NOLS National Outdoor Leadership School: Semester in New Zealand
Join us for an exciting educational opportunity in a remarkable country. New Zealand’s South Island is a varied region of alpine grasslands, snowfields, rain forests, rugged mountains, spectacular gorges, and broad valleys with unique birds and plants found nowhere else in the world, such as the only mountain parrot, the Kea.
For 77 days, you’ll learn about the region’s natural history and culture as you travel through the island’s forests that contain remnants of Gondwanaland, a prehistoric continent. Along the way, you’ll spend some time with the local Maori who will teach you about their culture and connection to the land.
Then, whether you choose to canoe, sea kayak, or sail, you’ll practice technical skills along New Zealand’s coastlines or rivers. And no matter where this semester takes you, you’ll experience the varied and unpredictable weather of the “Roaring Forties”—an apt nickname for the area between latitudes 40° and 50° south known for strong, prevailing winds.
A common element to all New Zealand semesters, tramping (Kiwi for backpacking) is where you will learn all the basics of backcountry travel. New Zealand is known for its spectacular landscape; during your semester you will explore all it has to offer. Be ready for steep terrain and variable weather. Students find this a physically demanding section but also the one with the greatest learning opportunities.
You’ll visit a local marae (meeting site) for a two-day cultural experience with a community of Maori, the original human inhabitants of New Zealand. You’ll learn about their traditions, art, mythology, and connection to the land that remains deep and sacred.
Canoeing (optional dates)
For three weeks, you’ll follow the South Island rivers like the Clarence (Wai-au-toa), Hurunui, or Waiau. You’ll learn the essentials of canoe expeditioning as you paddle through some of New Zealand’s most classic hill country.
Sea Kayaking (optional dates)
Set in the waters of the Marlborough Sounds, this section will begin with basic maneuvering and move to additional classes on paddling techniques. You’ll also have classes on navigation, tides and currents, marine weather and communications, and other aspects of seamanship.
Mountaineering (fall only)
Up to three weeks long, this section provides a solid foundation of mountaineering skills that compliment and enhance the backpacking section. You will travel in the challenging and dramatic alpine environments of one of several areas: Arthur’s Pass National Park, the Arrowsmith Range, Ahuriri/Ruataniwha Conservation Park, or Nelson Lakes National Park.
Sailing (spring only)
This 10-day section takes place in the Cook Strait and Marlborough Sounds regions. You will cook and live aboard two keelboat sailing yachts, rotating crew positions and learning the fundamentals of basic coastal cruising.
NOLS is widely recognized for its outdoor education, leadership and conservation curricula. As different as these may be from traditional academic programs, Western Washington University recognizes the educational value of a NOLS course. WWU students must register for University of Utah credit. Students must pay for the University of Utah credit fees, in addition to the course tuition, before the course begin. Registration forms and payment submitted after a course begins will not be accepted. More information about this process can be found on the NOLS website