My STEP project was a leadership development program abroad. I went to Australia to learn and experience leadership utilizing an experiential leadership curriculum in an outdoor adventure setting. I spent three weeks there and traveled to Sydney, Alice Springs and Cairns.
Being in the western hemisphere my entire life and not traveling outside of the USA has limited my views of the world. I was always afraid of heights and have never flown on an airplane before so I was really nervous about how I was going to react considering the trip included multiple flights. When the plane took off, I was scared at first because I did not know what all the noise was. I also had a window seat and the wing of the plane certainly did not give me any comfort because it looked like it could fall off at any moment. By the end of the trip though, you could call me a flying expert. Adventuring to the other side of the world gave me a different perspective of the world. The biggest thing for me about the trip is that even though I traveled across the world, there were certainly differences but there were also a lot of similarities.
Just two days in and I experienced the first culture difference of the trip. The entire group was split into five teams of four. The objective of the day was to answer all the questions on the packet that was given to us. It was kind of like an Amazing Race type of activity. The teams spent the day sprinting to places, taking ferries and hopping on buses trying to be the fastest one to answer all the questions and get to the final destination, the Sydney Opera House. After everybody arrived at the opera house, we all realized that we were starving. Turns out, none of the groups stopped to grab something to eat throughout the “race” because they were so focused on being the first one to complete the race. Our vendor was confused on why we did not get something to eat. They then proceeded to tell us that there were time slots on the paper where we were to take our time and enjoy the scenery and grab a bite to eat. Lesson of the day was to take sometime to relax and enjoy the present instead of always rushing to get things done.
During the nighttime after the group has completed whatever activity was planned for the day, we would always have a group meeting. In those meetings, the group usually discussed how the day was and what we felt was good or bad. Halfway through the trip, the trip leader added a little wrinkle to out nightly discussions. Along with everything we usually discussed, every person had to also talk about his or her scars or highs and lows. If they picked scars, they would had to describe the most embarrassing scar on their body but also and emotional scar that they have. If they picked highs and lows, they had to talk about the highest and lowest moments of their lives. I am a judging person, I will judge a person from the first time of meeting them just on how they appear on the outside like the way they act and the way they dress. This activity impacted me because after hearing everyone’s stories it me realize that I should dig deeper and know a person better before I judge them or to not judge them at all. It also helped me personally because I am not a person to open up to people; I like to keep everything to myself so actually telling people about myself was a change for me.
A requirement of the trip was that every single person on the trip has to lead the entire group for the day; that was the whole leadership part of the trip. When it was my turn to lead the group I was really anxious because I have never been in any leadership roles in my life thus far. This was a really big step for me because I did not know how my day was going to go and if people would listen to me or not. In order to calm my nerves down, I wrote down everything I needed to do and what the activities were for the day on a piece of paper and just reviewed the paper over and over again to make sure I will not miss anything. There were a lot of last minute changes throughout the day but I calmly addressed the situation to the group and they just followed through. I am a very laidback person and like to crack a lot of jokes but when it was my turn to lead, the group told me that they appreciated that I was very serious about leading while still being loose and have fun. This was helpful to me because it showed me what I could do as a leader and how I am as a leader.
This trip was highly significant towards my future because it showed what I am as a person and a leader. Professionally, I learned from the trip that I could still be a good leader with my type of personality. I do not have to lead like how others lead; I can lead in my own laidback way. Personally, I think I have grown a little bit as a person. I am starting give people the opportunity to present them to me instead of immediately judging from the start. Also, this trip showed me that I could flip the switch from having fun to being serious which is significant towards my academics because it showed me that I could find the balance between and fun and focusing on my studies. The relationships formed and experiences gained are things that I will treasure for the rest of my life.