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NOLS is a nonprofit global wilderness school that will help you step forward boldly as a leader.

We believe that anyone can be a leader; it's our role to provide the environment and training to help you discover your full potential. We do that in classrooms close to home and in remote wilderness areas around the world.

We're an organization with heart, expertise, and wildness, and these qualities help us support powerful, authentic experiences.

Our mission is to be the leading source and teacher of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment. Our community—staff, students, trustees, and alumni—shares a commitment to wilderness, education, leadership, safety, community, and excellence.


284 Lincoln St
Lander, WY 82520
United States


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Though I love the outdoors, my young son with anxiety issues was bullied and humiliated by NOLS in the field until he was essentially forced out of the course after one month. The NOLS administrators swore to us they had trained, capable instructors in the field who could properly work with students with emotional issues. They lied. The lead instructor, a woman, was a bully who allowed our son to be harassed and humiliated, and then she and NOLS tried to cover up her abuses by shading the truth in their favor and never admitting to ANY faults. In the isolation of the field, there was no one our son could turn to for help and counsel when the lead instructor was the greatest source of his problem.
If you are seriously considering seeing your child to an outdoor course, why take a chance? I would strongly suggest taking NOLS off your list and looking at Outward Bound or an overseas service school instead; that is, if you want your child to have the best overall, and safe, experience.

What would you improve about this program?
Hire instructors who not only are knowledgeable of the field and protecting the environment, but also are truly capable of working with students of all types and demeanors once NOLS HQ has admitted them to the course. Bullying and Harassment, and coverups, should never be allowed. If NOLS and NOLS New Zealand would have owned up to their failures and taken proper accountability, I would probably not be so harsh in my review.
Response from NOLS

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback on your adult son’s recent experience with NOLS. Your feedback provides the school and our instructors a learning opportunity. Respect and rapport are at the heart of all NOLS Expeditions. NOLS believes in fostering an inclusive course culture and our staff focuses on creating a positive learning environment for all of our students. Our instructors work extensively to support our students in the field and in rare circumstances, a student may find themselves unable to complete a course. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on your son’s experience with NOLS.

No, I don't recommend this program
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If you're looking to be challenged, both physically and mentally, then this program is for you. I came into this trip without any prior hiking or backpacking experience and the instructors were very helpful in showing me the ropes and supporting me when I was struggling. I also really enjoyed the education part of the course. We had classes almost everyday on kiswalhili, the environment, or leadership, which were interesting and informative. We also had members of the Massai tribe hiking with us for most of the trip, so we really got an understanding about that culture. Making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro gave me such a feeling of accomplishment and was definitely worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears. If you're wanting to learn more about yourself, as well as be immersed in another culture, then I would highly recommend this program. I've made friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Yes, I recommend this program
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The semester that I spent with NOLS was by far the most meaningful, impactful trip that I've ever taken in my entire life. The students and instructors were great fun, the lessons were interesting, and the landscape was unreal. One of my fondest memories from my semester was watching the full moon rise on a cloudless night, while sitting in my kayak in the middle of Nydia Bay, singing Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" in my head, meanwhile our "pod" was surrounded by hundreds of glowing moon jellyfish.

What would you improve about this program?
Already perfect the way it is
Yes, I recommend this program

My NOLS experience was nothing short of phenomenal. My favorite part of every day was waking up in the mornings. It might seem strange, but I can explain. There is something magical about waking up in the Himilayas. It's a place none of my friends or family have been, it's a place that from my comfortable life in Kansas City, Missouri, seemed so far away and out of reach. To wake up there every single morning was amazing. I woke up under a shelter of trees, I woke up covered in sand from the beach, I woke up to the rushing water in the Kali river, I woke up after a comfy nights rest in a generous villager's house, I woke up in my stinky sleeping bag in a tent with 3 other stinky people and every second of it was perfect. To top it off, I woke up with a sense of purpose. Every. Single. Day. Every day I had a goal that was realistic and that I was proud to accomplish before I went to bed at night. I was challenged physically and walked distances I didn't know I could. I helped local families in their fields, took part in their livelihood. I helped them. I helped them, but they helped me more. They helped me in a way that is hard to put into words. I set SMART goals and actually follow through, I see people differently than I did before - gently and with positive intent, and I have a confidence and craving for adventure that can't be tamed.

What would you improve about this program?
Yes, I recommend this program
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NOLS pushed me to discover what I value in life, and how to effect ethics to shape my life around those values. Going to the Himalayas for three months was incredibly daunting. However, NOLS gave me the knowledge, skills, and tools to accomplish things I never thought I could do, physically and emotionally. They didn't make it easy - nobody could. But they made it possible, when it otherwise would not have been. NOLS created a space for me to mature, learn impressive technical and leadership skills, and live my life better.

There were times when I was so frustrated I cried, when I was so cold I could barely talk. But much more often, I found successes by pushing through my frustration and finally getting me group to my campspot, or working through the cold to summit a 15,000 ft pass. NOLS forced me to push myself in this way and taught me how to find success.

NOLS accomodated my allergy very well and worked out my field rations to make it easy for me to maintain proper nutrition in the field.

What would you improve about this program?
This course consisted of three sections: trekking, homestay/cultural, and rafting. I wish we could have had even more sections, like mountaineering or rock climbing.
Yes, I recommend this program


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