Kat Taylor's fall semester in the Southwest could not have fit more perfectly with her recreation program services major at the University of Montana. "I was mostly excited about my NOLS course," says Kat, "because I was studying outdoor recreation but none of my classes were actually outdoors."
Kat needed to find out if she really wanted to follow a career in outdoor recreation, and after 72 days exploring the desert canyons and paddling the famous Rio Grande River, she had her answer. "It was amazing," Kat recalls. "I knew from the beginning that I'd made the right decision to pursue outdoor education."
The southwestern terrain surprised Kat at once--the high-forested areas, expansive canyons, and rugged mountains were more than she expected from a classic desert climate. Indeed, the region's variety and abundance of life proved the perfect setting for learning the essentials of backpacking, caving, canoeing and climbing. The long hot days and cool nights also left plenty of time for exploring ancient cliff dwellings, learning about the region's diverse plants and animals, and fine-tuning her knot skills.
Kat's most vivid memory, however, is of a cool, dark morning during a student group expedition. "I remember waking up and packing everything in the dark. I felt so solid at my skills since we had had three weeks to get everything down. I sat in the dark and suddenly realized with great pride that I could do all this blindfolded. It was a great sense of accomplishment."
Along with the satisfaction of reaching personal goals, Kat also enjoyed being part of a dynamic group of people. "Everyone comes together on a NOLS course," she says. "Each person comes from a different background, but you learn from each other as much as you learn from the instructors. My course taught me that everyone has something to offer and important knowledge to pass along."