If you are interested in a semester full of petting dogs, hiking, not wearing masks and living in a really cool community of humans who care about the world, the Oregon Extension is almost definitely for you.
The Oregon Extension was one of the only off-campus programs offered last semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, offered each fall, is an opportunity for students to step out of the traditional, fast-paced college culture and opt for something more intentional. Located in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument, the Oregon Extension offers students the opportunity to connect deeply with the natural world, themselves and their area of study. The program creates a uniquely valuable experience for any college student who wants to take time to invest in their own well-being and learning experience.
Students take only one course at a time, four in total, allowing them to dive deeply into the material that they are learning. Each segment attempts to find answers to large questions including, “what does it mean to be human?” and “what is a sustainable world?” Students spend most of their learning time in small group discussions in professor’s houses or in group lectures. Students are given the freedom to research two topics of their choosing throughout the semester, working individually with one of the professors.
After each segment, students take a trip off-campus. These trips can range from backpacking and camping, to visitng the coast and city. This educational format fosters mental wellbeing and academic engagement in a way I have never experienced before.
Community is a cornerstone of life on the mountain, and students are responsible for a variety of different farm posts that keep the community strong. These farm posts range from working in the garden or milking goats to food preservation and growing mushrooms. These jobs not only help build a strong, functioning community, they also offer wonderful learning opportunities.
Students are asked to give up their phones during the week and unplug from the internet, creating a stronger, more genuine community. Students make themselves busy by going on hikes, reading, playing games, doing yoga, going on bike rides or just about anything they can think up. After the semester, students often leave with relationships that will last their entire lifetime. The community aspect of the program was the most meaningful part of my experience, and giving up technology proved to be a crucial aspect for fostering that community. It is not a cult, I swear.
The Oregon Extension offers a unique experience any time, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last semester, students were able to quarantine as a large community of 32 on the mountain and engage in a normal, COVID-free semester. (No to wearing masks, yes to partner acrobatics and sharing hammocks).
This program offers students a unique opportunity to fall in love with what they are learning and see life from an entirely new perspective. Not to mention, financial aid often makes the program more affordable than a semester on campus and you can meet up to six General Education requirements.
If you are looking for an escape from the stress of college and want to see what living life more intentionally can feel like, I can’t recommend anything more. It was the most valuable semester for figuring out how I want to live my life, not to mention the happiest, and I bet any Oregon Extension alum you find will say the same thing.
Anna Leikvold ’21 is from Apple Valley, MN.
Her major is English.