Programs and Structure

Q: How are programs structured? 
A: Wildlands Studies programs are highly structured, with academic activities scheduled most days. They are also intensive, typically including instruction and field research seven days each week.

Faculty and staff work directly with students six to ten hours a day and are available for tutorials and coursework discussion before and after scheduled activities. 

Typical days start at eight each morning and go into the evening with guest lectures, workshops and structured study time.  Sometimes we start much earlier and go much later—for instance when in the backcountry, at a field site we may start as early as 4 a.m. or go until 10 p.m. to observe wildlife. It is necessary to be flexible and able to accommodate a variety of class times. Generally there are few, if any, days off during the program. There are periodically a few hours of free time, and those are generally filled with completing coursework or personal needs, such as laundry and/or contacting home.   

Q: What are the prerequisites for a Wildlands Studies Program? 
A: Students should have a basic knowledge of ecology, biology and geography, gained through one lower division university class in science, biology, geography, environmental studies or a related field. Prior field research experience is not required; we’ll teach you the data acquisition skills you’ll need during the program. 

Q: Is there a language requirement for the international programs? 
A: All program instruction is in English. Although a student's experience will be enhanced if they know the local language, it is not a requirement. 

Q: How much time is spent outside or in the field versus in lecture? 
A: Wildlands Studies courses are not taught in the classroom setting like your home university. There are academic responsibilities including required readings, homework assignments, exams, final projects and oral presentations. However, these activities and faculty lectures take place in the field: standing in the ecosystem that is the focus of the lecture, talking to the researcher who wrote your reading assignment, homework completed in your tent by headlamp, or discussion of a peer-reviewed article about glacial movement while sitting aside a glacier. This firsthand learning experience is incomparable. And the combination of academic and experiential learning is, we believe, unparalleled.

Q: Are there overnight field activities? 
A: Whenever possible we have overnight backpacking field activities to the backcountry. We know from our alumni that backpacking is a highlight of our programs, with huge personal rewards. On our programs, where terrain and wildlife permit, we will have one, two, and even three multi-day backpacking field studies. On others, where we are limited due to wildlife or dense vegetation, we conduct a series of daylong field studies in backcountry locations. Please note that we do not backpack on all our programs, and if you wish to backpack, refer to the program description to be certain this is included.

Q: Should students bring a cell phone, laptop and/or tablet? 
A: Although this is constantly changing, mobile phones and laptops are generally not needed on Wildlands Studies courses. We are often in the field and away from cellular service, charging facilities, and broadband or internet. Mobile phones, camera batteries, and laptops may be difficult, if not impossible to recharge, and challenging to store safely if you go on a multi-day backpack. In many countries, cell phones are cheap to buy with a pay-as-you-go plan, and students opt to purchase phones abroad. This depends on the country and location. However, we would rarely recommend that you bring a laptop because it will be hard to charge and difficult to safely store. Tablets, on the other hand, are becoming frequently more popular on our programs, as they are easier to keep and transport, and can help with note taking, photo management and communication. Our logistics email, sent about twelve weeks in advance of a program, will discuss mobile phone, tablet and laptop use and practicality. 

Applications and Enrollment

Q: The program I want to join is full. Can I be put on a waitlist? 
A: Yes, you can, but we would encourage you to enroll in your second choice program to guarantee that you have a space on a program. This is how it works: once we have determined you qualify for a program, you’re accepted into your second choice program, and your name is placed on the wait list for your first choice. 

If a space becomes available on your first choice program, we will call you to see if you’re still interested in joining that program. If you are, we move you to that program, and you are dropped from your second choice. If you decide that you’d prefer to stay with your second choice program, you can do that. 

Q: If I apply for a program and it’s full, will my application fee be refunded? 
A: The application fee is refundable until you receive an acceptance email naming a specific program. Once accepted, your fee cannot be refunded. If you are waitlisted for a program, and no space becomes available, your application fee will be refunded. However, once you receive our email accepting you into a program, the application fee becomes nonrefundable.

Academic Credit, Grades and Transcripts

Q: Will students get credit in their major at their home campus for participation on a program? 
A: Wildlands Studies course credits typically transfer as upper division elective credit toward overall degree requirements. Students have had particular success transferring credits to their major when pursuing an environmental studies or similar degree. Please contact our office if you would like more information about course materials for evaluation and credit transfer to a specific major. Please note as well, policies vary from university to university so it’s best to speak with your major advisor to make sure the credits apply to your major.  

