Student FAQs



Q: What is the program structure and how much free time will I have?

A: Wildlands Studies programs are highly structured and very intensive with academic activities scheduled almost every day of the program. Projects typically involve seven days per week of instruction and field research. Faculty and staff work directly with students 6-10+ hours a day and are available for tutorials and coursework discussion before and after scheduled activities. Typically, scheduled activities each day begin at 9am, with breaks for meals. Most evenings have scheduled activities, including guest lectures, structured study time, and workshops. When in the backcountry or at a field site, our activities may start as early as 4 am or end as late as 10 pm (e.g., for wildlife observation). It is necessary to be flexible and able to accommodate a variety of class times. Generally, there are very few, if any days off during the program. There are typically a few hours of free time periodically, but those are generally filled with coursework and chores (e.g., laundry, contacting home, etc.).

Q: How much time is spent outside versus in lecture?

A: Wildlands Studies projects are not taught in the classroom setting that you are used to at your home university. There are academic responsibilities such as 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 stakeholders you have read about, homework assignments completed in your tent with a headlamp, or reading a peer-reviewed article about glacier movement while you sit overlooking a glacier. There is nothing comparable to the learning you will gain through this first-hand experience in the field. This combination of academic and experiential learning is, we believe, unparalleled.

Q: Do we go on overnight field studies ?

A: Whenever possible we have overnight backpacking trips to the backcountry. We know from our alumni that backpacking is a highlight of our projects with huge personal rewards. On many of our projects, 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 day long field studies in backcountry locations.

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Q: How often can my family and friends expect to hear from me when I am on the project?

A: Our projects are specifically designed to be far removed from urban areas and cell towers. Please be sure the people who care about you understand that two or three weeks may pass with no access to means of communication. We ask students to contact their families upon arrival at their project, and then try to provide access to phone or internet periodically throughout the course. Communication to family and friends back home is often infrequent (about once every two weeks) because we are in the backcountry much of the time, frequently in locations where there is no cell phone coverage or means to charge cell phones. It is common that communication with family and friends may occur only once or twice during the entire project.

Q: Should I bring my cell phone, laptop and/or tablet?

A: Cell 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. Cell phones, camera batteries, and laptops will 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 projects, as they are easier to transport and store, and can help you with note-taking, photo management and communication. Our Logistics letter, emailed about ten weeks in advance of a project, will discuss cell phone, tablet and laptop use and practicality.

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Q: Will I get credit in my major at my home campus for participation on this project?

A: Typically, Wildlands Studies course credit transfers as upper division elective credit toward your overall degree requirements. If you want your credits to apply to your major, you will need to speak with your major advisor to make sure that they will accept the project’s credits for your major. We have many documents and course materials that you can take with you to your advisor, and often these are available at our website on the project’s specific page. Many students have had success transferring their Wildlands Studies course credits directly into their major, particularly if they are pursuing an Environmental Studies degree.

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 account to cover their Wildlands Studies academic fee. However, we are a private entity and an educational partner of Western Washington University. Neither Wildlands Studies nor Western Washington University can provide you with a 1098T form. However, we can provide you with a letter at the end of the year listing project specifics, academic credit and associated costs, and many participants and parents have found this works fine for their tax filings.

Q: Who should I see on my home campus to arrange for my participation in Wildlands Studies?

A: Most students join our projects and successfully transfer upper-division credit back to their university. 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.

Q: What paperwork do I need to submit to Wildlands Studies so that I can use my financial aid?

A: The process to obtain a Consortium Agreement to use FAFSA financial aid starts at your university. You’ll need to see your Financial Aid Advisor (or your academic advisor) to discuss your desire to use financial aid to pay for the Wildlands Studies project. Usually the advisor or Financial Aid office sends a Consortium Agreement directly to Wildlands Studies, which we complete and fax back to them. The financial aid funds are disbursed directly to you, the student. Once you receive the funds, you then pay your Wildlands Studies 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.   There are three main fees associated with a Wildlands Studies project: the Program Fee, which serves as the academic 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.

Q: My financial aid will not be disbursed until after the fees are due for my project. Do I have to withdraw?

A: In most circumstances, we are able to work with students to help them participate on the project of their choice. Contact our office to discuss a payment plan. We usually require a non-refundable deposit at the time when the fees are normally due with an agreed upon payment plan that leads up to the project start. The fee due dates are listed on each of our project web pages. The full fees must be paid prior to the start of the project. No one is allowed to participate on a project until the fees are paid in full.

Q: If I apply for a project and it’s full, will my application fee be refunded?

A: The application fee is refundable until you are accepted into a specific project. Once accepted, your fee cannot be refunded. If you are waitlisted for a project, and no space becomes available, your application fee will be refunded. However, once you receive our email accepting you into a project, the application fee becomes non-refundable.

Q: The project 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 project to guarantee that you have a space on a project. This is how it works: once we have determined that you qualify for a project, we would accept you into your second choice project, and your name would be placed on the wait list for your first choice. If a space becomes available on your first choice project, we will call you to see if you’re still interested in joining that project. If you are, we move you to that project, and you are dropped from your second choice. If you decide that you’d prefer to stay with your second choice project, you can do that.

Q: Do I need to be registered at my university during the term that I’m on a Wildlands Studies project?

A: Each campus has its own way of allowing students to take a quarter or semester off to study off campus. You should speak with an advisor to discuss taking courses outside your university. Most universities have a process and paperwork that you complete for ‘planned leave’ that allows you to remain as a continuing student.

Q: I just finished a project. Can you tell me what grade I earned? How do I transfer credit to my university?

A: Grades are only available through the official transcript. Western Washington University will send one transcript to either the students’ home campus or the student themselves, and students indicate which location they would like the transcript sent on their initial application. Additional transcripts can be requested directly from Western Washington University.

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Q: What is the minimum type of insurance required to participate in a project?

A: For international programs, participants must also purchase travel insurance to cover transport and evacuation costs in case of an emergency. The Participant Agreement (included in the logistics packet emailed out approximately ten weeks in advance of the project) outlines the required amount of travel insurance and describes a policy that satisfies Wildlands Studies travel insurance requirements. STA Travel, our preferred travel agent, sells the required travel insurance, and many past participants have found this to be good option for the required insurance. This travel insurance policy needs to commence on the first scheduled day outside the United States and terminate after return to the United States.

Q: Can you tell me what inoculations I’ll need for my international project?

A: You’ll want to speak with a travel nurse or doctor (or visit a travel clinic) to make sure that they know where you are going and which shots you will need. You can also check online for qualified advice on health concerns related to travel in the country where you’ll be studying. The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, is a good resource. It is important that you plan ahead for your travel abroad and schedule your appointment for inoculations early as many vaccinations are completed as a series.

Q: Is there a language requirement for the international projects?

A: All program instruction is in English. Although your study will be enhanced if you know the language of the country, it is not a requirement.

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