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In Their Words: NOLS New Zealand

Students who turn to NOLS for their semester abroad treasure the experience. Wendy Cirko and Cory McDonald both took NOLS semesters as their semesters abroad last year. Both Spring Semester in New Zealand graduates, shared their reflections on the experience and the education with us recently, and we had to share. Learn more about upcoming semesters in New Zealand here.

Wendy Cirko, 2013 Spring Semester in New Zealand:

They say that college will be the most memorable four years of your life. Here you make new friends, have new freedoms, learn new thing about yourself, and gain knowledge to shape your future. I knew that going into college I wanted to go somewhere that would allow me time to study abroad. This is how I ended up at Salisbury University, majoring in environmental studies and minoring in outdoor education and philosophy.

My sophomore year was ending and my advisor, knowing I liked the outdoors, suggested I check out NOLS for an alternative study abroad experience. I ended up in New Zealand, backpacking, kayaking, and sailing the spring semester of 2013. Getting my time with NOLS to help me earn my degree required work between my academic advisors and department heads, but in the end I received 16 transfer credits. These credits in environmental studies, risk management, and various other fields allowed me to not fall behind in school, and more importantly my NOLS semester gave me a 77-day experience that was more beneficial than any class I could have taken.

50Wendy Cirko photo

No matter where you go, spending a semester abroad is a life-changing event. The fact that I was able to spend this semester in the backcountry with NOLS was amazing and something that I would never consider trading for a more standard study abroad experience. The things I learned: taking initiative, first aid, perseverance, leading your peers, gaining self-confidence, staying positive. The new people I met: my instructors and my nine coursemates. They are the things that I will carry into my future. NOLS has helped me to further my studies, plus the skills I learned will hopefully help me in a future of outdoor education. I know that this experience has made my college years more memorable than I could have ever imagined and I am so thankful that I had this amazing opportunity.


Cory McDonald, 2013 Spring Semester in New Zealand:

I began my NOLS adventure with the intent of gaining experience in outdoor leadership for my major, outdoor recreation. As an active learner, I learn best when I am immersed in a topic, so NOLS seemed like an appropriate path. My goals going into my NOLS semester were to master practical backcountry skills such as map interpretation, route planning, risk management, and taking on leadership roles. Along with achieving these goals, I also gained insight and clarity on what I am passionate about and what is important to me.

Communication is a big part of taking on the leadership role, but the leadership role is only a small part of communication. Throughout the semester I learned how to communicate as an effective follower, an equal team member, and an individual amongst a group. Part of communication is listening and reflecting. By learning how to listen and effectively receive and reflect on feedback, you can change or expand on your self-awareness, ultimately bringing you closer to understanding yourself.

NOLS is an excellent medium for challenging and validating your self-awareness. Being engrossed in the sublimity of the wilderness along with the pure wildness of it manifested, in me, a sense of admiration for the ecological life and the geological processes that have been at work for billions of years. Contributing to this new sense of admiration was learning and practicing Leave No Trace ethical backcountry travel and learning the names of the different wildlife that surrounded me. Learning the names of the surrounding wildlife and how geological formations came to be gave me deeper respect and toward them. Through living amid the wildlife for some time, I became empathetic for the natural world.

NOLS 292 Cory McDonald photo

I came away from NOLS with a new sense of compassion toward something bigger than myself. I have now added to my degree a concentration in natural resource recreation management and with that I plan to protect and preserve the natural quality of wilderness and provide opportunities for current and future generations to explore the natural world and themselves. 

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on May 13, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, New Zealand

Get to Know NOLS New Zealand

You may remember meeting Mark Jordan, NOLS Australasia director, a few weeks ago. His passion and expertise extend from Australia to New Zealand. Read what he has to say about NOLS New Zealand below.

6a00d83451b4f069e201a5119398a9970cIf you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:

Like the staff at every NOLS location: driven, enthusiastic, and skilled. 

What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?

New Zealand has some of the most varied and unique ecosystems in the world. The cultural interactions are fantastic as well. 