The documents you need to share with your advisor, including a program-specific syllabus, program manual and program description, can be found on the respective web page for the program. 

Q: Do students need to be registered at their home university during the term that they are on a Wildlands Studies program? 
A: Each school has its own policy for allowing students to take a quarter or semester off to study off-campus. For instance, many universities have a process and paperwork for a "planned leave" that allows students to remain as a continuing student at their home university. This is usually found in the Registrar or Study Abroad Office. Please speak with your advisor to find out about your school’s process.

Q: How are grades and transfer credits obtained at the conclusion of a program? 
A: Grades are only available through the official transcript. Western Washington University will send one transcript to the student’s home university Registrar. Additional transcripts can be requested directly from Western Washington University. 

Q: Who should I see on my home campus to arrange for my participation in Wildlands Studies? 
A: Typically, students work directly with their major department or the Registrar’s Office to transfer the credits back to their university. Occasionally they will go through their Study Abroad department. Sometimes students successfully work with their major advisor to gain course equivalency that allows them to use the credits toward their major. For this you would need to speak directly with your academic advisor.

Program Costs and Financial Aid

Q: What paperwork do students need to submit to Wildlands Studies so that they can use their financial aid? 
A: The process to obtain a Consortium Agreement to use FAFSA financial aid starts at the student's home university. Students will need to see their financial aid advisor (or academic advisor) to discuss their desire to use financial aid to pay for the Wildlands Studies program. Usually the advisor or Financial Aid Office sends a Consortium Agreement that is completed and faxed back to the campus office. The financial aid funds are disbursed directly to the student, and once received, the student then pays Wildlands Studies fees directly. 

Q: What happens if financial aid is not disbursed until after the fees are due for the program. Does this require withdrawal? 
A: In most circumstances, we are able to work with students to help them establish a payment plan to participate on the program of their choice. Students should contact our office to discuss payment plan options. We usually require a nonrefundable deposit at the time when fees are normally due, and the due dates are listed on each of our program web pages. The full fees must be paid prior to the start of the program. 

Q: Are the Wildlands Studies fees considered qualified expenses for a 529 College Savings Plan? 
A: Many students have been able to use their 529 accounts to cover their Wildlands Studies academic fee. However, we are a private entity and neither we nor our educational partner, Western Washington University, can provide you with a 1098T form. We can however provide you with a letter at the end of the year listing program specifics, academic credit and associated costs, and many participants and parents have found this works fine for their tax filings. 

Q:  What fees are required?
A: There are three types of fees: the program fee; the in-county logistics fee, which covers the majority of costs on-site with the exception of food; and the flight cost, paid directly by the student. Please see the respective program page for a detailed description of specific fees.

Q: Does the program fee or the in-country group fee cover airfare costs? 
A: No. Airfare is a separate expense paid by the student.

Health, Insurance and International Travel

Q: What inoculations will a student need for an international program? 
A: Students should consult a travel nurse or doctor at least six weeks prior to participation on a program. They need to be sure to discuss with the physician the location(s) to which our program travels, so the doctor or nurse can appropriately determine the inoculations needed. Students will want to keep inoculation records on-hand in case this information is needed to enter into the country or in case of emergency. Up-to-date information about travel, inoculations, and disease risk is available at, a site maintained by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At Wildlands Studies, we refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website when reviewing vaccination requirements for travel and strongly recommend all participants read their information online about our program specific location. 

 Q. What healthy travel preparations are recommended?
A. Few programs have ready access to Western style medical care. Our instructors carry comprehensive backcountry medical kits and are trained in first aid and CPR. Students should bring their own basic first aid supplies as well as prescription medicines recommended by their physician.  Prescriptions should be accompanied by complete pharmacological information, which may be indispensible in the event of an emergency. This information is available when you fill the prescription.

Students should also ask their doctors about prescription drugs for pain, such as acetaminophen with codeine (Tylenol 3) and about an effective anti-diarrheal drug for bacterial dysentery and a course of antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin.  If you have an acute allergy, please ensure your emergency kit includes an epinephrine syringe. 

