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Exploring life off campus

Carolina Expeditions introduces Tar Heels to North Carolina beyond our campus. The program recently announced its spring trip schedule, which will take students hiking, climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, backpacking and more.

People hiking in the woods.
Tar Heels traverse the mountains in last semester's Grayson Highlands backpacking trip. (Photo by UNC Campus Recreation)

Carolina has a notably beautiful campus with much to offer, but the college experience isn’t limited to that space. North Carolina boasts a landscape waiting to be explored, and UNC Campus Recreation’s Carolina Expeditions program aims to introduce students to it.

“Expeditions not only provides an opportunity for Tar Heels to get outside and enjoy themselves, but we also offer affordable, accessible opportunities for students to try a new outdoor activity in a way that is less intimidating than learning on your own,” says Carolina Expeditions coordinator Ashley Fox.

Carolina Expeditions just announced its spring trip schedule. Students can sign up to go hiking, climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, backpacking and more.

“We provide the peer leaders that have all the skills to lead groups outside, and we provide all the gear, food, transportation — everything they need to get out there and take a leap of faith and go for it,” says Fox.

Carolina Expeditions is big on “experiential education,” or learning with your hands. That means leaving your phone behind — metaphorically, at least.

“We really try to distance participants from technology,” says Fox. “We let people bring their phones, but we ask that they only use them for photos.”

This helps foster a deeper in-person connection — not only with nature but with other participants on the trip. “In the end, students always say, ‘Thank you for not letting me be on my phone,’” says Fox.

Marisa Alam, a senior double majoring in psychology and human development and family studies, has worked at Carolina Expeditions since the start of the pandemic, when everything was put on hold. Now that the program is hosting trips again, she can’t wait to get outside with her fellow Tar Heels.

“I have a huge passion for being outside,” she says. “I’m looking forward to showing people the outdoors.”

Beyond local day trips and the two-night backpacking trip, Carolina Expeditions also offers a five-day excursion for first-year and transfer students called Carolina Compass. For anyone who has been curious about an extended stay outside, it’s an ideal chance to try backpacking and camping because Carolina Expeditions handles the heavy lifting.

Whether it’s a day of kayaking or climbing or a longer journey into the wilderness, Carolina Expeditions helps students learn more about North Carolina’s lush, natural landscape —and themselves. Alam says, “It’s a really cool thing that Carolina has.”

See Carolina Expedition’s spring calendar and register for a trip