Patagonia | Gap Year/Semester

The peaks of Patagonia, the turquoise whitewater rivers, and the adventure of an entire semester with NCOAE in Chile – you may never want to leave.

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


The peaks of Patagonia, the turquoise whitewater rivers, and the adventure of an entire semester with The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) in Chile – you may never want to leave. This 84-day semester offers cultural exchange, remote mountainside campsites, and dense jungle trails, along with the skills and tools to expand your education and your view of the world.

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84 days

Course Information

Adventure First

Chile is beyond the limits of your imagination.

Working with our local contacts, we’ll explore some of the most pristine mountains and rivers in the world. National Parks in Chile are known for being some of the most remarkable wilderness landscapes in the world. As part of our adventure, we’ll trek in the Parque Nacional Siete Tazas, a remote park with a canyon of waterfalls that extends for miles. Weather-depending, we’ll plan expeditions including the Descabezado Grande (The Decapitated Volcano), a remote volcano with an ice-filled main crater. To get there, we’ll trek over clear streams, waterfalls, hot springs, through jungles with flocks of parrots, and over a white ash desert.

The NCOAE Spring Semester – Patagonia course is exceptional with its unique combination of adventure and skill development, including: trekking, mountaineering and whitewater raft guiding training. And, you’ll develop the additional skills and understanding of environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communications styles, as well as decision-making and teamwork.

The semester includes additional cultural options, including hot springs, a photography workshop, visiting a Mapuche village, and volunteering at a local girls’ orphanage to make a difference in another person’s life. We’ll also spend time on the coast, living in a local fishing village to understand the deep sea fishing industry and what it takes to fish professionally. You’ll go out on the fishing boat daily during your homestay to work with the fisherman.

And at the end of this semester — which is also available in Kenya — you’ll be able use these newly developed skills to guide groups in the backcountry or pursue a summer job in the whitewater industry.

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  • Duration: 84 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $17,800.00
  • Credit Hours: 26

Education Always

  • Wilderness First Responder certification
  • ACA Swift Water Rescue training
  • Intro to Adventure Guide Training (AGT Program)
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Expedition cooking and food planning
  • Experience best practices in environmental and civic responsibility
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE core curriculum
  • Navigating international logistics and South American – language variables
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • Travel through small mountain communities and have lunch with local residents, in the shade of local businesses that offer treks and basic supplies.
  • Trek and mountaineer through the High Andes to Volcan San Jose, one of the big classics in a massive volcanic complex consisting of four summits.
  • Develop river expertise in Chilean rivers known for their clear turquoise waters, while learning to guide a raft through Class III and IV rapids.
  • Learn about ocean fish while fishing alongside local fisherman and learning about the deep sea fishing industry.
  • Complete your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training in a Geodesic Dome built for outdoor educators.
  • Enjoy the best road trip of your life: Hornopiren to Leptu Ferry through Fiordo Largo, to Caleta Gonzalo. Ferry to Chaiten.
  • Soak in Banós Colina with soaring condors, and 360-degree vistas of the remote land where the people are as rugged as the mountains.

Why Take This Course

  • Advanced training in outdoor and adventure education for outdoor educators and teachers
  • Learn in one of the world’s most remote and beautiful places — Patagonia and the rivers district
  • Acquire the precise skills that allow you to teach, travel, and guide around the world

Where You’ll Be

  • Patagonia, Chile
  • Pucón and Parque Nacional Huerquehue
  • Cochamo and Valle Trinador
  • Hornopiren, Fiordo Largo to Caleta Gonzalo
  • Rio Futaleufu
  • Cajon de Maipo and Volcan San Jose


What is the Patagonia Semester?

The Patagonia Semester is an 84-day course in the Chilean wilderness during which you gain environmental, technical, interpersonal and intrapersonal skill sets that will prepare you to make positive changes in your world while working as a full-time outdoor educator. You engage in learning experiences and cultural exchanges in the midst of remote mountainside campsites, dense jungle trails, high-elevation hot springs, Class IV whitewater rivers, and more. No other outdoor education training program offers a combination of hands-on experiential education in an international setting and provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in Patagonian communities and culture.

Where in Patagonia will our course visit?

Your classrooms will incorporate some of the highest peaks in Patagonia, the Valdivia Temperate Rainforest, the fishing village of Cochamo, and the San Jose Volcano. You’ll be learning to thrive in wilderness, in some of the most diverse terrain on the planet, from arid deserts to lush jungles, from hot springs to whitewater rapids, from oceans to mountain peaks, and everything in between.

What activities will I participate in?

Over the course of the expedition, you will learn valuable wilderness skills “on the job” as you engage in international expedition planning, backcountry navigation, backpacking, trekking, multi-pitch climbing, whitewater rafting, paddling, kayaking, stand up paddle (SUP) boarding, campcraft, backcountry cooking, wilderness risk management, journaling, and solo experience.

How far will we backpack and paddle in Patagonia?

While there are no predetermined distances, you may trek multiple miles in one day, or none at all. River days may consist of practicing paddling skills in one area of a river or a hot springs all day, or may involve miles of whitewater. You will learn to embrace and appreciate planning for the unknown and unexpected.

Will we have any free time to ourselves?

Part of every NCOAE course includes a solo experience. You will have the opportunity to spend multiple days completely alone in the backcountry to meet your personal needs and desired outcomes.

