Studying abroad gets wild with NOLS


For nearly 48 years, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has taught technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics.

It offers an alternative to a traditional UVM study abroad program, but the lessons learned do not take place in a classroom.

Although NOLS began as a backpacking program, they have included a diverse list of courses that specialize in skills from rock climbing to kayaking.

With NOLSÕ notoriously outdoor oriented curriculum, it is natural that it has attracted a significant amount of UVM students.

Included on the list of students is sophomore Izzy Lazarus. Izzy recently attended a NOLS program based out of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

ÒI saw NOLS as an opportunity to break the boundaries of traditional academics and challenge myself physically and mentally. I knew that whatever course I chose, I would be taken to a wild and extraordinary place.Ó Lazarus said.

Students enrolled in the school are granted the opportunity to work with some of the most passionate educators in outdoor leadership.

Izzy said the NOLS professors take pride in teaching, spending one-on-one time with students, and love their jobs.

ÒThe instructors are knowledgeable; the scenery is jaw dropping and the learning is endless,Ó Lazarus said.

Dan Hobbs, a junior at Champlain, participated in a program on Drystale River in Australia and agreed that the instructors deserve praise.

His instructor was a former electrical engineer from Barcelona.

ÒHe decided to quit and become a NOLS instructor. HeÕs been traveling the world since,Ó Hobbs said.

In addition to working with uplifting teachers, NOLS students get to travel some of the most remote areas in the world.

They experience hands-on training and acquire immense information in regards to environmental ethics.

For a school that now reaches hundreds of people, some may be surprised it bgan as the vision of just one man. In 1960, instructor Paul Petzoldt sought to bring students to the wild.

PetzoldÕs objective of NOLS went beyond typical concrete education. The curriculum is based on not only technical skills, but leadership as well.

ÒFrom day one, the instructors begin to step back and let the students run the course,Ó Lazarus said.

Hobbs said that he grew as a person from his experience in Australia.

ÒThroughout the trip there are times where you feel unsure, incompetent, and unprepared but you need to persevere because at the end of the day you have what it takes,Ó said Hobbs.

NOLS prides itself on placing students outside of their comfort zones and challenging them in ways a traditional study abroad program does not, according to its mission statement. Within this, NOLS does not allow cell phone use.

Hobbs and Lazarus both said that NOLS was hard work, but it was worth every second. Lazarus reflected on her experience describing each day as Òan unforgettable memory of hardship, beauty, excitement and learning.Ó

ÒAbsolutely, whether they had one day in the backcountry or 50, I would strongly recommend a NOLS program,Ó Lazarus said.