Students are transferring to Emory & Henry specifically for the Semester-A-Trail Program — Here’s Why


Linda Hu

Students in the Spring 2022 Cohort of the Semester-A-Trail program have been going on weekly practice hikes to prepare them for their time on the Appalachian Trail.

E&H’s Semester-A-Trail Program is offering an experience so unique that students are coming to the college for the opportunity to participate. During the Spring 2022 semester, three students have transferred from other colleges and universities to be a part of the program.

This program allows students to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, or a part of it, while also working on alternative assignments from their professors, so they receive full academic credit.

While a months-long hike doesn’t appeal to everyone, it did to students Vincent Harrison, Ruby Forde, and Linda Hu, who all transferred to E&H this spring after hearing they would have the chance to hike the trail.

“I stumbled across the Semester-A-Trail program online one day and it just sounded amazing,” Hu said.

Lindu Hu is a mechanical engineering major and transferred to E&H from the Olin College of Engineering in Maryland. For Hu, the program is an opportunity to pursue her passion of hiking while still working towards her college degree.

“I really appreciated the fact that the program allows you to start hiking in the spring without taking a whole semester off of college,” she said. “It’s also cool that the program helps whip you into shape a bit and teaches you skills that will be beneficial during the hike.”

Student Ruby Forde, an Africana and American Studies Major who transferred from Bates College in Maine, shared this sentiment, and says she didn’t know that such a program even existed until she heard about E&H.

“Growing up in Atlanta, the Appalachian Trail was in my backyard. I’ve always wanted to hike the AT, but always assumed I’d have to wait until after college to hike. When my mom found out about E&H’s Semester-A-Trail, it seemed too perfect to be true. This was also in the midst of a horrible COVID school year when literally all I would do was watch YouTube videos of other people’s thru-hikes,” she explained.

The students are leaving to begin their hike on March 1, and while Hu and Ford are excited, they are also understandably nervous about the realities of the trail.

“I’m really excited to get out there and meet some cool people on the trail. Also really excited to leave behind the craziness of life and just walk in the woods for a bit. I am nervous about getting injured,” Hu said.

Forde expressed similar anxieties, but believes actually being on the trail will help her in some ways.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime, but right now I’m nervous about almost everything. The anticipation is killing me,” she said.

The students have already begun training, which consists of going on hikes each week and learning other skills that will be necessary for life on the trail.

“So far, we’ve learned to hike with trekking poles to take some of the stress out of our joints. We also have been practicing cooking on our little pocket rocket stoves,” Hu explained.

While preparing for the trail takes a lot of effort, and can be nerve-wrecking, both students agreed that the opportunity to spend time among the beauty of the Appalachian Trail was worth it.

“I know that once I’m out there on the trail I’ll feel much better,” Forde said. “The mountains have such a calming effect.”