The idea of a transformational experience is rooted in the fundamental concept of change. Change, an innate part of the human life, transpires by chance or through deliberate decision. Purposeful change is the intentional action of challenging your own assumptions, beliefs, and your limits in order to grow as an individual. The decisive element in a transformation is the recognition of a change that has occurred in an aspect of your life as well as how you perceive and respond to that new found knowledge. For my transformational project, I wanted an experience that would purposefully allow me to learn an academic subject through the art of exploration, an immersive experience. I also looked for a project that provided an opportunity for me to transform internally in an unintentional way, which can occur through first hand interactions, overcoming challenges within an opportunity, or by an omniscient reflection and comparison after completion. My STEP project provided just that.
My project included a visitation to national parks and monuments in the western part of the United States, including Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon. Throughout the experience, I learned the history and significance of each national park and its affect on the culture in the surrounding communities. The primary objective of the project was to capture the natural beauty and overall experience through a camera lens in order to create an explanatory travel video that showcased events during the trip. This challenge allowed me to cultivate my creative side when presenting the narrative of the trip through video.
After completion of my project, I acknowledge that I underwent a personal and professional development throughout my experience. The paramount transformation I underwent in this project was my ability to seek and find value in every opportunity and event that transpires in life. Every event, both good and bad, that occurred during the trip had a purposeful lesson or impact on my life. The most important experience that I found the greatest value in my transformation was the time of reflection. In fact, the ability to seek and find value in each experience is rooted in the time of reflection.
In the present day world, our society has evolved into a nonstop liveliness that is addicted to faster living. The habitual fast paced lifestyle does not value time towards contemplation and reflection. Many individuals cherish any moment to pause from the dynamic lifestyle they live. The power of reflection is as critical to an experience as the actual event that occurred. Without reflection, we suppress the importance of what has been achieved. Throughout this project experience, I found purpose in reflecting on the events throughout the day such that I could learn and grow from each lesson that was intrinsic to each situation.
Every day, after recording the daily events that occurred, I documented my own personal reflection on how certain events related to experiences my life and what lessons that I learned could be applied . It was important for me to take advantage of the lessons I learned from the prior day and apply these ideas and skills to each day following. The value of reflection and time away from the hustle of life has allowed me grow as an individual. This includes my presence within a group project setting, my personal approach to life, and my critical thinking process to approach a new idea, city, or opportunity as a scholar. Each day brought new challenges and opportunities to learn, develop, and grow in real world situations. Experience was the best teacher and reflection was instrumental in developing my perspective and the driving force my transformational change.
The transformation I experienced affected the personal understanding of myself and the beliefs I had about life in general. The driving force behind my personal transformation were the life lessons I learned in the real world situations throughout the trip. For example, on our first day of the trip, I was pulled over for a speeding ticket while in Minnesota. Although most individuals would believe that this is a negative event that occurred, I perceived the event as a message from above. I perceived this speeding ticket to be a reminder to not speed through life in the fast lane, rather, slow down and appreciate the present moment for what it is worth. Life is a marathon race, not a sprint towards the finish line. This event transformed my whole mindset towards the way I approach life. Each and every day, take time to value the current moment you are in and the people that you are with. This trip turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences in my life, and if i had not slowed down and cherished each location, conversation, and situation, I could have overlooked the importance of each moment. This mindset is similar to a famous quote by Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I am grateful that I decelerated my approach to life and took advantage of each opportunity throughout this trip. If I had not, I believe that I would have missed the other life lessons I learned throughout the remainder of the trip.
Each day brought forth new life lessons, ideas, and knowledge in various forms. My prior knowledge of the national parks and western culture was ultimately changed by personal immersion. Each park featured a different approach to explore the natural beauty and no park was the same. Despite visiting multiple parks and monuments, Zion National Park was very interesting to me in particular. Zion once was a hidden gem of the national park system. In 2008, the park hosted almost half of the number of attendees that visited 2017. In response to the increasing number of visitors, the town of Springdale, Utah had to adapt by repaving roads, building new hotels, and created a public transportation system. A park ranger noted that the anticipated growth was far less than actual growth. Parking for visitors is scarce because additional parking lots were not created for the real growth and could only handle the anticipated lower number of attendees. In response, the town installed a shuttle to help with the low parking spaces by allowing hotel guests to not drive into the park. Roughly 65% of the visitors are travelers from foreign countries creating a demand for places to stay. The park ranger said that the town began to allow hotels to build in order to accommodate, but the town ultimately gave prime real estate to the hotels before they realized what the value of the land would become. There has been a drastic increase in attendance to the park, but there has been a reduction in the amount of funding provided to the park. Budget cuts from the government on a national level have decreased the amount of funds received by national parks. As a result, the shortage of funds does not allow very many additional improvements to help accommodate for the increasing number of visitors and creates a butterfly effect in other aspects of the area. For example, the shuttle system only has funding for the 9 busiest months of the year and constructing more parking lots is not attainable.
