Wilderness Adventures for First Year Students

New Student Adventures

“…physically challenging natural environment based orientation programs emphasizing small group work help first year students adjust to college life.” – Devlin, 1996

WAFFYS (Wilderness Adventures For First-Year Students) backpacking expeditions empower incoming students with a positive personal and social transition into college. WAFFYS gives incoming students the opportunity to challenge themselves and grow as individuals through the process of experiential education. WAFFYS trips are structured to require participants as a group to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results. After teaching the group to competently cook, camp & navigate through the wilderness, our instructors step back and allow the group to take ownership over their trip and experience the natural consequences of their decisions.

The process of making these decisions as a group helps WAFFYS students become invested in the group’s choices, enhances their decision-making ability, and develops meaningful peer relationships that transfer into participants’ first year at UNC. By having positive group interactions, students experience an increase in self-confidence and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the way they relate to others. 

All WAFFYS expeditions begin by teaching fundamental outdoor skills including navigating with a map & compass, technical skills associated with the trip, and Leave-No-Trace camping. No previous experience is required to attend these trips. Your instructors will not “guide” you through the experience. Instead, they will facilitate your group’s development into a self-sufficient, functioning group. You will be given the freedom to explore your own leadership style and experience the consequences of your decisions. Learning to collaborate with a new and diverse group of people in an unfamiliar environment, prepares you to take on similar challenges during your college career. All equipment, food and supplies are provided as part of your trip, you just bring your personal clothing.


  • TBA

Trip Description

Backpacking Wilson Creek – Countless waterfalls and massive stands of old-growth yellow poplar and hemlock surround you as you descend into the Wilson Creek Area. Once empowered with the knowledge to navigate using a map & compass, you’ll learn to collaborate with your teammates as you find your way through a maze of ridges and valleys. The terrain gets steep in a hurry here, and the dense old growth of NC’s temperate rainforest will test your limits and force your group to develop quickly. Your perseverance and teamwork will soon pay off with triumphant mountaintop celebrations and feelings of camaraderie. You will emerge from the forest with a great confidence in your ability to take on your next challenge, UNC!

Trip Fee

  • TBA

The fee covers all trip costs (travel, food, equipment, etc.). For information on the Susan Porucznik Cole Scholarship, which covers half of registration costs, click here


  • 100% refund will be given if participants cancel their registration 30 days or more in advance of the pre-trip meeting
  • 50% refund will be given if participants cancel their registration 7 to 30 days in advance of the pre-trip meeting
  • NO refunds will be given if participants cancel their registration within 1 week of the pre-trip meeting


To register for a WAFFYS Expedition online and pay by credit card, click here.

You should receive a confirmation email with “Next Steps,” instructing you to complete our Trip Forms (below) and informing you on what to expect. If you do not receive this email, please contact us ASAP.

If paying by credit card is not an option or if the trip you are hoping to sign up for is full, please contact Shane Ambro.