I firmly believe a NOLS course, at any location, will be a watershed event in a person’s life. Australia and New Zealand are great places to experience NOLS as well as a fascinating part of the world to explore. 

What unique or particularly appealing aspect of this branch do you think potential students should know about?

New Zealand’s forests, called the “bush,” contain ancient remnants of Gondwana Land, the prehistoric continent, so the flora here has developed in isolation from other continents. Here you’ll find unique birds and plants found nowhere else in the world, like the mischievous Kea, the world’s only mountain parrot. Bird life includes tui, bellbird, kaka, parakeets, bush robins, mountain falcons, and morepork owls, whose haunting call can be heard most nights in the bush.

What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?

In New Zealand students are often surprised how friendly New Zealander’s can be. Kiwis will really go out of their way to help strangers. 

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on May 12, 2014 in the following categories: Amazon, Leadership, New Zealand

Fresh Pesto for the Field

Riley's have been busy in the kitchen making fresh pesto which is being sent into the field for students and instructors.
Ingredients are mostly from intown staff vegtable gardens and local producers. 
Pesto seems to be a welcome nutritional addition to the field ration, as does the freshly baked bread and locally grown fruit.









Camine with some of the pesto ingredients 

Image_2Riley produce for salsa

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 25, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS 1 & 3 Transition





IMG_1648 Cool start to a busy day at NOLS NZ

New Zealand Semester One transitioned today from Sea Kayaking to Hiking. They successfully completed their exposed Sea Kayak route from Picton to Waimaru in the Marlborough Sounds. 

They spent the day at the NOLS NZ base and are about to head out Hiking in the Kahurangi National Park for the third and final section of their semester.

IMG_1663Students pondering how it is all going to fit into their backpacks 

Instructor Pete checking gear


New Zealand Semester Three transitioned from Hiking to Sea Kayak today.
They spent the first section of their semester hiking in the Kahurangi National Park.
They are off Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds, then go straight into their Sailing section.  


NZS-3 students will not return to NOLS NZ between their Sea Kayak and Sailing section.


Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) students studying Adventure Tourism, came out to the NOLS NZ base during the transition to observe and get a taste of what NOLS is about. 

IMG_1660    Christian explaining what we do at NOLS NZ 

NMIT students getting a taste of the NOLS Leadership curriculum. 
Hopefully we will see more of them in the future.


Good luck out there everyone! 

Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 13, 2014 in the following categories: Leadership, New Zealand

NZS-2 Sea Kayak to Hike

The second New Zealand semester had a great time in the sea kayaking section.
They did an amazing job circumnavigating D’Urville Island in the Marlborough sounds, this group is the first Sea Kayak group ever in the NOLS New Zealand history to accomplish this nautical challenge, well done team!

At the NOLS New Zealand base they left sea kayaks behind and got ready their hiking boots and backpack to adventure in a mission in the New Zealand bush (like the locals will say).

IMG_1279Last opportunity to relax 


IMG_1296Hiking gaiters and boots

The group got their gear ready and hiked out of the branch to the Richmond forest park mountain range. At this moment the group is in the Nelson Lakes national park hiking through Beech forest and Alpine terrain. 

IMG_1299Heading for the hills

We wish them luck in their new course section, kia kaha!



Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 10, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZB Graduation 1 & 2

New Zealand Backpacking One and Two returned to NOLS NZ over the weekend and graduated.
They are now on their way home, are already at home, or off on their next exciting adventure.

Both groups successfully completed a mutli night independent student group expedition where they were able to put their newly learned skills to the test. A highlight from the course was camping and traveling through snow in the alpine environment.

One student commented that "it was an amazing opportunity to share this experience with a group of people my own age'. When asked if they would ever go hiking again thay all eagerly said that they intended to.  

Students enjoyed the fresh produce the Nelson region has to offer especially the fruit and home made pesto, it made a welcome change to the NOLS ration. 

P3070007NZB 1 & 2 Students all packed up 

NOLS NZ Intown staff and instructors
waving students off on their next adventure

Good luck out there NZB students, make good decisions 
All the best with your next adventures from the
NOLS NZ community



Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Mar 9, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-1 Transition

NZS-1 Transition

New Zealand Semester one came through the NOLS NZ base and are now Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds.

