Outdoor Adventure Study Abroad Program

Leave the traditional classroom behind for a semester and join us on a four month adventure exploring Yosemite, Ecuador and Patagonia all while earning 16-18 academic credits.

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Founded in 2007, the Summit Adventure Semester Program is a Christ-centered semester abroad spent learning, serving and exploring through classes, service work, home stays, & urban exploration. Students acquire outdoor skills in mountaineering, backpacking and rock climbing while embarking on adventures in Yosemite, Ecuador and Patagonia. But, you don’t need to have any prior outdoor experience in these areas to join us!

The program is designed for college students and gap year participants. Academically, it includes courses in Leadership, Communication, Spiritual Formation, Cross-Cultural Ministry, and Outdoor Physical Education. Students can obtain between 16-18 academic credits that can be transferred to other colleges and universities.

Applications are OPEN for Spring & Fall 2021
SPRING 2021 APPLICATION DEADLINE – November 30, 2020

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This college semester abroad program is the opportunity of a lifetime. Serve in developing nations, climb to 19,000’ in the Andes, backpack and ski in Yosemite National Park, trek and rock climb in Patagonia, all while learning about each experience from a Christian academic perspective. You’ll gain 16-18 transferrable credits while experiencing a life-transforming semester.

When you’re not taking classes in Ecuador, living with an Ecuadorian family, or exploring Patagonia, you’ll get to live in Summit Adventure’s base camp, a beautiful cabin in the Sierra mountains.

This semester is rigorous in its demands–academically, physically, and spiritually. But the effort makes it all the more rewarding. Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


6 weeks at basecamp in Bass Lake, California

Orientation, syllabi, and academic explanation, classes 4 days a week, weekend mini-expeditions, community service with Boys & Girls Club Oakhurst and local churches, living in community at basecamp, and 15-day backpacking expedition in the High Sierra.

4 weeks in Ecuador

This college semester program will take you abroad. First to Ecuador! Experience a 10-day homestay with an Ecuadorian Family, serve at Remanso de Amor and the Happiness Foundation, exploring Quito and surrounding cities, high-altitude hiking, backpacking and mountaineering, periodic concentrated class times

2 weeks in Argentine Patagonia

3-4 days of trekking, 1-2 days of mission work, and a 2-day overnight hike to a spectacular crag called the Frey, opportunities to explore in the beautiful town of Bariloche, Argentina

3 weeks Expedition-Style

1 week expedition planning, 14-18 days Sierra expedition–backpacking, rock climbing, backcountry navigation, outdoor living skills.

1 week of Transition and Semester Culmination before Re-entering “Home”


COVID-19 & The Semester Program

While we do anticipate being able to travel to Ecuador and Argentina in March and April of 2021, we are closely monitoring the development of COVID-19 in these countries and how it might affect travel and the safety of our students. In the event that we can not travel internationally, we have a “plan B” domestic program. We’ll paddle through the canyons of Utah, traverse the Sierras, scale the granite walls of Yosemite and embark on other mountaineering endeavors in the Pacific Northwest! No matter what happens in this time of uncertainty we are confident we can create a semester of learning and adventure you will never forget. This is the perfect time to take a gap semester, while life on college campuses is so strict. Check out our semester schedule below! If you have any questions, email Ariella Carter at Ari@summitadventure.com (559) 642-3899.


Immersion programs, service learning, and outdoor adventure are state-of-the-art pedagogical tools that attract and develop today’s college student. In the hands of skilled experiential educators, these approaches to interpersonal and academic growth are unparalleled, and are what make Summit’s college semester abroad program unique.

Since the fall of 2007, Summit Adventure has woven service learning and outdoor adventure into an off-campus college program designed to develop relationship-building Christian young adults. We call this innovative Christ-centered program our College Semester Program.

The semester will be based in California’s High Sierra, the cities and mountains surrounding Quito, Ecuador, and Patagonia. Thousands of students over the years have come to Summit Adventure demonstrating a lack of proficiency in leadership, interpersonal communication, cross-cultural awareness, spiritual growth, and physical fitness.

As a result, we are focusing our semester program on these five competencies through the courses listed below. We call these 3-credit courses “pillars” because they are foundational to a student’s ability to build relationships in ministry and life.

