Embark on the adventure of a lifetime on this 72-day, multi-region, international semester course. Climb rock faces in the cool autumn mountains of North Carolina, journey by river through the canopied forests and barrier islands of Florida and summit peaks in Patagonia. This expedition offers the chance to challenge yourself, practice leadership skills and foster a strong sense of personal development. While living and traveling in the classroom of the great outdoors, gain a clear sense of your abilities, build strong bonds with your group and walk away with a greater understanding of the wilderness, the world and yourself. This course is comprised of three phases: The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Waterway of Central Florida and Patagonia, South America. Although semester programs are not traditional academic programs, many colleges recognize the value of gap year courses and grant college credit for them. This course also offers a Wilderness First Aid certification and a service project component.
Gap Year/Semester Courses
Our Gap Year and Semester expeditions take you out of the classroom – and into the world. These courses are all about cultivating independence, developing technical skills, and engaging with the people and places around you. Learn from the best Instructors in the industry. Tackle challenges alongside a supportive crew of motivated peers. Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities.
- Build core skills: Learn and practice wilderness, teamwork and leadership skills. Form a crew that supports and encourages one another, and in the thick of natural challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
- Practice Outward Bound values: Learn to incorporate Outward Bound values into everyday life by pushing your own limits and seeking challenge as an opportunity for personal growth.
- Demonstrate mastery: As the course nears the end, take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities. Work together to apply new skills and achieve team goals during this final phase of the expedition.
- What you’ll learn: Return home an experienced leader with technical wilderness skills. Back in the workplace or classroom, apply a renewed commitment to excellence, a capacity to inspire others, and a desire to make a difference.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina -- Approximately 30 days
This phase of the semester course brings participants to the ancient mountains of Western North Carolina. From the plunging valleys, to the 6,000 foot summits of the Appalachians, the crew works together as they learn navigation skills while backpacking, rock climbing and whitewater canoeing.
During the rock climbing portion of this 30-day phase, students are pushed to step outside their comfort zones, to communicate and to trust their new crewmates. With a focus on safety, this course activity starts with the basics, such as working with ropes and learning to tie knots. Depending on the weather and group dynamics, students then move on to learning the basics of bouldering and progress to a top-rope climb or rappel. Students may also engage in a high ropes obstacle course to further foster group dynamics and teamwork.
Weather and river permitting, participants also spend a few days maneuvering Class I-III whitewater through sculpted rock channels in tandem (two person) canoes. During this portion, crews may cover such topics as: basic water safety and rescue techniques, identification and use of paddling equipment, how to work with paddling partners to successfully negotiate class l-III rapids and flat water and whitewater paddling strokes and maneuvers.
Wilderness First Responder Certification (WFR)
Participants have the opportunity to prepare for the unexpected by earning a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification. This fast-paced, hands-on training is designed to teach skills to care for those who become ill or injured far from definitive medical care. Offered through a partnership with Landmark Learning, an accredited organization, this certification includes classroom lectures and demonstrations combined with realistic scenarios where mock patients challenge participants to use what they've learned. After successfully completing the WFA and CPR components, students are eligible to apply for academic credit for this certification.
Waterways of Central Florida -- Approximately 18 days
After spending the first part of the journey traveling with heavy packs, students welcome the chance to carry their gear for the next phase in their canoe. Students find a unique experience as they paddle through Central Florida. During this phase participants can expect to spend a good deal of time each day in canoes, going from campsite to campsite. These canoes are tandem, which means the crew will work together in teams of two. Depending on the weather, the level of difficulty varies day to day, but crews learn marine expedition risk assessment and management, marine route planning and navigation, paddle strokes, canoe-based rescues, equipment use and how to work with a paddling partner.
Patagonia, South America -- Approximately 23 days
Students end their adventure in one of the least populated and pristine regions in the world. In Nahuel Huapi National Park, participants learn the techniques of alpine trekking and perfect their technical skills as they prepare to summit an Andean peak (weather permitting.) Patagonia's unique flora and fauna, snow-covered volcanic peaks, ice slopes and unique terrain has attracted many scientific expeditions over the years, including those of Charles Darwin. After extended backcountry living in this unique environment, students soon realize and appreciate the connection between teamwork and individual success.
The crew also completes a service project while in Patagonia. This project could include fence building, painting homes, harvesting fruit and building structures with local farmers. Participants can receive service project hours for going on this course and simply need to alert their instructors prior to the course start.
Blue Ridge Mountains, NC
The Southern Appalachians, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, are some of the oldest mountains in the world. While the mountains themselves formed over 250 million years ago, some of the rocks that underlie the region are over a billion years old.
The long geologic and evolutionary history of the Southern Appalachians has created one of the most biologically diverse regions in the temperate world. It is home to beautiful rushing rivers, hundreds of waterfalls and some of the highest peaks in the Eastern United States—including Mt. Mitchell (elevation 6,684 feet), the highest point east of the Mississippi River. Outward Bound students can expect to share the wilderness with over 700 different kinds of trees, more than 50 types of mammals, 150 different types of birds and over 50 species of amphibians.
This course area is situated within a million acres of national forests, federally-protected wilderness areas, and other public lands. Its diverse landscapes have been featured in many motion pictures, including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans.
Temperatures in this area range from 50 - 85 degrees in the summer, 30 - 65 degrees in the spring and fall, and 10 - 50 degrees in the winter.
Patagonia, South America
One of the least populated regions in the world, Patagonia is a semi-arid plateau that covers over 250,000 square miles in South America, located mainly in Argentina but extending partially into southern Chile. Patagonia’s unusual wildlife has attracted many scientific expeditions over hundreds of years, including those of Charles Darwin. The terrain is incredibly diverse with snow-covered volcanic peaks flanked by glaciers, ice slopes and permanent snowfields. The Patagonian steppe is one of the windiest and driest climates in South America, a sharp contrast to the western slopes of the Andes that receive some of the highest rainfall of anywhere in the world.
This course begins in San Carlos de Bariloche, usually known as Bariloche. The city of Bariloche (population 108,205) is situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and is surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park. The park was established in 1934, and is the oldest national park in Argentina, and the largest in the region with an area of nearly 2 million acres. Its landscapes represent the north Patagonian Andean Zone, which is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes, many lakes and rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests.
Waterways of Central Florida
Central Florida is home to some of the country’s most historic and biologically diverse waterways. It offers paddling on small, winding canoe trails as well as larger rivers and lakes, with camping in a variety of environments from hardwood hammock forests to barrier islands. The Suwannee River, Ocklawaha River, and St John’s River offer hundreds of miles of paddling in some of the country’s most unspoiled wilderness. These rivers support a variety of ecosystems including freshwater springs, swamps, sandy beaches, hardwood hammocks trees and salt marshes. Shaded by giant Cypress and Tupelo trees, these rivers support a variety of wildlife and have deep cultural histories. On Central Florida’s east coast, the Indian River Lagoon, which encompasses Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore, is the most diverse estuary in North America. Nearly one third of the nation’s manatee population resides in this 156 mile-long waterway, along with an abundance of dolphins and other marine life.
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