Why did you pick this program?
I picked NOLS because I was interested in furthering my leadership and wilderness skills. I knew that it had a great reputation for instructors, courses, and overall experiences.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
I learned independence while I was abroad. I lived in Switzerland for 3 months and worked as a nanny. Then I went to New Zealand and lived in the backcountry on a NOLS course for another 3 months. With this newly found independence, I grew into a confident, competent traveller. These skills are things that I use in my everyday life, still to this day. I learned how to take care of myself and adapt to new situations and transitions.
Throughout my NOLS course, I worked to build my confidence, which eventually led me to believe that my opinion mattered and that I deserved to have my voice heard.
I learned how to communicate effectively in a group, which helped when it came to be my time to be “Leader of the Day” each week in New Zealand, as well as lead my college cross country team through the toughest of workouts and the most challenging races. I learned the importance of direct feedback; both how to give it constructively, as well as how to receive it and become a better team member.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I will never forget our one-day hiking trip out of an area known as “Hell’s Canyon.” After a grueling day of bushwhacking through thick forest, zigzagging through razor-sharp spiny plants, and rock climbing up and over the jagged ridge of the mountain peak, we descended onto a wide plateau with the most beautiful mountain lake that we had seen on the expedition.
As we jumped in, the cold water immediately rejuvenated our exhausted bodies, just enough to stay awake and witness the 5,000-foot peak radiate with mountain glow from the sunset in the west.
That was the day that I learned that I was capable of surpassing what I believed to be my physical limit. For sure, on that day there were times that I doubted my team members and myself, but through determination and grit, we summited a mountain that at the beginning of the day seemed impossible to conquer. On this day, and every day of my NOLS course, I watched the sun rise and set from a different location and reflected on a newly significant lesson from the day.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
The backcountry of New Zealand is a magical place. There, I sea kayaked for 1 month, backpacked for 1 month, and sailed for 2 weeks. I never would have gotten the opportunity to see the incredible landscapes, wildlife, and geography that I was able to see when I was abroad.
Being far away from home opened my eyes to the vast world around me. I got a new perspective on just how big the world is - and how much exploring there is to be done.