Semester Program Academic Pillars

1. Leadership Education
Three credit hours, 2-300 level, suitable for equivalent courses in the general education curriculum, electives, or as major courses. This course will allow each student to develop a coherent personal philosophy of leadership and explore first-hand the challenges of implementing that philosophy in real situations. A critical exploration of a variety of leadership models will be integrated with practical application. Each student will be challenged to think through and develop a distinctly Christian model of leadership. A semester’s worth of expeditions, service, cross-cultural ministry, and close-knit communal living will help forge a personal philosophy of leadership that corresponds to a Christian worldview and effectively advances the Kingdom of God.
2. Small Group and Interpersonal Communication
Three credit hours, 1-300 level, suitable for equivalent courses in the general education curriculum, electives, or as major courses.
In this course, you will study small group behavior and interpersonal communication within the contexts of current theory, praxis, and Christian community. Course content includes the study of group dynamics, small group leadership, conflict resolution, non-violent communication, and the application of interpersonal interaction theories. Learning occurs in small group travel in mountains, rural settings, and international venues via class discussion, practical experiences, and communal living.
3. Cross-Cultural Ministry
Three credit hours, 2-300 level, suitable for equivalent courses in the general education curriculum, electives, or as major courses. During this course, students will interact with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. These interactions will help broaden their perspectives on people and cultures different from their own. Students will become more effective witnesses for the Gospel because they have successfully transferred learning about others in different cultures back to home and school. They will see firsthand that the Kingdom of God is not only American, and ministry must be undertaken with this global perspective. Language acquisition and home stay weeks in Ecuador are included to broaden the cultural immersion experience.
4. Spiritual Formation
Three credit hours, 1-200 level, suitable for equivalent courses in the general education curriculum, electives, or as major courses. This course provides a hands-on framework for spiritual growth during the semester. It will draw heavily on the spiritual disciplines to complement the cross-cultural, service, and adventure learning the students will experience during the semester. Students will have many opportunities to deepen their faith in a variety of individual and corporate settings. This course is intended to be highly practical because walking closely with Jesus Christ involves much more than engaging the intellect–we must involve our hearts and hands as well.
5. Outdoor Physical Education
Four credit hours, 1-200 level, suitable for equivalent courses in the general education curriculum, electives, or as major courses. This course will focus on physical education skills including rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, back country navigation, and wilderness camping. Students will be challenged both physically and mentally as they learn the various skill sets enabling them to become comfortable in the outdoors. The course will take place in the beautiful and rugged high country of the Sierra Nevada, California, the high-altitude peaks of the Andes in Ecuador, and beautiful Patagonia.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost?
Tuition is $19,500, but can vary slightly depending on the accrediting school.
Where will I live during the semester?
Summit Adventure’s base in Bass Lake, California. You will have a  shared yurt-style tent (Weatherport) with a twin bed, dresser, lamp, and wood-stove. You will have access to Summit Lodge which is equipped with a wood-burning stove, men’s and women’s bathrooms with showers, a fully-stocked kitchen, and a library. For 5 weeks of the semester, we will live in and around the city of Quito, Ecuador with Ecuadorian families, in mountain huts, and guesthouses. During our time in Patagonia, we will stay in travelers huts called refugios. The remaining 3 weeks will be spent in the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
How do I receive college credit for the semester program?
We will help you register as a student at a college through which you can get credits. You will receive 16-18 credits (in the following classes: Introduction to Leadership, Interpersonal Communication, Spiritual Formation, Cross-Cultural Ministry, and Outdoor Living Skills) that can then transfer back to your home school if necessary. We will speak to your advisor and registrar to ensure the credits will transfer.
Which colleges can I get credits through?
Montreat College (North Carolina) and Ouachita Baptist University (Arkansas). Every student who has been enrolled in our semester program has been able to transfer credit back to their home school, but we will work with your school in advance to ensure that the credits will in fact transfer.
Who do I pay?
You make payments directly to your accrediting school. Once enrolled as a student at your accrediting school, you will be billed just like every other student. This will allow for a payment plan and/or loans to be submitted.
What does tuition cover?
Most everything! This covers the academic credits, housing, food, equipment, and transportation fees. Transportation fees include: travel to and from Ecuador and Patagonia, as well as within California, Ecuador, and Patagonia.
Can I use the financial aid I currently have?
If you have private scholarships and/or loans, yes, these can be transferred to your accrediting school. If you have federal financial aid through FAFSA, in some cases, yes, we can walk you through the transfer process. You may not use discounts given to you by your school or state financial aid.
Does Summit Adventure offer financial aid?
Summit offers scholarships for all students needing financial assistance. These are awarded on a case-by-case basis. A copy of your current financial aid package and/or a completed Estimated Contribution Form will be requested for inquiring about Summit scholarships.
What expenses will I have during the semester?
Only your personal expenses and transportation to and from Bass Lake, CA at the beginning and end of the semester. Examples being: eating a meal at a restaurant, having a coffee, seeing a movie, or personal purchases.
What will be provided for me and what do I need to bring?
Bed linens and towels will be provided, and you are welcome to bring a sleeping bag if you have one (rated between 15 and 0 degrees F). Technical backpacking, rock climbing, and mountaineering gear will be provided and you are welcome to bring your personal gear, too. Please see the related “What to Bring” list in the sidebar for more details.
How can I best prepare for my college semester abroad program?
Refer to the Registration Packet after being accepted into the program. There you will find information about physical fitness, the gear you’ll need, and logistical preparations. This program will challenge you physically, therefore start regular exercise now. This semester abroad program will also challenge you relationally, therefore be ready to engage in interpersonal communication with those you’re living in community with. Finally, you will be challenged spiritually, therefore give thought to how you want to grow in your relationship with God and others. This program will challenge you developmentally, therefore be ready to take initiative within the community, lead within the classroom (indoors & outdoors), and dig into your identity.

Click Here to Apply for the College Semester Progam

Click here for more info on the Semester Program!