Aerie's Semesters are life-changing programs designed to prepare students for careers in medicine as well as to provide them with the skills and certifications necessary for competitive jobs in the outdoor field. Aerie offers three full Semester programs: Spring, in Costa Rica and Montana; Summer, in Montana; and Fall, in Montana and the Indian Himalaya. All offer 15 upper-division University of Montana credits, EMT, Wilderness EMT as well as numerous other professional-level certifications (see "General Information" below). All use realistic scenarios, interactive lectures, as well as clinical observations in a variety of settings (an urban American emergency room; an advanced life support ambulance service; a developing-world rural health clinic during the Spring and Fall Semesters) to ensure a well-rounded, challenging and rewarding educational experience.
With over a month each in Costa Rica and Montana, the Spring Semester offers a mix of the other two Semesters' focus on international health and wilderness rescue.
With two and a half months in Western Montana, the Summer Semester offers an in-depth focus on technical rescue skills and certifications.
This is a backcountry, international experience. Students will be camping in the Montana wilderness and the Indian Himalaya while focusing on wilderness care and international health.
General Information About All Three Aerie Semesters:
Q: What is a typical day like during an Aerie Semester?
A: Days during the Semester are varied and full; instruction runs an average of 6 days a week. Here is a typical day in the Costa Rica section, as an example: Breakfast starts at 7 a.m. with class beginning at 8 a.m. Mornings are typically dedicated to in-class discussion and lecture. Students are given a one hour lunch break and afternoons usually involve scenario-based exercises which run until 5 p.m. Dinner lasts from 6:30 – 7:30. Evenings are usually spent studying and practicing skills in small groups. In addition to this routine, students should expect several overnight and multi-day scenarios.
Q: Is an Aerie Semester challenging?
A: Yes! We expect that this will be one of the most rewarding, challenging, rigorous and exciting experiences of your life. We only want students who are looking for this challenge and the opportunities it presents. Communal living, skill acquisition, frequent testing, prolonged scenarios and international or backcountry travel represent some of the challenging core elements of the program.
Q: What are the physical requirements for the program?
A: All Aerie Semesters are physically challenging. Students will carry 30-60 lb backpacks 6-8 miles per day during certain sections of the program. During these days, they will climb 2000-3000 vertical feet and will be living at elevations of 3000-12000 feet above sea level. They will carry litters and gear across uneven terrain and rivers and will be expected to swim and climb. They will be in snow, rain and ice and will be expected to maintain a positive learning attitude regardless of the weather or activity. Great athletic, climbing or swimming experience are not necessary to successfully complete the program; however, all of these activities require physical conditioning and body habitus that are conducive to constant movement in these environments. Please contact us if you have any concerns.
Q: What type of certifications do I receive and how long do the certifications last?
A: All certifications earned in the Semesters are good for two years. Semester students test for:
- National Registry and/ or State of Montana EMT
- Aerie Wilderness EMT
- American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR
In addition, Spring Semester (Costa Rica and Montana) students earn:
- Level 1 Avalanche
- Whitewater Rescue Technician
Summer Semester (Montana) students earn:
- Rope Rescue Technician
- Search & Rescue Technician
- Whitewater Rescue Technician
- Leave No Trace
Fall Semester Students (Montana and India) earn:
- Rope Rescue Technician
- Search and Rescue Technician
- Leave No Trace
Q: Is this program safe?
A: No course is capable of operating without the risk of injury or illness. Aerie believes that students learn best when they are outdoors, involved in realistic, engaging scenarios and practical sessions. As a result, we are in these environments as often as possible. The risks we face during those exercises are similar to any faced in an austere, remote environment. We encourage you to talk with our staff about risks inherent in our training programs before enrolling.
Q: What costs are and are not covered in the Semesters?
A: In general, Semester costs include: 15 University of Montana credits; health insurance while in India and/ or Costa Rica; some required course texts and supplies; almost all room and board, all certifications except EMT on-line test; all in-country shuttles.
Semester costs do not include: international travel (round trip US to Costa Rica is typically $500-$700; round trip US to India is typically $1000-$1500), costs associated with establishing an on-line EMT account (typically $8), EMT text (typically about $100) on-line testing fees (typically about $75), and room and board during the 4-5 day break between Costa Rica and Montana (Spring Semester) or costs incurred while traveling between countries (Spring and Fall Semesters). Students will pay for their own laundry. Individual Semesters may have additional costs, so please contact our office for specific details.
Q: Are there any financial aid options or scholarships available?
A: Yes. Each program offers a number of scholarships and financial aid options. These are detailed in each Semester's description. Students can usually use their AmeriCorps Awards, GI benefits as well as receive their FAFSA aid to defray costs. Click here for more information.
Q: What credits are offered and how do I get my university to transfer the Semester credits?
- For a general overview of the credits offered by the Semester, click here. The Semesters all consist of three, five-credit upper-division courses from the University of Montana: Emergency Medical Technician and Incident Management; Wilderness Medicine and Risk Management; and Wilderness Rescue and Survival Skills. Please write us for more information, and feel free to forward the syllabi to your advisor for review.
- The issue of transferring credits is determined by your advisor - and possibly by your university's registrar. That said, most schools allow transfer of credits from other degree-granting institutions. Our students receive official transcripts from the University of Montana, as if they had taken classes on campus. That would be important information for your advisor to know.
- Second, assuming your university will accept transfer credits from UM, your advisor will need to make a determination about HOW the credits will transfer to your degree. They may come in as upper-division electives, or your advisor may agree to use them towards a specific degree requirement.
Q: Will there be tests and homework?
A: Yes. Homework is assigned each night and initially may include up to 100 pages of reading per night. At least two written exams are given each week in addition to a weekly practical exam.
Q: Is this program considered an "international program" by university standards?
A: Aerie's Spring (Costa Rica) and Fall (India) Semesters are approved by the University of Montana's Office of International Programs (OIP) as Faculty Directed Programs, and, students in UM's Global Leadership Initiative, required to pursue a study abroad program, can choose Aerie's Semesters as one of those options.
Q: What does the "online coursework" consist of?
A: Because of the heavy reading load in the National Registry EMT text, we assign two chapters of reading and associated online quizzes during each of the three weeks preceding the start of each Semester. Students can complete this work wherever they happen to be, as long as they have internet access to submit their quiz answers. Grades for these quizzes count towards the final score in the Emergency Medical Technician and Incident Management course.
Q: What are Aerie’s academic expectations?
A: High. Aerie’s course policies outline our academic expectations; you will be given a handbook outlining our course policies once you have been accepted into the Semester. Students must receive passing grades on weekly exams to be eligible to test for the National Registry final exam; this is not an Aerie policy – it is a National Registry policy. Poor grades may result in expulsion from the program and may result in not being able to test for, or receive, your National Registry EMT certification.
Q: Do I need to be enrolled in college to participate in the Semester?
A: No, participants do not need to be university students to enroll. However, they may need to be enrolled to receive federal financial aid and university sponsored health insurance.
Q: Are there any prerequisites for the Semester?
A: Students must be ready for an intense, challenging experience, but there are no specific academic prerequisites. Many of our best students have had no previous medical training. Students must be 18 years of age. In addition, to test for and receive National Registry EMT certification, students must have a high school diploma/ GED and have no current felony convictions. Otherwise, we expect students to arrive with a solid work ethic, physically capable of completing the program's activities, an open mind and a positive attitude.