“I decided to take an Outward Bound semester between high school and college. I was attracted to the range of challenges I had never faced before, giving me experiences and the opportunity to learn more about myself and others. I also wanted something that would satisfy my desire to travel, love of the outdoors and give me a taste of life away from home.” Service Semester Alum, Molly Austin
The term “Gap Year” is traditionally defined as “a year that you spend traveling, working, etc., before continuing your studies.” However here at Outward Bound, we sometimes like to break away from tradition. Ranging from 30 to 85 days, our semester courses are more than just a break from your studies. Rather, they are opportunities to serve a cause larger than yourself and discover your passions along the way. Where you can develop real-world decision-making, group management and leadership skills. They are chances for you to venture out and experience rugged, remote settings that will without a doubt broaden your view on the world.
For students interested in service opportunities, we offer our Maine Service & Leadership Semester with the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School. This 65-day semester delivers a blend of outdoor adventure and community service experiences designed to develop your leadership skills and to facilitate personal growth.
About the Maine Service & Leadership Semester:
Through wilderness and community service experiences designed to enhance students initiative, self‐reliance, teamwork and leadership skills, this semester will prepare students to engage in service work, and make the most of their service-focused gap year or semester. The adventure begins with the challenges of wilderness expeditions, exploring Maine’s rugged coast by open sailboat and Maine’s western mountains on foot. Traveling together through Maine’s islands, coastal towns, forests, and rural areas will present many opportunities for challenge, learning and service work. The group’s service efforts will contribute to the efforts of conservation groups, non-profits, rural communities, local farmers, and others in need.
With the guidance of EnRoute Consulting, graduates of this course will apply the skills, awareness, perseverance, and confidence earned on their Outward Bound semester course to the meaningful work of volunteering with a service organization of their choice, as part of their gap year experience. Graduates may choose to teach health education in Tanzania, work on marine conservation projects in Fiji, tutor local children in Belize, monitor sea turtle nests in Costa Rica, or one of the other many rewarding programs that they will learn about through EnRoute consulting.
To help get a better understanding of what it is like to take an Outward Bound service semester course, we went straight to the source. Molly Austin is a recent alum of the Maine Service & Leadership Semester Course. Her experience included sailing the coastal waters of Maine, climbing mountains in New Hampshire, journeying to Panama, exploring rainforests in Costa Rica, and volunteering with Safe Passage in Antigua, Guatemala. We sat down with her to learn more about her experience traveling the world with Outward Bound:
OB: Why did you decide to go on an Outward Bound Service Semester?
MA: I decided on the service semester for several reasons. Timing was one, as it left in the fall along with my friends for college, so I wouldn’t feel left behind or regretful. The tuition was manageable for me as I was responsible to pay half my way there, and variety! The choices they offered were mostly things I had never tried before and touched on many possible life paths that I had not explored yet (sailing, Wilderness First Response, volunteering abroad, working in a school, etc.).
OB: What activities were a part of your Maine Service & Leadership Semester Course?
MA: We got the pleasure of dipping our toes in many activities on our course! From sailing off the coast of Maine for 20 days, to taking a Wilderness First Responder course with the always amazing Charles Kirkland and another semester group. We got to climb up some challenging rocks in Maine and New Hampshire, where we enjoyed the autumn views of Mt. Washington. We then headed abroad to Panama! We enjoyed the bath temperature water, spent time with some wise Costa Rican instructors and sea kayaked into many heartwarming villages. Our final destination was Antigua, Guatemala, which we took by storm. There, we were bused every week-day to our volunteering base in Guatemala City with the ever-so-lovely staff of Safe Passage!
OB: Talk about the people you met on course and bonds that were made. What surprised you about these other people?
MA: The Hurricane Island outward Bound School (HIOBS) staff that I got the pleasure of being surrounded by were truly some of the most compassionate, youthful, inspiring and encouraging people I have ever met. Our instructors in Panama were adventurous and wise; always having encouraging words for us at the end of the day and ways to improve ourselves for tomorrow. Crew members become life long friends. They share an experience with you that no one on this earth will ever understand, except for them. They saw you at your worst and best, they helped you endure through things you never thought you could or would do. You may have arguments like siblings but in the end you feel like a real family. The biggest surprise about my crew mates were how different we all were and how differently the lives we took a break from were, but there together, we were doing the same things, same struggles. Our differences made it so much more beautiful.
OB: What service projects were you a part of with Safe Passage and what was it like volunteering in Guatemala?
MA: While I was working with Safe Passage I was working in the kitchen and working in sports! My Spanish wasn’t excellent, so I worked in the kitchen to improve and learn quick, useful phrases. They were notorious for being playful but patient as others before me also went there to improve their Spanish. Working in sports was hilariously fun. Although we had some “lost in translation” moments we could figure them out by actions and trial and error.
Volunteering was humbling, rewarding and life changing. I will forever remember those children. Although they didn’t have much, they had happiness. Their ability to smile and laugh at the small accomplishments in life and their appreciation for what you’re doing will forever stay with you. They treat you like family and make coming home almost impossible for some.
OB: Did your course give you a different perspective on life and what direction you might take?
MA: This course totally gave me a different perspective on life! Not just volunteering with Safe Passage in Guatemala and seeing such a huge difference in a poverty stricken area, but also throughout the whole trip. The boat made me appreciate sunrises and the beauty and power of nature. The simple diet reminded me how valuable even just an oatmeal cookie can be and how comforting the smell of clean laundry is. Panama reminded us of how much we all missed ice and how life can be more pleasant without makeup or even showers – crazy I know. Guatemala showed me how fortunate I am to live in the U.S. and how to use the privileges and resources I have here to better the world. I learned the importance of being kind with your words, how I should leave the world a little better than when I got here, how to appreciate small things in daily life and never take a moment for granted.
All of this led me to realize I could live in a much simpler lifestyle and be 100% content with it. It showed me that I truly loved to travel and that I wanted to use all the opportunities I have here to help others who don’t have the same.
OB: What are your plans for the future?
MA: After traveling with Outward Bound, I worked on an organic farm in Hawaii which I thoroughly enjoyed and have hopes to do again in the near future! As for furthering my education, I hope to be enrolled in a nursing program in the fall with the hopes to travel and help people in developing nations. My future looks bright and full of happiness. I hope to help people in life as some of the people on this trip have helped me.
Here at Outward Bound, we have no doubt that Molly’s future will be full of adventure, travel and philanthropy, and we wish her the best of luck.
For information about the Maine Service & Leadership Semester, click HERE, or call 866.467.7651 to reserve your spot today.