They started their canoe expedition in the high country near Molesworth Station. They paddled all the way to the Pacific Ocean just North of Kaikoura.
While on the Clarence River the group encounted low water levels and hot clear days.

Students commented that highlights from the canoe section included hiking up Dillon Cone, NZ backcountry, first aid curriculum, the length and duration of the river section. 

The group stayed near Muzzel Station where they helped the Nimmo's clear brush from a paddock, watched sheep dogs in action, learned about and tasted organic honey produced on the station.   

P2190006Evening spent at the base where they swapped Canoes for Sea Kayaks

Grooming before heading back out 

NZS-1 Students, Canoe & Sea Kayak Instructors, NZ Intown staff


The Group is now Sea Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds which is located at North end of the South Island. The Marlborough Sounds are an extensive area of sea drowned valleys that makes an interesting coastline to explore. The Sounds make up approximatelly one fifth of the New Zealand coastline. 

IMG_1200Unloading the Sea Kayak trailer near Picton

They started their Sea Kayak expedition in Picton and are attempting to paddle to Waimaru. So far they have had perfect calm conditions and the weather forecast is looking promising for the next week.

Some of the Sea Kayak Fleet  


haere rā


Send Mail to 

(Student Name and Course Code)
4 Serpentine River Road
Aniseed Valley RD 1 
Richmond 7081
New Zealand 




Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Feb 24, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS-3 Course Starts

NOLS New Zealand Semester Three has started their Aotearoa adventure.

The first day at the NOLS NZ base they prepared their rations and gear for the Hiking section of the semester; The group is going to explore the Kahuarangi Mountain Range for 28 days traveling form South to North with the plan on summiting Mnt. Owen, Mnt. Arthur and other significant peaks of the area. 

After packing their gear, the semester started their cultural section in Motueka where they met a local Maori iwi. At the Marae the group did the traditional Mihi and hongi



Whakataka te hau ki te uru
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga
Kia mākinakina ki uta
Kia mākinakina ki tai
E hi ake ana
He tio, he huka, he hauhu
Tihei Mauri Ora

 He honore he korōria ki te Atua
He Moungarongo ki te whenua
He wakaaro pai ki ngā tāngata katoa
E ngā mate huhua o tātou,
haere, haere, haere
whakangaro atu ki te ao o te pō.

 Ko Pukeone, ko Tuao Wharepapa ngā Maunga
Ko Motueka te awa
Ko Ngāti Rārua, Ko Te Ātiawa ngā iwi
Ko Te Āwhina te marae
Ko Turangāpeke te wharetupuna
Ka tuku ngā reo whakatau ki a koe
e tae mai ana ki te ipurangi o
Te Āwhina nau mai, haere mai.
Piki mai i runga i te aroha o tātou
te hau kainga.

 Āpiti hono, tatai hono rātou ki a rātou,
tātou ki a tātou Tēnā tātou katoa.

The students learned traditional Maori customs and had the opportunity to appreciate Maori legends by spending a night in the Marae.

Students learning how to make sinkers from rocks and flax fibers


Students weaving flax fibers


Traditional Maori Marae


NZS#3 2-2-14
Sea kayak

Feb 3 –Feb 5 NOLZ NZ Course Prep and Cultural Section (Mail)
Feb 6 Depart for Hiking Section
35 Days Hiking

13 March Hiking Pick up stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
14 March Depart for Sea Kayaking section
25 Days Sea Kayaking

April 8 Field switch to Sail (Will not return to NOLS NZ, Mail)
April 9 Start Sailing Section
10 Days Sailing

April 19 Sail pick up and return to NOLS NZ (Mail)
April 20 Course ends drop students off in Nelson


Send Mail to 

(Students Name and Course Code)
4 Serpentine River Road
Aniseed Valley RD 1 
Richmond 7081
New Zealand 




Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Feb 17, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZB 1 & 2


Everyone on New Zealand Backpacking One (NZB-1)and New Zealand Backpacking Two (NZB-2) all arrived at NOLS New Zealand on Friday. They are now hiking in the New Zealand wilderness. 

