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Reading and Travel Buffs: Take an Adventure Lit Class

Do you like nature? Are you bored with your class schedule? Are you lacking in GenEd Kinesiology credits? Do you like fun? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, an adventure literature course may be right up your alley. Just when we thought Penn State couldn’t get any cooler, we discovered a series of courses offered through the English department that feature trips to places like Cape Cod and South Carolina. Here’s the kicker — they count for 3.0 English credits and 1.5 credits of kinesiology. Oh, and they’re really fun. You can trust me, I’ve taken two out of four of them and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

“Exploring Cape Cod: Its Nature and Culture” (English 181B)

I suppose I’ll start with the most recent adventure literature class I’ve taken, and I’ll preface it by saying it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had at Penn State.

You spend the majority of the semester reading literature and poetry about the nature and culture of Cape Cod, then you venture out onto the Cape and spend five whole days submerged in all the things you’ve read about. We stayed in cottages provided to us by the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, which was absolutely bombarded at the time by turtles.

Activities on the Cape included combing the beaches for cold-stunned sea turtles, hiking the many different kinds of terrain offered by the little peninsula, meeting and interacting with the authors we read in class, as well as making lifelong memories and friends.

This course is offered during the fall semester and the actual trip takes place the Thursday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving break, so you’ll be home for the holiday. Regardless of the cold and the $360 course fee, the beaches are beautiful and the experiences are unforgettable.

“Exploring the Literature of American Wilderness” (English 181D)

I took this course the spring semester of freshman year, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has a less-than-pleasant relationship with the great outdoors. It’s quite a bit different than the Cape Cod course in terms of what kind of exposure you’re getting to nature.

The American Wilderness adventure literature course features a four-day backpacking trip in Dolly Sods, West Virginia at the tail end of the semester. And when I say backpacking, I really mean backpacking. You are roughing it. You get one pack to stuff your clothes, your toothbrush, tidbits of food to make your meals, and maybe a camera if you can spare the room, and that’s it — unless you’ve been chosen to carry the tent for your group. You sleep pretty much outside, eat dehydrated meals with added boiling water, and get to see an amazing view of the stars that State College will never be able to offer you.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a super fun trip, but it really isn’t for the faint of heart. Throughout the semester, you also get to spend a day at the Milton Rock Gym to do some rock climbing, a day of canoeing on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and a day of whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River. As for curriculum structure, they’re all pretty similar. You read texts in class each week based on the upcoming adventure you’re going to take next. For just a cool $325 to cover the course fee, you can rough it too.

“Sailing the Chesapeake: Cultural and Natural Landscapes” (English 181A)

Sadly, for the following pair of courses, I can’t speak from experience (yet). So I’ll summarize from the Adventure Literature homepage. The curriculum structure follows suit — students read “classic texts about the Bay,” specializing in literature about the Bay’s watershed, while experiencing the Bay hands on during several weekend trips through the semester.

This includes a long weekend trip to the Echo Hill Outdoor School in Maryland where students board historic boats, canoe different parts of the Susquehanna River, and learn about “how [the Bay’s] watershed works and just how healthy it is.” An extra $340 tacked onto your tuition bill will earn you a spot for next fall.

“The Beach: Cultural Artifact/Environmental Reality” (English 181C)

I’ve had plenty of friends take this course and say how much fun it is. This adventure literature course is focused on texts written about the shore, specifically lower South Carolina.

The class features a trip to Charleston over spring break that is broken into two separate parts. The first half of the week is spent in nature’s belly, kayaking the swamps and hiking among the alligators. But don’t worry, they’re still lackadaisical from the cold of winter — they won’t even give you a second look.

The last three days of the trip are spent on an uninhabited barrier island. It’s too late to sign up this semester, but for $325, you can enroll next year.


Even though you’ve missed the drop/add period for this semester, don’t hesitate to get yourself enrolled for an upcoming semester. You can’t miss out on the opportunity to add yet another unforgettable adventure to those you’ve already had at Penn State.

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About the Author


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