Leadership Adventure Semester – Spring

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Leadership Adventure Semester – Spring


Costa Rica, North Carolina

Current Grades

12+, 12+ Gap


74 Days

view dates and prices
Meeting Place

Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)

Our goal at Adventure Treks is to help young adults lead a more enriching life, and we believe LAS offers a profound and intensive opportunity to deepen outdoor, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Students will gain mastery in outdoor skills like backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, and whitewater kayaking; take a wilderness first responder certification and swift water rescue course; learn essential life skills; and participate in local service projects.

This 74-day program will begin in Costa Rica, where students will spend two weeks learning and honing whitewater kayaking, rafting, and canoeing skills before transitioning to our basecamp in western North Carolina.

During the spring semester, students will have the opportunity to earn up to 14 academic credit hours through Western Carolina University.

Watch the Leadership Adventure Semester video

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LAS Spring Itinerary

Download Detailed Trip Guide

Wilderness first responder course

Not only is it important for outdoor enthusiasts to have a basic understanding of wilderness medicine, but the wilderness first responder course is also the standard minimum medical certification for outdoor leaders like guides, search and rescue professionals, and educators. (Adventure Treks alumni often go on to become instructor interns after having gained this certification.) It’s also an extremely beneficial course for anyone who takes extended backcountry trips and wants to pursue emergency medical training. Over 72–80 hours of classroom learning and hands-on scenarios, students will cover topics like:

  • Patient assessment systems
  • Risk management
  • Vital signs
  • Anaphylaxis, allergies, and airway management
  • Heat- and cold-related injuries
  • Spinal and traumatic brain injuries
  • Wounds and soft tissue injuries
  • Trauma and shock
  • Burns and blisters
  • Bites, stings, and wildlife safety
  • Splinting and patient packaging
  • Dislocations
  • And much, much more
Whitewater kayaking & rafting, plus swift water rescue course

The first two weeks of the semester will be spent learning the basics of whitewater paddling in the Turrialba region of Costa Rica. We’ll focus on kayaking on the Rio Pejibaye before transitioning to rafting on the Rio Pacuare.

Two of our days will be spent on a swift water rescue course, which is designed for anyone who loves to recreate in moving water or who wants to become an outdoor professional! This course is designed for people with little to no rescue experience; students will learn the fundamentals of survival in moving water, plus gain knowledge in hydrology and river classification; swimming and self-rescue; and boat handling and anchor systems.

Skills covered in the kayaking and rafting syllabus:

  • Common strokes
  • Reading whitewater and picking a line
  • Surfing waves
  • T-rescues
  • Wet exits
  • Rolling and bracing
  • Properly swimming in whitewater


Backpacking & advanced camp craft

Year after year, backpacking is the most highly rated activity at Adventure Treks for many reasons, including shared challenge, lack of electronic distractions, and what we call “shared humanity.” There’s magic in overcoming obstacles, and it’s even more powerful when challenges are shared with friends. Without electronics, people able to focus on what’s in front of them, and what’s important: themselves, their friends, and creating long-lasting memories. Students are able to step into different leadership roles, and backpacking highlights commonalities and interests that form strong, unbreakable friendship bonds. Backpacking offers opportunities for both type I fun (seeing beautiful views, having deep trail conversations, jumping into swimming holes) and type II fun (steep inclines, inclement weather, forgetting something and having to problem-solve)—both of which create rewarding, meaningful experiences.

Students will hike through the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest and Oconee and Table Rock state parks on several extended backpacking trips, honing such skills as:

  • Expedition management and safety
  • Orienteering, map-reading, and navigation skills
  • Leave No Trace principles
  • Camp set-up and take-down
  • Building temporary shelters
  • Fire-building
  • Backcountry cooking
Mountain biking

Students will have access to hundreds of miles of terrain in Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest. (In fact, western NC is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top spots for mountain biking.

Skills covered in the syllabus include:

  • Proper body positioning for climbing and descending
  • How to read the trail and pick a line
  • Balance and pedal strokes
  • Braking and shifting
  • Trail etiquette and basic repairs
Rock climbing

We’ll take advantage of the soaring granite domes in Pisgah National Forest to learn how to safely navigate and operate a climbing site.