Both groups arrived on Friday and spent the day organizing for their 30-day adventure. They bagged  their entire ration, packed their packs, learned how to set up tents, began the first aid curriculum and  started getting to know each other.

During their 24 hours at the NOLS NZ base it rained just under an inch. Students weren't as excited as the locals for the rain that was well needed in the Aniseed Valley.
We are now back to clear hot days Nelson Weather.

P2070003NZB-1 Instructors and Students 

New Zealand Backpacking One is Hiking in the Nelson Lakes National Park. They got dropped off yesterday morning at the St James Track on the Lewis pass. They are hiking North and will get picked up at Lake Rotoiti.  


NZB-1 02/07/2014 Course Schedule 

In town: 7 & 8 April

Hiking: 8 April – 7 March

In town: 7 March

Course ends: 8 March



NZB-1 Laying around before the hiking begins


NZB-2 Instructors and Students

New Zealand Backpacking Two is hiking in the Nelson Lakes National Park. They got dropped off at the North end of the National Park on Saturday. They are doing a loop route that ends at Lake Rotoroa 

NZB-2 02/07/2014 Course Schedule 

In town: 7 & 8 April

Hiking: 8 April – 7 March

In town: 7 March

Course ends: 8 March


NOLS NZ postal address (Students will only get mail at the end of the course)

(Course Code NZB 1 or 2 & Students Name)
4 Serpentine River Road
Aniseed Valley RD 1
Richmond 7081
New Zealand 







Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Feb 9, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

NZS 1 & 2 Courses Start

New Zealand Semester One and Two have started their semesters and are now out in the field. 

Both courses started off with a day in town organizing gear, packing all the food for their semester and enjoying the New Zealand sun. Nelson NZ Weather
The groups then went down to Kaikoura for a two day cultural section where they immersed themselves in Maori Culture. They were shown sites of cultural signficance such as a Pa site (maori village site) and harvested cockles (sea shells) from the ocean then cooked them in an earth oven. 

The groups then returned to the NOLS NZ base where they finished preparing for the field and departed on their separate adventures.

NZS-1 is now Canoeing on the Clarence River for 21 days. They are attempting to get to the Pacific Ocean.

NZS-2 is out Sea Kayaking for 29 days in the Marlborough sounds. They are attempting a NOLS first to circumnavigate D'Urville Island. 

NZS#1 1-23-14
Sea kayak

 Jan 24 –Jan 27 NOLZ NZ Course Prep and Cultural Section
Jan-28 Drive to Clarence River
21 days Canoeing 

Feb-19 Canoe pick up and return to NOLS NZ (Mail)
Feb-20 Depart for Sea kayaking
21 days Sea Kayaking 

March-13 Sea Kayak pick up and stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
Mar-14 Depart for Hiking
26 days Hiking

 April-9 Hiking pick up stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
April-10 Course ends drop students off in Nelson


NZS#2 1-23-14
Sea Kayak

Jan 24 –Jan 27 NOLZ NZ Course Prep and Cultural Section
Jan-28 Depart for Sea Kayaking
29 days Sea Kayak

Feb-26 Sea kayak pick up and stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
Feb-27 Depart for Hiking
30 days hiking 

March-29 Hiking pick up and stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
Mar-30 Depart for Sailing
10 days sailing 

April-9 Sail pick up stay at NOLS NZ (Mail)
April-10 Course ends drop students off in Nelson

First NZ Cultural Lesson "Touch Rugby"


When students stay at the NOLS NZ base they enjoy cooked meals by our intown staff



Field rations divided into the various sections 


NZS-1 at the Clarence River

NZS-2 Loading up the Sea Kayaks


Send Mail to 

(Students Name and Course Code)
4 Serpentine River Road
Aniseed Valley RD 1 
Richmond 7081
New Zealand 





Permalink | Posted by Roo Riley on Jan 29, 2014 in the following categories: New Zealand

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