My STEP signature project consisted of 21 days in New Zealand and Australia. We kayaked, snorkeled, whitewater rafted, surfed, and hiked through the most beautiful places. We cruised through the fiords in New Zealand, visited the Franz Josef Glacier, saw the Sydney Opera House, and walked famous Australian beaches. Throughout the trip our team discussed various leadership theories. In addition to this we each had 2 days where we were designated leaders of the day and were put in charge of making decisions for the group as well as making sure the group knew what was going on at all times.
I learned a lot about myself and how I like to lead. I am a quiet person, but this trip showed me that I can still be a leader and have my peers respect and listen to me even though I am not the loudest person in the room. I learned about the fact that leadership looks different to different people. I became more comfortable speaking in front of the group of 23 and made my voice heard when I had an opinion or suggestion on what could make the day better for the group. I have always valued leadership experience and this trip was a great way to gain more experience with a group of individuals who I had gotten to know quite well.
In addition to teaching me about being a leader, this trip changed my view of the world. Prior to this trip I had only been out of the country once. I was nervous to be going so far away from home, but I found myself amazed by the beauty of these two amazing countries. The culture in these countries was not strikingly different than that of the US but the landscapes were the most amazing views I have ever seen. This really made me gain a new respect for the environment and definitely made me value sustainability more.
Being able to lead a group of people that I trusted and who I knew well really helped me open up and be heard. The first time I was leader, toward the beginning of the tip, I didn’t want to say much because I was still nervous about what these people would think about me but after spending more time with them I was able to be louder on my second day as leader. The positive feedback I received about my leadership showed me that I am a decent leader and I think that the next time I lead a group of people I will know that it is okay to speak up and be heard because I now know how to lead in a better, more productive way. The next time I am in a situation where I am placed as the leader, I will be quicker to believe in myself and my decisions.
Seeing a glacier for the first time and hearing stories of how much larger it used to be, being in a totally remote place and not being able to hear the birds that once inhabited the area were two events that made me realize that we need to change if we want to preserve the beauty that we have on this planet. Since being back I have thought a lot about recycling and reducing the waste that I make, and I think the little changes I have begun to make will stick with me for a while and that will provide some benefit.
Every aspect of this trip changed me in some way, it is hard to pinpoint specific examples because even minor details of the day impacted how I see the world and how I believe others see me. It was amazing to see the sights of these countries, but it was also amazing to get to know a small group of people who were strangers before the trip. This helped me be more open with people which is a change I believe I needed to make. I was nervous to be on the other side of the world with people that I did not know but that added so much to the trip.
I have always had a desire to see the world, but I never thought it would impact my views on sustainability the way it did. In addition, I have always like to be around people but generally get nervous meeting new people. I was worried that my anxiety around meeting new people would hinder my enjoyment of the countries, but it did not. I was also concerned that I would struggle as a leader, but, in my opinion, my leadership improved as a result of this trip. All three of these things are impacting my life and will continue to do so forever. I am happy that this trip changed me in three totally separate ways. I think that getting out of my shell and learning how to be a better leader are things that will help me in my life in general but also in my future career. I think that seeing the world and gaining a deeper appreciation for it will impact my future learning as I hope to learn more about what we can be doing to help our planet as well as impacting how I live my life on a day to day basis.