Staff Spotlight: Derrick Warren

Hiking and Kayaking Instructor
Derrick is from a little country at the bottom of the world known as New Zealand (a.k.a., the place where they filmed The Lord of the Rings). He holds a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation with a major in outdoor education and his postgraduate study was in secondary education. Derrick is a NOLS hiking and sea kayaking instructor during the busy season and a high school outdoor education teacher in the offseason.

What position do you hold at NOLS and why do you like working there?


Derrick: I’m a hiking and kayaking instructor for NOLS. One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to explore some of the most beautiful and remote places in the world for weeks on end. You form great connections with the people in your group and during these extended periods of travel you learn a lot about yourself and the natural world around you.

How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?

Derrick: NOLS offers a truly unique experience to its students. There are not many organizations in the world that take you into such remote places for months at a time. They give you the opportunity to lead sections for your expedition empowering you to take charge of your experience and make the most of your time in the wilderness.

What is the level of cultural immersion your gappers receive?

Derrick: In NOLS New Zealand part of any standard semester is a cultural immersion trip with the native people, the Maori. Students get to spend time in the tribal marae, which is the meeting house and central point of a tribal community. They get to experience the songs and stories of the people as well as travel to areas in nature that hold cultural significance to the local people of the land. After finishing this cultural section students enter the field with a deeper connection to the environment they will be living in.

How does going on a gap year with NOLS prepare young people for college?

Derrick: NOLS is a leadership school that teaches students very important life skills that are transferable to their everyday lives. Problem-solving, conflict resolution, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty are some of the very important skills that NOLS students develop on a course.

These skills, in my opinion, allow NOLS graduates to make the most of their experiences at college, as they are equipped to deal with any challenge college life throws at them.

What is one common misconception about taking a gap year?

Derrick: I’ve noticed that when people say they are going on a gap year people assume that time is being wasted, and that you could be doing other more constructive things, such as studying.

In my opinion, the gap year experience provides you with the time to find yourself and have incredible experiences that help to shape who you are as a person. These experiences exploring the unknown are unquantifiable and become memories that you’ll never forget.