By staying in the town for two nights, I was able to understand and experience first hand the problems the town faces. I brainstormed ways I would handle the problems the town faces. If I was a business owner, what ways could I differentiate my business and profit on the rapid expansion? How could analytics be applied to the analyze the data trends in the city to make improvements that maximize the resources and minimize costs? Could analytics be used for historical visitor records, gas prices, weather patterns, or website visits? My perception changed on how national parks and cities surrounding the area operate. The culture of the western cities and stats was shaped by the surrounding geography. Stores, clothing, and daily operations revolved around the geographic location and other societal factors, funding for example. The interactions and events that occurred on the trip allowed me to transform my opinion and perception of the park system and western United States culture.
The trip was instrumental in the transformation of my interactions with individuals. By being in a group project, I was challenged to work on a multitude of skills necessary when collaborating. My daily reflections included how I treated my colleagues each day and areas I need to work on to improve my communication and engagement. Each day was a group effort to achieve success. In a group setting, I was challenged in my contribution through cooperation in decisions, leadership with responsibilities, patience with interactions, and my support of other group members. Cooperation with decisions was important to be efficient with time and accommodate others desires. This included choices in the places we ate at, activities we selected to do that day, participation in each activity, and other small preferences like who preferred to drive or sleeping arrangements. For some parts of the trip, I was the leader and had responsibilities for guidance in directions, itinerary, and decisions regarding the hotels, food, and planning. I have always had leadership roles in the past, however, I was never truly the sole leader, requiring assistance and cooperation from others. During the trip, our conversations about leadership style challenged me to reflect on the way I thought about leadership, how my experiences could apply within an organization, and how my interactions and engagement would be effective within an organization. By being challenged to think on a larger scale, I believe I have transformed into a confident leader who can represent and guide an organization with value based decisions. My patience grew as a result of living and cooperating with the individuals in my group. Confidently, I can say that I am able to treat others with respect, a calm demeanor, and an understanding of their perspectives. Throughout the trip, when faced with adversity or difficult points in our hikes, I found myself using a voice of encouragement. I transformed my interaction technique to a positive beacon that inspired my group to push forward. By interacting with my group members throughout the trip, I was able to reflect on how I was presenting myself to my friends and the world. In turn, I was able to reflect on my actions and how to improve my soft skills with other individuals, especially while in group settings.
The transformation that resulted from my project is rooted in the lessons I learned through the events, activities, and the interactions that occurred during my trip. Without this immersive experience, my personal reflection and transformation would not have been as effective. The power of experience was quintessential in challenging me to be critically examine my response in situations and then evolve. I was put to the test both physically and mentally to push through preconceived limits and push myself to new heights, allowing me to developing a mindset without restrictions. My project provided an opportunity for me to transform internally in an unintentional way, which occurred through my interactions, overcoming challenges in the trip, and by my daily reflections and application of the lessons learned.
My transformation has made an impression on both my personal and professional pursuits. Professionally, the development of my group collaboration skills, interaction etiquette with strangers, project planning, itinerary creation, and academic progress with video production are of value to my future aspirations in the professional world. In data analytics, group collaboration and project planning are essential to the success in the profession. Creating and managing a detailed itinerary for an organization or project with time sensitive milestones are important when executing a plan to successful completion with positive results. The academic component of my project, the video presentation, is a creative platform of the exact same role as a data analyst position. The role here is to consume data(video, photos, or numeric), to interpret data, and to tell the narrative of what the information is in a meaningful and relevant way that is easy for others to understand. This transformation has further progressed me to be prepared for my professional career. Personally, my transformation is valuable to my appreciation of the life I live. An old saying is that “with freedom comes responsibility.” In life, we are given the freedom to choice to make decisions. The responsibility that originates from this freedom is the responsibility you have to yourself to live a life that makes the most of every day you have. My transformation is significant in my life because of my development of a restrictions-free mindset. I have surpassed my preconceived boundaries and believe that I have expanded my limits to new levels. While on this trip, I have conquered my fears, learned new skills, and have created a vision for who I want to be as an individual. This transformation is as vital in my personal life. In transformation, challenging yourself and the recognition of your change and accomplishments is important. However, the biggest victory in a transformation is the application of all lessons you have learned and endured. The diverse perspectives I have accumulated will allow me to connect and build strong relationships with individuals in my personal life and professional career. The ability to approach a problem, city, or opportunity from different viewpoints will allow me to achieve success continuously throughout my life. Through this exploration, not only did I personally grow, but now I have the ability to spark growth in other individuals by sharing my transformation and experience with them.