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Elon: New Gap Semester Program

This coming fall (2012), Elon will launch its new Gap Semester Program with 15 incoming freshmen. The program involves 13 weeks of travel with a 1 week fall break in the middle. Students will start their semester in Lander, Wyoming where they will spend three weeks at the National Outdoor Leadership School. From there, they spend four weeks making their way across the country, completing four one-week service projects along the way.

First, they will spend a week at the Pine Ridge Nation in South Dakota working on building, painting, and other construction projects as needed. The next stop is St. Louis working with the Gateway Greening and City Seeds and other cooperative projects such as food production and distribution at food kitchens, including “Operation Backpack” which helps get food to students who will need the food over the weekend. After St. Louis, the group moves to Harlan, Kentucky where they will learn about Appalachian culture and using this to confront stereotypes of all types. They will also learn about ethical management of mining and natural resources as well as the socio-economic realities of mining. The final stop for the group is at a mountain retreat and learning center in Highlands, NC where they will learn about a very different side of Appalachia and spend time working on an organic farm where they can learn about sustainability. This portion of the trip will earn the students 4 academic credits: 2 in Environmental Ethics and 2 in Leadership.

After a one-week fall break, students will head to San Jose, Costa Rica for six weeks. Classes will be held every morning at the Elon Center; afternoons are reserved for different trips and activities such as city tours, dance or cooking classes, a coffee plantation tour, museum. Overnight trips to places like Monteverde, Arenal, Manuel Antonio National Park, EARTH university, etc will be offered on the weekends. Students will earn 4 more credits during this portion of the semester.

Tuition for this program is the same as what they would pay for a semester on campus; the only extra charge comes from the equipment they need for NOLS. Elon professors join the group on a rotating basis so the students get to know people on campus. They have post gap-semester activities planned on campus to help the students acculturate to campus as well as to allow the group to continue working together.

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