Immerse yourself with a semester in the American Southwest as you develop leadership and new outdoor skills. Explore hidden canyons, canoe stunning rivers, and trek through an environment found nowhere else in the world. If you’re seeking an experience to practice and grow as a leader, whether it’s for a gap year from school or to train for a new career, this is the course for you.
This semester in the outdoors involves 80 days of camping out, exploring the Southwest, developing leadership skills, building community, pushing yourself, and having fun. Depending on your semester section choice, the course is comprised of up to five different backcountry sections in addition to a classroom-based Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course. You’ll spend your time backpacking, rock climbing, or canoeing, with a final backpacking independent student expedition, all in the incredible cliffs, canyons, mountains, and rivers of the Southwest.
Each day your instructors will cover a variety of locally relevant topics, such as plants, fire ecology, local wildlife, and weather. You will also learn about the rich human history in each of the areas you travel through. Throughout this semester you will be introduced to the NOLS leadership curriculum and will practice different leadership skills and roles on each section. You will learn to build a positive, inclusive group culture where each individual can thrive as a leader.
Between each section, the course will either pass through the NOLS Southwest campus or stop at a campground in Texas, Arizona, or New Mexico. By the end of this course, you’ll know about the Southwest’s rich natural and human history and have the outdoor skills to pursue your own adventures and lead others in the backcountry for the rest of your life.