With the support of your Instructors and crewmates, Outward Bound will teach you to thrive in challenging situations and help prepare you for a life of adventure, leadership and above all, compassion towards others. When else will you spend three months traveling with a group of peers, learning new leadership and outdoor skills, and grow as a person by getting out of your comfort zone? Keep reading to find out more about our semester courses!
Benefits of a Semester Course
Semester and Gap Year courses are long, require physical endurance and emotional fortitude. Just when you think you’ve gotten comfortable and adjusted to the setting, another big change happens: whether it’s location, activity, or the group’s overall level of responsibility in caring for itself, you can always expect a challenge to be around the corner.
The premise behind all of Outward Bound’s courses involves learning how to live intentionally within a learning community, 24/7. Each person has their own group responsibilities, as well as the duty of learning how to care for himself/herself in environments that are at times less than glamorous. Throughout the course, an Instructor’s primary role is to teach technical skills and facilitate group dynamics in a way that promotes equality and opportunity, and for each person to grow through feedback and leadership experiences. Often, 1-2 crew members will rotate being a leader for the crew during the day, helping to facilitate group decisions and navigate the physical and group dynamics challenges that a long course entails. In the end, the goal is to have a group that says, “look what we did, and we couldn’t have done it without each other.”
Throughout the course, participants will learn how to identify and voice their own needs to the group. As an intentional community, each person’s actions or inactions directly affects everyone else. An Outward Bound Semester course is an incredible opportunity to learn how you can serve others with compassion, practice active listening and figure out how each person can help meet others’ needs. A longer Outward Bound course offers unlimited opportunity to grow in relationship skills and to increase one’s awareness of personal responsibility.
Who Should Take A Semester Course?
People have taken semester courses at Outward Bound for many different reasons, and the blend of backgrounds, motivations and interests are part of what makes the group on an expedition so unique. For instance, anyone who wants to learn technical, outdoor skills and grow as a person in their leadership skills should consider taking a semester course. If you’re interested in working for an outdoor company as an Instructor in the future, getting certifications and the extensive experience in the field are two of the main prerequisites for outdoor jobs. Most outdoor guiding companies start their working season in late Spring or early Summer. Completing a winter semester course and gaining the certifications and field experience needed, along with being able to ask your Instructors to serve as a reference can give you a good head start.
Through the emphasis of personal responsibility over the long-haul, a semester course is also a great way to take a break from college, especially if you’re in the first semester and you’ve found the transition to college difficult. All semester programs incorporate transition skills and practice, and can help build skills in navigating those transitions for later in life. There’s also a possibility that you could get college credit for your semester course so it can count as part of your education. Additionally, using the semester program as part of a gap year between high school and college can help build the social-emotional skills that lead to success in college and beyond. The confidence that comes from learning how to thrive and flourish in an ever-changing, challenging environment, acquiring and mastering technical skills, and living within an intentional community can be life changing!
Our semester programs range in length, location and type. Below are profiles of semester expeditions that start in early 2018. Keep reading to figure out which one is a good fit for you.
Who hasn’t day dreamed about dog sledding? This is your opportunity. You’ll get to explore the Boundary Waters and learn to navigate through the twists and turns of the one of the greatest expanses of water-based wilderness in America. Dog sledding in the Northwoods will be cold but rewarding as you learn how to care for yourself and others in extreme conditions. After that, you’ll jaunt down to Texas and expedition through Big Bend National Park and paddle the canyons and rapids on the Rio Grande.
If you’re interested in acquiring certifications and escaping the cold of winter, then this might be the course for you. Participants on the Florida Keys and Costa Rica Leadership Semester course will earn a Wilderness First Responder certification, which is an 80-hour course on medical care in the backcountry, and it is the standard for being an outdoor trip leader. Additionally, you’ll have a chance to earn an American Red Cross Lifeguarding certification, NAUI Openwater SCUBA and participate in a Swiftwater Rescue Course. This semester course will have you kayaking and island hopping throughout the gorgeous landscape of the Florida Keys, and you’ll also learn how to sail while there. Eventually you’ll travel down to Costa Rica for the whitewater rafting and SCUBA portion of the course. Bring your sunscreen!
This is a course where you can pack in world travel and get exposure to different outdoor skills. You’ll start in Patagonia where you’ll learn how to expedition through the wilderness, culminating with mountaineering skills and climbing Tronador, which is an active volcano! Afterwards, you and your companions will fly to south Florida where you’ll paddle around and navigate through the 10,000 Islands and Everglades National Park, camping on desert islands, navigating inland tidal creeks and soaking up the sun in the Gulf of Mexico. Next you’ll spend a month in the Blue Ridge Mountains where you’ll encounter more backpacking and navigation skills, whitewater canoeing and rock climbing.
The Colorado program emphasizes a blend of backcountry skills such as backpacking and canyoneering. The mountains of Colorado will help train your technical mountaineering skill set which you’ll later use in Ecuador. During this course, you’ll earn Leave No Trace and Wilderness First Responder certifications as well as Avalanche Level 1, which will give you the basics of safety, weather and snow reading skills, and how to interpret conditions for avalanche prone areas. This course will also include winter travel expedition components such as backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.
The Florida Keys to Brazil Leadership Semester course involves backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing and sailing. Other skills learned include wilderness medicine, culminating with a Wilderness First Responder certification, American Red Cross Lifeguarding and Swift Water Rescue Technician. In Brazil, you’ll see different parts of the country while participating in mountain trekking, canyoneering and whitewater components of the course. This course also offers opportunities to complete service projects, and stay in a rural village to get a true taste of the Brazilian culture and way of life.
No matter which course you choose, you will discover many common outcomes across each of the Outward Bound courses, such as developing and building your own leadership, communication and technical skills, getting to know other participants from around the country and learning about group dynamics.
Whether you’re looking for a fresh start with the New Year and a “new you,” need a break from the grind or you are in a major life transition, our semester programs can be just what the doctor ordered. To go Outward Bound means leaving the safety of the harbor and facing the wild unknown. We’d like to invite you to explore that together with us!
About the Author
Shane Ambro is a Lead Instructor, River Staff and Course Director for Outward Bound. Shane grew up attending extended backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail with his Boy Scout group, which fostered and nurtured his love for the outdoors. Before instructing with Outward Bound, Shane worked as a ropes course instructor, social worker, life coach, professional musician and copywriter. When he’s not in the field he likes to play guitar, garden, run, paddle, connect with friends and drink lots of coffee.
OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE