NOLS

Program Reviews

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Maria
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Changed My Life

If you are reading this, GO FOR IT! When I arrived in Lander, WY for the Spring Semester in the Rockies (SSR) course, I’d never even owned a backpack before—I was straight out of NYC, lived my entire life in NYC, and the only wilderness I knew, was Central Park. With the guidance and extreme patience and knowledge of the instructors, I learned to be completely comfortable, and even enjoy, living in the wilderness. Most of all, I learned to appreciate the power of the natural world, and become a steward. This experience set the path for the rest of my life. I went on to graduate college the next semester, and straight into (what would become) career as a civil servant in the national parks. Before taking this course, I didn’t know we had national parks. I always look back fondly on the memories and experiences I had with NOLS.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Everything was unfamiliar! Wearing a backpack, camping, skis, sleeping in snow caves! hiking, climbing, caving, kayaking. It was ALL unfamiliar. Open mind is very important.
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robert
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Insensitive bullying instructors

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.

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Lizzie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience

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.

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James
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The best trip of my life

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
Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program
Program:
NOLS India

Fall Semester In India 2016

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?
PLEASE MAKE THE NATURE AND CULTURE SECTION A FEW DAYS LONGER.
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Michael
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program
Program:
NOLS India

NOLS pushed me to discover how I want to live my life.

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.
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Mabel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

NOLS semester in New Zealand

Choosing the NOLS program was a decision that I will never regret and an opportunity that I am forever grateful for. This trip opened up my eyes and challenged every part of my being in the most unforgettable ways. From my inspiring instructors, the New Zealand terrain, to my fellow group members. It taught me how important communication is, how to be an authentic leader and how to persevere though the toughest of days. Sleeping under the stars almost every night and being completely unplugged in nature was only part of a trip of a lifetime. I would recommend this program/trip to anyone and everyone!

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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program
Program:
NOLS India

NOLS India Semester

My semester spent in India was life changing to say the least. I made friends that will last a lifetime, met incredible human beings, learned another language, saw things that one could only understand if they saw it themselves. I pushed myself to my limits and experienced the incredibly breathing taking raw gorgeousness of the Himalayas. I wish I could accurately put into words just how absolutely incredible this experience was for me, just so everyone would know just how amazing it is so they can go and experience this for themselves. I would not be nearly as prepared to take on my adult life and college if it wasn't for NOLS. If anyone could take this trip, take it. Because otherwise they would be missing out on a trip of a lifetime. http://www.jetsetter.com/feature/what-we-are-thankful-for-i…

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would say is students with nut allergies, be aware of how severe your allergies are and be appropriately prepared to take on a harsh environment for someone with allergies.
Response from NOLS

Hi Lauren,

Thanks so much for reviewing here and for mentioning us in the Jetsetter article! We really appreciate it!

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Sarah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program
Program:
NOLS India

Inspiring

My NOLS India experience just ended a few days ago. To explain what I learned, how I evolved as a person, and how I was impacted by my NOLS course would end up being a drastic understatement. It is something you have to experience to fully understand. My confidence, my leadership abilities, my relations with others, my knowledge about the culture and environment, my greater appreciation for life, my connection with nature, my deeper perspective of life, and numerous more changed or evolved insights have over a span of three months have helped grow me as a person.
I took this course during the first semester of my freshman year of college. I would 100 percent recommend this course for graduated high school students. I definitely was not ready for college yet and now I feel well beyond ready.

What would you improve about this program?
Save grading, not feedback, until the very end.
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Lizzy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program
Program:
NOLS India

NOLS Semester in India

The semester I spent in India has been the most incredible and most invaluable experience of my life. Whether it be living with a homestay family and learning to adapt to a new culture, rafting down the River Kali and camping in paradise every night, or hiking through the Himalaya and carrying everything you will need for 40 days on your back, NOLS Semester in India will offer you experiences you won't be able to find anywhere else.

No doubt there were times when I struggled and longed for my iphone or a warm shower, but I learned to face these challenges with more grace each time and through overcoming them I realized what I'm really made of. It's amazing how all the skills and lessons I learned in the backcountry have transferred and been instrumental to my success and happiness in the front country. (I think I'm one of the only people who can say I'm more comfortable cooking on a backcountry stove than in my own kitchen!)

And of course, the views are amazing. No mountains are more beautiful or more awesome than the Himalaya, the youngest and tallest mountain range on earth. Sharing in an experience like this one has given me priceless memories and life long friends. I'm happy to say that, over a year later, I still keep in touch with many of friends from NOLS. The friendships you forge on a NOLS trip are so unique and special, and for this I am forever grateful.