at least some of the time you're away. Being away from family and friends can be tough. Luckily, there are a few things you can do before and while you’re on your trip to manage homesickness when it strikes.

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Topics: adventure, backcountry, Expedition Prep, Semester

How to Plan for Your Gap Year

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

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

The NOLS Underground: Caving

By Sarah Zimmerman on 2/25/16 10:46 AM

 

Photo by Lindsay Nohl.
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Topics: adventure, Behind the Scenes, caving, education, NOLS Southwest, Semester

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

Why My Semester Group Thrived

By NOLS Blog on 1/14/16 7:44 AM

By Shannon Reiser, Outdoor Educator Semester '15

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, backcountry, leadership, Live the Dream, NOLS Rocky Mountain, Semester