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Logistical FAQs about EEI’s bus program

Do I actually live on a bus?

Students and faculty camp out during the semester, cooking and sleeping outside. You live out of the bus much like you would live out of a car on a car camping trip. The bus houses the equipment you need for the semester along with an on-board library consisting of 400+ books, including a section of regionally specific books. It provides storage space for each individual’s daily-used material belongings.The bus also often serves as a social connection, conversation, and hangout space.

How long is the field component of each semester?

The field, or traveling, component of each semester is 11-12 weeks. Fall semesters typically run from early Sept to early Dec. Spring semesters typically run from late Jan to late April/early May. There are pre-semester preparations and post-semester assignments, making a typical semester 14-15 weeks in total.

Where do I meet my bus and learning community?

Students typically meet their bus at a major airport or train station in their region of study.  You will be notified of the dates, times, and places of pick-ups and drop-offs well before the semester begins so that you can shop for the best travel bargains available. You are responsible for all travel costs getting to and from your bus community at the beginning and end of the semester.

How many people will be on one bus or in one community?

Typically you will find 15-18 students and 3 faculty members on a bus.  We also run programs with as few as 10-12 students and 2 faculty members. The faculty to student ratio is rarely over 1 to 6.

What bioregions are available for study?

We offer expeditions in the Pacific Northwest, in the Desert Southwest, in California, in the Southeast and Atlantic Coast, in the Adirondacks, Appalachia, and Gulf Coast. The expedition has over 40 years of experience and contacts in these regions. Currently, only one region is available each semester; in future years, we will continue to offer these regions, some of them simultaneously, and all revolving. As you might expect the fall semesters often begin in the north and travel south while the spring semesters begin further south and travel north, with the changing weather.

How much time will I spend in the back country?

Individual semesters vary and our goal is to spend at least two and up to three weeks during the semester in the backcountry – the longest backcountry experience is about ten days (in the desert southwest). The rest of your nights are spent in public, forest service or private campgrounds as well as on privately owned land or the sovereign lands of Native Americans or First Nations.

How challenging are the back country trips?

EEI is an education program that spends time in the back country and is not an adventure program. Our back country trips are not designed to be ultra challenging; they allow us to visit and connect with beautiful parts of the natural world. Most backpacks have medium length hiking days – five to ten miles – with days off interspersed. Occasionally more challenging hikes are possible dependent on the terrain, but these are the exception. Over the years many, many students with a sufficient level of fitness but no previous back country experience have successfully participated in the program.

Who drives the bus?

Your faculty will drive the bus; they all have commercial driver’s licenses and are qualified bus drivers.

What are the cooking arrangements?

Students are responsible for developing menus, shopping for food and cooking while on the bus. Working together in these small groups becomes an important part of the curriculum and learning.  One of the first community meetings determines how everyone’s food choices and needs will be accommodated in this process. We do our best to support locally produced food and agriculture and to patronize co-ops and farmer’s markets whenever possible.

How do I stay in contact with family and friends while in the field?

While daily contact is not possible on an expedition, regular, usually weekly, telephone contact is possible as well as regular but less predictable internet access and U.S. Post Office mail stops. When we’re in the backcountry, we will be completely out of casual contact (with only a group phone for emergencies).  All buses have cell phones available for in-field emergencies. While we support regular contact with family and friends, the expedition provides an opportunity to take a break from the expectation of being constantly available to everyone and to experiment with some aspects of voluntary simplicity.

What about medical care in the field?

All faculty members are at least Wilderness First Responder certified and can handle most in-field, on-scene emergencies.  For non-emergency treatment local clinics and hospital emergency rooms are the most viable option while in the field.  It is important to have a credit card for payment of services as many ER’s and clinics require payment at the time of service with reimbursement coming from insurance afterward. All students and faculty are required to have an active insurance policy during the program (this can be a temporary coverage policy, much like one would acquire for international travel).

How much are tuition and fees for one semester, and will I be able to use a 529 plan or get any financial aid?

The cost for a semester without college credit (gap year option) is $12,000.

The cost for a semester with college credit (optional for gap year students; required for current college students) is $15,000.

In either case, there is an additional administrative fee of $500.

In sum total charges will be:

without college credit, $12,500,

with college credit, $15,500.

Other expected costs include: airfare or other mode of travel to the start of the semester and home again at the end; one or two books – these are generally trade paperbacks (note: you will not need to buy any expensive textbooks, and most of your reading material will be provided in the on-bus library of over 400 books and additional articles); and depending on what you already own, you may need to purchase outdoor and backcountry gear (we send a gear list specific to each semester after you have applied).

Gap year students who opt for the credit are able to use 529 funds and current college students will have their federal financial aid (grants and loans) transferred to Marlboro College and applied to the cost (plus any other aid that their home college allows to transfer). Unfortunately, full need aid is not currently available.

Are there Scholarships available? 

EEI offers several modest scholarships and gear grants between $200 and $1000, based on need and merit. These are determined once a program has fully enrolled and all application deadlines have passed.

Students who are accepted for a second semester program, will be eligible for a Leadership Development Scholarship in the form of a $2000 discount off of that semester’s total cost.

Gap Year students are eligible for the USA Gap Year Fairs Scholarship (You will be eligible because EEI is a Keystone Program). Apply for this opportunity by June 1st, 2018.

How much spending money would I need?

That will vary from person to person.  Some people like to buy snacks/treats, postcards and possibly gifts for friends and family at places we visit such as national parks.   You may also need to replace some personal toiletries or buy an item or two of clothing.  If you choose to leave the program from a place other than the drop off point (typically a major airport or train station) you are responsible for any additional travel cost from that point.

EEI/Marlboro College tuition and fees includes meals, group equipment, any group fees (camping, laundry, museums etc.), all educational program costs, and travel costs for the entire group while school is in session. The Independent Study Period (ISP) is usually a 2 week period in the middle of the semester. All costs during ISP are born by the student; many students find ways to remain in the bioregion while they complete an outreach and other academic work, others travel home or  visit family or friends.

Who can I call in the administrative office with additional questions?

Larkspur Morton

 EEI Director


If you’d like to talk with a recent alum of the expedition, we are happy to make such a connection for you.

Students on an EEI program

create profound connections

with self,

with community, 

and with the earth.

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