- My STEP signature project consisted of backpacking and camping along the Kalalau Trail, known as one of the world’s most physically and mentally challenging journeys. I also took scuba diving classes in Columbus and became certified directly after the hike in Hawaii.
- The 30-mile hike along with scuba diving enabled me to further my leadership skills of perseverance, determination, self-discipline, and patience. In order to effectively travel up and down in altitude as well as distance, a constant calm, high work ethic was required. Breaks only delayed the hike, making it longer and harder. My determination and self-discipline were tested by fighting through all of the high heat and humidity to hike with ~40 pounds on my back. There were many times that I wished to stop, but I persisted through the struggle and it was worth it. The obstacles faced above and below the water were unlike any other, death just one little slip or panic away. I had to be patient when crossing a thin cliff or while ascending out of the ocean with low air in my scuba tank. I learned that remaining calm and patient in a dangerous situation resulted in a better result than panicking or rushing through something. I believe that this can be applied in absolutely any situation where even a minute amount of stress is present.
Before the hike began, I believed that the sheer difficulty of the trail along with all of the obstacles would prove the most transformative aspect of the trip. Although it was transformative towards my leadership and perseverance skills, the most prominent thing that transformed throughout the journey was how I viewed the world and success through hard-work. After completing the first stretch of the trail, a whopping 15 miles in under 20 hours, I was engulfed with the hidden gem of the Kalalau Beach, which marks the end of the Kalalau Trail. Not only did my body rejoice at reaching the end and resting, but my mind was thrilled with the trophy that was the most beautiful and secluded place in the world.
Personally, I have always found bodies of water to be the most relaxing and beautiful thing in the world and reaching this beach after the strenuous hike and exploring the ocean after hours and hours of class gave me a sense of pride and success unlike any other (e.g. money). This trip thought me that rather than measuring success in monetary value or a high salary, success is an individualized goal tethered to what matters most to someone. When I first began college at Ohio State, my main goal was to get my degree, continue through school, and eventually make as much money as I could. However, I can confidently say that after hiking the Kalalau Trail and becoming a PADI certified scuba diver, my goal of success has shifted towards having a great life, enjoying what I do, and living somewhere that makes me happy with people that make me happy, even if that means I won’t be making millions of dollars.
- Hiking across thin cliffs from elevations of 0 ft. to 1000 ft. then back down to 0 ft. over and over again posed threats, dangers, and obstacles previously unknown proved to be quite the challenge for me upon arrival at the Kalalau Trail. After tripping and stumbling over a rock during the first mile of the hike (thank God I caught myself), I quickly realized that taking my eyes off of where my feet were stepping could easily end in me falling hundreds of feet to rocky water below. Looking back on this experience, I translated this lesson to real life in regards to following goals; if you remained focused solely on your goals and don’t let anything take that focus and steer you off your path, then reaching those goals becomes easier than first perceived.
I worked hard every step of the trail, dripping in sweat from the burning sun and humidity, not knowing whether a steep incline was ahead of me or if I would have to tiptoe across a foot-wide cliff with an 800-foot drop-off next to me. After the first few of these unseen, unpredictable obstacles, I quickly gained confidence with myself and how I was dealing with them. The obstacles became easier and easier to pass, even though I had no idea what was coming or when it was coming. This confidence came from remaining calm, focused, and patient with whatever may be in front of me.
I also experienced a problem during scuba diving that required the exact same three values. Twenty-three minutes into the first boat dive, I looked down at my pressure gauge at it was dwindling at 100psi. If you do not know scuba terms, 100 psi at depth is like driving a car with the gas meter on E. Currently at 60 feet below the surface, I couldn’t simply shoot up or I would risk blowing my lungs up or getting the bends from excess nitrogen. Instead, I signaled to my buddy and my dive master that I was out of air. I remained calm and slowly ascended, at this point my gauge read 0 psi, even though I could still breath fine on the regulator. Once I arrived at 15 feet below the surface, my dive master handed me his octo (spare regulator) to breath off of while taking a 3-minute safety stop (to off-gas nitrogen) before surfacing. After the 3 minutes were up, I went back to my own regulator and performed a CESA (controlled emergency ascent) from 15 feet to the surface. Dealing with this obstacle seemed easy during the entire ordeal, and it wasn’t until I was out of the water when I realized how serious the issue could have been. If I did not exercise patience and self-discipline, I easily could have panicked (which would have burned my air even faster) and ended up seriously injured.
- The transformation that I experienced in Kauai was unlike any other. I accomplished things that I never intended of encountering, challenged myself physically and mentally, and learned how to overcome real obstacles that meant life or death. Throughout the experiences that took place, I became more aware that my life and goals are only my own to fulfill, and they are completely up to me. I believe that I am much more calm and patient throughout all of my decisions after this project and in turn, believe that I am better capable to not only achieve my own personal goals, but to help others reach theirs. I am sure that most people, students and faculty, at Ohio State do not possess the skills that I first handedly learned and exhibited through the various activities that I took part in. I feel as though I can effectively lead others and solve problems with unrivaled poise, patience, and determination. I am ready to take on any problem that may surface at any time.
These skills that I have earned will propel my academic career (and later on, full time career) into exactly what I am good at and what I enjoy. The intangibles that I now possess will allow me to push myself to be the best that I can be in society and the work force. I now know from experience that hard work always pays off, focusing on a goal will prove the most efficient way to achieve it, and remaining patient through any scenario will avoid negative consequences along with bringing unforeseen benefits that might not have ever been considered.