Q: What is the minimum type of insurance required to participate in a program? 
A: Participant must provide proof of Travel Insurance of the following types and minimum limits: medical policy (Accident and Sickness) in an amount not less than one hundred thousand Dollars ($100,000) for major medical expense benefit; an Accidental Death and Dismemberment policy in an amount not less than Twenty Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000); an Emergency Medical Transportation/Evacuation and Medically Necessary Repatriation policy in an amount not less than Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000); a Repatriation of Remains policy in an amount not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000); an Emergency Non-Medical Evacuation Due to Catastrophe policy in an amount not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000); and a Security of Political Evacuation policy in an amount not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000). International insurance must also cover “Adventure Sports” and include all activities described in the logistical information and/or syllabus of the Participant’s program. Said polices are to commence on the first day of the scheduled trip outside the United States and terminate upon return to the United States.

Our logistics packet, sent in advance of the program to all accepted students,  will provide detailed information on preferred insurance policies and provide assistance for purchase.


Q. What are the passport or visa requirements?
A. For international travel, students need a current passport that does not expire until at least six months after departure from their program and host country.

Applications to enroll in a program require passport information, including the name on the passport, its number, dates of issue and expiration. Many countries require this information for reservations.

Q. Are photocopies accepted?
A. Students will need their original passport to enter and depart their host country. However we recommend they make two photocopies, including the inside cover and front page, where the photo is, in case it is lost or stolen while in the field, as well as scan a copy of this same page and email it to themselves. We also recommend the copies be kept separate from the original.

Emergency Contact and Communication

Q. How do I reach my student in the event of an emergency?
A. Contact our main office at 831 684 9999 or

Q: How do I know that my son/daughter arrived safely? 
A: We ask all students to contact their families upon arrival to a program and provide them with either access to phones or internet, and often both. Though we encourage students to contact their parents regularly, some students become so involved with the program that they neglect to contact home even when they have the opportunity. Furthermore, direct communication with family on a regular basis is not always possible because of limited access to phones and cell towers in our program locations. Once students connect with their Wildlands Studies instructors at the meeting place, the Wildlands Studies office is notified. Wildlands Studies maintains regular contact with instructors through the duration of the program, and our main office can help you contact your student, if necessary.

Q: How do I communicate with my son/daughter during the program? 
A: We ask students to contact their families upon arrival on their program, and try to provide access to phone or internet throughout the course.  However many programs take place in very remote areas, and students may find themselves out of cell service range and without internet access for weeks at a time. This of course makes it very difficult to communicate with friends and family, and we ask that they not worry unnecessarily.
Sometimes there are emergencies or other reasons why family need to reach a student. In the event of this sort of circumstance, family members should contact our office at 831 684 9999 and we will reach the instructor.

Q: Can friends or family visit during the program? 
A: Wildlands Studies programs are intensely scheduled, with most days full with program activities. This does not leave much time-off, and therefore, aside from visiting scholars and guest lecturers, visitors are not allowed during the program. If friends or family would like to visit off-site before or after the program dates, that is ideal. Students and their visitors should plan accordingly for their own off-site travel, as no accommodations are available at our field sites. 

Q: Can I send money to my son/daughter during the program? 
A: Most of our programs travel in areas with little access to modern conveniences. Hence, it is better to send the student with money, traveler's checks, ATM cards and/or credit cards so that they can access money when they need it. Please see the specific program details for information about what form of money to bring. For example, in some places ATMs are not available, while in other locations, travelers checks are no longer accepted. Our logistics packet will describe in detail the best way for your student to manage their money while on the program.

Packing and Equipment

Q. What equipment is needed?
A. Students are required to bring their own equipment. The complete list of clothing, shoes and camping equipment for each program is described in a logistics email sent to students after acceptance and about ten to twelve weeks prior to the program start date.

Q. Do I need my own tent?
A. The equipment needed varies from program to program, although most require a tent with a waterproof fly, a water filter, backpacking stove, sleeping bag, hiking boots, backpacking backpack, day pack and clothes suited to living outdoors for an extended time.

Q. How much should I pack?
A. The logistics email sent after acceptance describes everything needed. Generally we recommend bringing just what’s on the list so as not to be without an essential piece of equipment, but not much else in order to keep carried weight to a minimum. If the program has a lot of backpacking, you will need a backpacking backpack in addition to a daypack with a waist belt. Equipment should be in good working order and suitable for the duration and rigor of the program. Please keep in mind as well that often there won’t be room to store more than one large backpack in travel vehicles or at the field site, and each student will have to carry all their own equipment in their backpack at all times.