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Expedition Science on the Slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro

By Mara Gans on Mar 10, 2020
Students walk alongside a receding ice field at 19,000 feet in the summit caldera of Mt. Kilimanjaro. After a successful summit, their next mission is to gather data on Kilimanjaro's largest remaining glacier. Photo by Mara Gans.

I was challenged in two realms on this course—scientific research and outdoor skills. It was incredible to realize how deeply connected these two worlds are. As someone incredibly passionate about the outdoors, I feel that the science aspect of this course further enhanced my understanding of my actions in the outdoor world.Emilie Ginn, Tanzania Scientific Research Expedition

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Topics: Leadership Skills, Study Abroad Stories, Mount Kilimanjaro, Research, education, NOLS Tanzania, science

5 Myths About a NOLS Gap Year

By NOLS on Feb 20, 2020
Photo by Photo by Nick Garrett

It's common for students to seek out gap year opportunities that will position them as exceptional college applicants and job candidates.

NOLS offers students the best of both worlds through its gap year expeditions, providing unique travel destinations with a structured leadership curriculum. Learning hands on, in the outdoors, teaches skills that prepare students for college and beyond.

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, Gap Year, education, myth, NOLS Expeditions, Stories

Welcome to NOLS India: Expeditions in the Himalaya

By NOLS on Aug 12, 2019

Written by Annalise Grueter and Manohar D'silva.

Photo by Kirk Rasmussen

line of solemn, snow-capped giants stretches across the three northernmost states in India.

These soaring peaks belong to the world’s highest mountain chain: the Himalaya.

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Topics: Himalayas, Study Abroad Stories, Himalaya, Skills, Backpacking, Mountaineering, NOLS India, cultural expedition, Stories, Locations

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

12 Days That Changed My Life: A Homestay in East Africa

By Steve Stoddard on May 6, 2019
Photo courtesy of Steve Stoddard

Rather than my watch alarm bringing me out of sleep, it was roosters and cows. Instead of bundling up to get out of my tent and start boiling water for my cook group, I was waking up in someone else’s home.

This was all pretty different than what I had gotten accustomed to during the previous six weeks of backpacking on my NOLS semester.

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, culture, NOLS East Africa, homestay, 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

Simple Views Teach Profound Lessons: Sunrise in the Himalaya

By Chris Pouch on Oct 2, 2018
Photo by Chris Pouch

Nanda Devi, according to the legend of villagers in the Garhwal and Kumaon regions of India, was a beautiful princess. When a prince fell in love with her and asked to marry her, she refused, sending him into a rage. The prince declared war and forced Nanda Devi to flee to the mountains. She climbed to the heights of a snow-covered peak in search of refuge. When she could go no higher, she rested, looking down from the top of the world. This summit proved to be her final resting place as she merged with the mountain, leaving behind only her spirit, present in the wind and snow, and her name, which now belongs to the place that took her: Nanda Devi.

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Topics: Study Abroad Stories, Himalaya, Mountaineering, NOLS India, Stories, Student Stories

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

By Molly Herber on Jul 30, 2018
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.”

This is the advice that Semester in Patagonia graduate Ignacio Martínez would give to anyone thinking about taking a NOLS course in Patagonia. A native of Chile himself, Ignacio discovered many of the unknown parts of his own country, and himself, on his course.

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Topics: chile, Study Abroad Stories, Semester, Sea Kayaking, Skills, Kayaking, culture, Mountaineering, Semester in Patagonia, Stories, Student Stories

Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

By Carolyn Highland on Feb 22, 2017
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: Leadership Skills, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, Tolerance for Adversity, Study Abroad Stories, Semester, NOLS New Zealand, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories, Alumni Accomplishments, Leadership

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

Getting Ready: Mental and Physical Prep for My Gap Year

By Brooke Buchanan on Jan 9, 2017
Photo by Julie Rice

While sitting in yet another mundane lecture in physics class, my phone vibrates. Sneakily, I pull it out and glance at my new notification: an email.

I open up my Yahoo app expecting to see a pointless message from some telemarketer, but I’m caught by surprise. I click on the message and see that it’s from NOLS.

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Topics: NOLS Patagonia, Study Abroad Stories, Expedition Prep, Skills, Backpacking, Kayaking, Gap Year, Stories, Student Stories