Which certifications, credentials, and skills will I be able to earn and develop in this course?

You have the opportunity to earn and develop a number of credentials, certifications, and skills on this course, including the following:

  • American Canoe Association (ACA)
  • Swift Water Rescue Tech 3
  • Leave No Trace (LNT)
  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR)
  • American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA) Site and Rope Management workshop to prepare for AMGA Single Pitch Instructor (SPI)
  • Wilderness Risk Management Training (WRMT)
  • Expedition planning
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Remote wilderness campcraft

But upon your return, you’ll have much more than a stack of technical outdoor and wilderness-related certifications in hand. NCOAE’s training methods and curriculum provide you with the opportunity to gain the confidence and competency necessary to be a world-class backcountry leader, traveler, and teacher. You will develop and polish your personal teaching style and leadership skills and will gain the ability to communicate more effectively.

Do I need to have paddling, climbing, or mountaineering experience?

No. Previous experience is not required, but this course requires physical stamina. NCOAE will teach you all the basics you need to know and then let you practice them with your peers. You’ll get all the skills training and experience you need on your 84-day adventure.

Do I need to buy any special equipment or clothes for my course?

NCOAE provides all necessary group gear and food, but you will want, or be required, to bring certain items for yourself. We encourage you to contact NCOAE with all of your gear questions as early as possible. Start planning now by viewing the NCOAE Advanced Outdoor Education Patagonia Pack List.

How many people will be in my group?

Each group has two or three instructors and 8 to 12 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every four students.

What is the average group size and instructor to student ratio?

Each group has one to three instructors and four to eight students, so you can expect to be in a group of no larger than fifteen. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every four students.

What are the minimum and average ages of students in the Patagonia Semester course?

The minimum age to enroll in the course is 18. The average age is about 21 years old, with a range between 18 and 60.

How do I prepare for my Patagonia Semester course?

While the physical demands will depend on your level of fitness, sections of this course will be physically demanding. You will hike and climb over rough, steep, and rugged terrain, through various environments. The paddling sections will require paddling and being wet for long periods of time, and walking on rugged, slippery shorelines. This course is for the physically and emotionally fit. Your ability to maintain a positive outlook will be key to achieving your personal goals and the goals set by your group.

Is financial aid available? How do I apply?

At this time, we do not offer financial aid. However, if you are a college student you may be able to use your existing federal financial aid to help pay for your course, and you may receive college credits for your course through a consortium agreement with NCOAE. If you are attending a college or university as part of a degree granting program, your advisor can determine whether your school will accept and transfer NCOAE – Keystone College credits. If it does, consult your financial aid office to determine if, how, and which funds may be used toward your NCOAE course costs. For more information on the consortium agreement process, contact

Academic Credit

You are eligible to receive  a maximum of 16 credit hours from the list below during this semester program. You will need to align any of the listed academic credits/courses with your degree program. Please call NCOAE with questions on applying for transferable credit hours.

Your work during our Spring Semester – Patagonia may be eligible for college-level credits through Keystone College:

  • ANTH 2110 — Peoples & Cultures of Patagonia: 2 credits
  • COMM 3135 — Small Group Communication: 3 credits
  • EXPL 2110 — Experiential Learning: 3 credits
  • GEOG 3110 — Cultural Geography: 2 credits
  • LEAD 1110 — Foundations of Leadership: 3 credits
  • LEAD 2110 — Team Building: 3 credits
  • PHED 1125 F2F 001 — 1st Aid/Safety: 2 credits
  • SRM 1018 — Hiking and Habitat: 2 credits
  • SRM 2110 — Program Development and Planning: 3 credits
  • SRM 3135 — Facilitation of Leadership Activities: 3 credits

Course Outcomes

Immerse yourself in Chilean communities and culture. Learn to live with more accountability in your personal life. Gain environmental, technical, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skill sets that will prepare you to make positive changes in your world.

Where do you want to go (physically, mentally, socially, academic, etc.)?

Your classrooms will incorporate the highest peaks in Patagonia, the Valdivia Temperate Rainforest, the fishing village of Cochamo, and the San Jose Volcano. And that’s just the start. You’ll experience these and other remote settings along the way to acquire skills to help you become a more effective leader, learning new techniques in some of the most diverse terrain on the planet.

Finally, you will have acquired skills in an international setting, including self and group assessment skills, and group management skills. You’ll not only learn to thrive in wilderness environments from mountains to rivers to oceans, but learn how to pass that passion on to others.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

During your semester in Chile, you’ll earn the necessary outdoor and wilderness-related certificates which are required for jobs with the best outdoor education and adventure-based organizations.

You’ll have the competence and confidence to be a world-class backcountry leader, traveler and teacher, thanks to NCOAE’s training methods and curriculum.  You’ll travel, live, and learn through some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in South America.

With your awareness of international settings and the natural world, you’ll have the rare ability to appreciate, protect — and most importantly, responsibly enjoy — remote natural wilderness.

This Spring Semester – Patagonia semester and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in Chile.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

This Spring Semester – Patagonia semester and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in Chile.

Travel & Logistics

Meet your group at Baggage Claim at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) just outside of Santiago, Chile, after traveling from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas, on Day One of your Training.

You will depart from Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) on the last day of your training to return to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

Questions about travel and logistics? Call NCOAE headquarters Mon.-Fri. between 9am-4:30pm ET — (910) 399-8090.

Enroll today and start living the life you dream about!