Whether it’s traveling from the Colorado Rockies to Ecuador; Florida Keys to Brazil; or from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Patagonia, Outward Bound semester courses take students deep into the earth’s most fascinating places. From volcanoes that create warm water just perfect for a hot springs soak to rushing river rapids ideal for earning safety certifications, our international courses give students firsthand experience with a stunning array of textures, colors, cultures and landscapes. On these remarkable gap year journeys, students get more than just a few stamps in their passports; they gain invaluable life experience, personal growth, leadership and technical skills and an expanded world view. Get detailed information on all of our semester courses here, and read on to learn seven things you might not know about our international semester courses.
1. Get Certified
Because they are longer in length – on average 69 days, our semester courses provide students with an opportunity to get in-depth, hands-on experience in technical and safety skills.
- Swiftwater Rescue certification in Brazil. Participate in 3 days of rescue drills, learn rope systems and develop skills necessary to help people who are injured or entrapped on whitewater rivers.
- American Red Cross Lifeguarding, Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness First Aid Certification in the Florida Keys. Learn the techniques and practice scenarios for rescuing distressed and drowning swimmers. During a nine-day training, earn your Wilderness First Responder Certification. Learn about Wilderness First Aid, the human body’s response to injury and illness, and what you can do to treat and evacuate someone from a wilderness setting.
- Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Certification in Patagonia, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Florida’s waterways. Learn to deal with the unexpected on this 72-day, multi-continent journey.
2. Get Wild
As students venture into wilderness areas across the globe, they often encounter wildlife and geological features that are specific to the region where they are traveling. This is your chance to see rare plants, animals and rock formations that exist in very specific ecosystems – both far away and close to home.
- In Brazil: Immerse yourself in one of the most bio diverse countries in the world. With its array of unique ecosystems, Brazil has one of the widest varieties of animal species. Your crew may see emus, tapirs, monkeys, jaguars, pumas, parrots, macaws, ant eaters, capybaras, sloths, otters, toucans, flamingos, eagles, poison dart frogs, and many species of exotic mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
- In Ecuador: Be on the lookout for wild llamas, Andean condors and red paramo lobos (wolves). Marvel at active volcanoes and soak in hot springs during your journey. Plus, tackle extreme elevations – as high as 18,000 feet in Ecuador.
- In Patagonia: Expect to backpack past snow covered volcanic peaks, see unique flora and fauna, encounter waterfalls and ice slopes and summit a magnificent Andean peak.
- In the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains: End your course climbing and rappelling in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. The Linville Gorge is home to many odd rock formations – Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock and the Chimneys, which attract beginner, intermediate, and advanced rock climbers.
- In Joshua Tree, Canyon Country and the Rocky Mountains: Learn to travel and live in some of the most iconic places in the United States. This journey prepares students to take their own trips into these relatively accessible, and unquestionably beautiful domestic wilderness areas.
3. Get Local
Each of our international semester expeditions features an immersive experience within a local community – your opportunity to learn about a new culture and gain respect for another way of life – and a great chance to interact with local people. Outward Bound students often credit their international experiences with broadening their world views and providing valuable context for a more inclusive, informed understanding of the world around them.
- In Brazil:
- Explore a Kalunga village near Chapada de Veraidios – a community originally started by a group of runaway slaves over 200 years ago, which has remained culturally distinct from modern Brazil.
- Visit a village where people gather several times a year for large festivities, and meet with a family who lives nearby. Learn about their way of life and help them with activities around the farm.
- Collaborate with Outward Bound Brazil, a school run entirely by Brazilians, working with Brazilian students from inner city Sao Paolo and training Brazilians to work as outdoor guides.
- Attend a traditional Brazilian BBQ.
4. Give Back
Every Outward Bound expedition is designed to foster an ethic of service – which means we encourage students to actively engage in service to others, and also demonstrate social and environmental responsibility. More than just another gap year work program, on our international semester courses “service” takes on an even more significant meaning. Students spend a large chunk of their expedition helping out local communities, whether that means building and repairing homes or simply assisting a family on their farm. Get ready to roll up your sleeves – and work right alongside the locals.
- In Brazil: Build and repair homes in a farming village in Eastern Brazil, between Rio and Sao Paolo, using sustainably harvested eco-materials (clay made of mud, straw bales, and recycled materials). Stay with a rural Brazilian family on their farm in Eastern Brazil. Experience village life firsthand, helping the family with farm and household chores, and even helping prepare traditional Brazilian cuisine.
- In Patagonia: Complete a service project and earn service hours by helping local farmers build structures, harvest food or make fences for livestock.
- In Ecuador: Perform service work at a family farm.
5. Go Back in Time
As they explore international terrain, students get up close and personal with some of the world’s most ancient geologic formations and thousand-year-old forests.
- In Brazil: Travel deep into the wilderness areas of Chapada de Veradios. Hiking and canyon travel during this section are to remote areas that few travel to without experienced guides.
- In Patagonia: Experience elevation shifts between 2,500 and 8,000 feet as you traverse and ascend an Andean peak in Nahuel Huapi National Park, the oldest and largest national park in Argentina.
- In the Blue Ridge Mountains: Explore one of the oldest mountain ranges 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!
6. Earn Credit
Depending on the institution, students may be able to earn up to 3 Master’s credit hours or 12 undergraduate credit hours on their Outward Bound expedition. We’ve partnered with Indiana University, Western State Colorado University and Northland College to make it easy to integrate an Outward Bound course into your educational master plan. Learn more here.
7. Keep Exploring
Several of our international semester courses conclude overseas. That gives students the option to extend their adventure – and continue traveling – or head home.
- End your course in Quito. Stick around and explore Ecuador on your own or recruit your crew mates and newfound friends to join you.
- Travel from the Florida Keys to Costa Rica, and then finish your expedition in Panama. Gather your crewmates – or head out solo – for more adventures along the Caribbean coast.
- End your course in Patagonia. On the Blue Ridge Mountains to Florida and Patagonia Leadership semester, students end their adventure in Nahuel Huapi National Park – one of the least populated and pristine regions in the world, and a perfect starting point for more South American travel.
No matter where you go, and no matter which expedition you choose, one thing is for certain: this will be the best semester yet. Learn more about our wide range of international gap year expeditions here. With a variety of expedition styles, locales, schedules and activities, you’re sure to find the perfect journey for you.