Skills covered in the syllabus include:

  • Advanced knot-tying
  • Belaying & rappelling
  • Anchor-building
  • Movement techniques
  • Self-rescue
Essential life skills

In addition to helping students become skilled and competent outdoorspeople, we believe young adults must possess a wide variety of skills and habits to help them live rich, independent, and self-reliant lives. Thus, we will also include educational and hands-on blocks for:

  • Basic carpentry, plumbing, and electrical
  • Basic auto maintenance and repair
  • Basic bike maintenance and repair
  • Cooking, menu-planning, budgeting, and kitchen management
  • Personal financial management
  • Interviewing skills and resume-building
  • Outdoor equipment maintenance and repair
Local service projects

Leadership Adventure Semester students will get to enjoy all that western North Carolina has to offer, and we believe service that truly benefits the area will help them appreciate their surroundings even more. LAS students will participate in multi-day service projects, including trail maintenance and building and river clean-ups.

Dates and Prices

Departure 1
  • Departure Day
  • Return Day
  • Price
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Academic credit through Western Carolina University

Spring semester students have the opportunity to earn up to 14 hours of academic credit through Western Carolina University’s Parks and Recreation Management department.

Students are responsible for pursuing academic credit, including completing the WCU application for admission and class registration and submitting the course fees ($65 application fee + $55 per credit hour for 4 credit hours).

Included in tuition:
  • All meals
  • Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, and all group and technical gear
  • Guided activities
Not included in tuition:
  • Airfare to and from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), Costa Rica
  • Program insurance (more info here)
  • Personal clothing and items (packing lists available for enrolled families)
  • Tuition and application fees for Western Carolina University



Whitewater kayaking

Whitewater rafting


Rock climbing

Mountain biking


Tori Gualario, Colts Neck, NJ

LAS is an amazing, transformative experience for any young adult looking to become a better version of themselves while exploring the outdoors. This program offers students a beautiful landscape and facility to learn countless useful backcountry skills and leadership skills, all while having so much fun! LAS is a great fit for anyone looking to broaden their interests and work on themselves—whether or not they already have experience in the outdoors.

Adelaide Lenihan, Louisville, KY

Imagine the happiest moment of your life. Now imagine if you felt that way every single day… that was my life for 74 days while at Adventure Treks. It wasn’t always easy—it was quite challenging at times—but I had never been happier with a group of once strangers who are now the best friends I’ll ever have. LAS gave me the best experiences of my life; I have the tools, knowledge, and connections to last me a few lifetimes, and that is a feeling you can only learn through a program that demands vulnerability, builds character, and adds depth. I woke up every day with a purpose and the motivation to challenge myself, and I am extremely proud of myself. I am forever grateful for this experience.

Trevor Buchan, Durham, NC

LAS is unlike any other program out there. It’s so unique in its wide range of activities and experiences offered, from all things outdoors to general life skills. Additionally, it’s so aptly situated in North Carolina, with premier locations for each activity no more than an hour’s drive. With incredibly experienced instructors and staff, expect to learn and excel at everything offered. Accumulating knowledge and skill at multiple different activities I had never experienced before is something I’ll be able to carry with me the rest of my life, and will provide a platform for me to jump into any of those activities again as a future hobby. Not only does the semester offer great strides in self-growth and knowledge, but it’ll leave you walking away from it with a tightknit community of close friends. And the instructors are truly amazing and incredible. They really made the semester what it was; without their mentorship and compassion it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as significant of an experience.

Matt Schneiderman, Mamaroneck, NY

Attending the Leadership Adventure Semester is the best decision I have ever made. I grew as an outdoorsman, leader, friend, community member, and person. Those were the most fun and rewarding three months of my life. I made amazing, lifelong friends, and the community was incredible and unique. Everyone was so supportive and willing to lend a hand, a shoulder to cry on, and just a great friend.

Laura Kephart, West Grove, PA

The 11 weeks I spent at LAS was the most personal growth I’ve ever experienced. I accomplished so many feats I never considered possible, from physical challenges to emotional breakthroughs. I feel like I now have the confidence to push myself in tough situations and the independence to do my own thing in life. I have LAS to thank for that. And I don’t think we could have had a better group of instructors. I always felt heard and valued; when I asked questions and showed more interest in certain activities, they jumped at the opportunity to teach me more. They all were funny and caring and made me want to spend time with them. Everyone was approachable. I also made so many close bonds—the community is more than a group of people with shared interests… it’s a family. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

Gio Befeler, Miami, FL

Doing the LAS gap semester was one of the best decisions of my life. The community created in this program had so much healthy energy and supportive relationships; the 20 other students in the semester now know me inside and out, and I couldn’t be happier about it. My peers are people I will be friends with for a lifetime. We grew together. We laughed, cried, walked, hiked, rowed, and loved each other. I could not have asked for a better group of people to have done this semester with and appreciate the application team for handpicking the best students and lifelong friends. You learn so much about yourself in this program and find yourself in situations and activities you never knew you could overcome, but you do. I came out of LAS an even more positive version of myself.