Australia and New Zealand Leadership Adventure Trip

My STEP Signature Project was a three week long outdoor leadership adventure trip in Australia and New Zealand.  Along the journey, I participated in challenging hikes, sea kayaking, horseback riding, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities.  Finally, leadership was a big component of the trip.  Each day we had different “Leaders of the day” and as a group we had to work together to accomplish tasks. 

The biggest thing I learned about myself is I like to overthink and complicate many tasks in life.  At the beginning of my adventure I shared with my group the story about my grandma and her teaching me about KP duty (which is an acronym for kitchen and pot).  I explained to the group that KP duty is simple.  You clean the kitchen and you clean the pots.  This “it’s simple” motto stuck with me the whole trip and I applied it to all my adventures.  This motto has transformed my outlook on life and I will continue to apply it every day.  I do not need to complicate things that can be kept simple. 

Also, my assumption on life was transformed for the better during my journey.  I learned that “when you are somewhere, be there”.  Before the trip I would be doing tasks or at places physically, however, my mind was always in another place.  I would always be worrying about the future and not experiencing the moment.  My adventure taught me that having a sense of mindfulness is important and has transformed my outlook in life.  I want to work on being more mindful in all my future endeavors. 

During my Step Signature Project, I was able to be the leader of the day for my group.  Being the leader was a challenging task and was very demanding.  At the end of the day, I remember being tired and needed sometime to myself.  As the leader, I applied my motto of “it’s simple”.  I gave instructions that were clear and concise, assigned roles, and created a culture of not over complicating situations.  Seeing how positive my group reacted to “it’s simple”, I knew that this will transform my viewpoint on life and incorporating it into my everyday tasks is one of my new goals. 

Throughout my journey my trip leaders stressed the importance of disconnecting from our phones.  We were not allowed to have our phones out during dinner, in the accommodation’s hangout areas, and while we were interacting with each other.  Also, we had limited connection to WIFI.  Being disconnected from my phone lead to my transformation of “when you are somewhere, be there”. It helped me to understand the importance of mindfulness and to be fully engaged you need to put down the phone.  

The no phone policy transformed my relationship with my group members.  We become closer as a whole and developed lasting relationships (as I write this we are planning a social activity even after our project has ended).  Also, I was able to work on my transformation of being more mindful in my daily activities.  By not being distracted by my phone, I was able to be fully engaged in the activities during my project and this helped me understand what it means to be truly mindful. 

This transformation is valuable for my life because I want to use what I learned and apply it to my upcoming trip to Miami, FL.  During my STEP Project I developed as a leader and learned valuable lessons that I want to share with others.  I want to use the lessons I learned in being fully engaged and having a sense of mindfulness and apply it to my next trip.  I am going to share this with my friends and help them to improve as people as we explore the southern part of Florida.  

Finally, as I move on in my life it is one of my goals to be fully engaged in all of my future endeavors.  It is my personal goal to put away my phone and really take in all my experiences.  I want to live the mottos of “experience now and share later” and “it’s simple”.  My STEP Project was an awarding experience and I cherish all the enlightenments I discovered along my journey. 

 

Leadershape: A STEP Experience

I never imagined my life could be changed so immensely by one city, 6 days, and 53 individuals. My STEP signature project was a leadership-based immersive experience. Hosted at a retreat center owned by Boston College in Dover, MA, the Leadershape national sessions are renowned for challenging individuals to lead with integrity, and always look towards ‘day seven’. The national session I attended this past May is known as the institute.

The institute consisted of a rigorous schedule to challenge participants to lead with integrity while working towards a vision grounded in our deepest values. While spending the entirety of my days with collegiate leaders from all over the globe– I was constantly immersed in self-dialogue, inclusive activities, and critical thinking. I was consistently being challenged by my peers in all things– forcing myself to step outside of my bubble and ask myself that one vital question: why? Why was I determined to be a leader among my peers? Why do I constantly prohibit my abilities with unconscious fear? Why did I feel ashamed about my D(ominant) profile (referring to the DiSC profile test, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team)? Leadershape provoked me to delve into these concepts and– in a sense– unleash the self-criticality I held so dear. Recognizing these ‘flaws’, if you will, allowed my peers and I to acknowledge, support, and embolden one another. Leadershape fosters the ideology that truly successful leadership comes from within a community, and allowed me to see this transformation in real-time.

Throughout my Leadershape experience, I was good old fashioned emotionally drained. From early rising to staying up a little too late in the hospitality room with friends… I wouldn’t change a second of my experience. This was the type of experience that would capitalize on FOMO, driving participants to stay with one another no matter how tempting a nap sounded. Without giving too much away, let me run you through a typical week at Leadershape. Ice breakers are a norm– a way of life at Leadershape. There is no icebreaker too short or long that allows you to be self-aware and connected within the community around you. Through ‘learning communities’: large lecture style curriculum, sprint activities: shorter, ‘where do you fall on the spectrum’ exercises, relational concepts, family communities, ropes courses, executive learning, self-reflection, current events dialogue, free snacks… I probably missed something, but you get the point. Leadershape knows that it takes deviating and alternative styles of learning to keep participants engaged and catalyzed.

Throughout this six-day transformation, I became an intellectual infatuated with learning about those around me. I can say whole-heartedly that Leadershape was a transformative experience socially, emotionally, and intellectually. I was able to meet other collegiate individuals who, like myself, wanted to learn more about being a leader to–get this–actually BE an inspirational leader for both ourselves and our communities. None of us were there for show, none of us wanted to un-engage in the dialogue, we were there for each other–always. The few individuals which I became particularly close with made saying goodbye to this beautiful experience bittersweet. They allowed me to be whole-heartedly unapologetic for being myself, and that is a rare attribute to find. Throughout the week we were encouraged to give one another ‘mail’: notes and letters of power, encouragement, adoration, whatever it may be. They advised us to (on the last day), grab all of our ‘mail’, put it in our carry-on, and read them once we had left the facility and our peers. While on my flight back to Cleveland, I can wholly admit that I was a tragic mess–sobbing about having to walk away from the individuals who had made such an altering impact on my life. To Leadershape– thank you for making me cry in public for the first time in my entire life.

I can say with certainty that the most valuable experience I took away from attending the Leadershape institute was understanding what I lack. For me, I spent a week understanding what emotional intelligence was, and how it was a crucial factor for my (and everyones) future success. Leadershape allowed me to self-indulge and recognize my weak-suits, from that firmly grasping that as a leader I lack empathy and truly connecting with my peers. Talk about a  shattering realization for your self-image. Throughout the week I was able to consistently work on my ‘gag’ with the encouragement of all my peers. Had it not been for their constant reassurance and inspiration, I’m not sure that I would have been able to handle that transformation alone.

Coming back to reality, it was a harsh realization that the real-world isn’t as motivating, inspiring, and grounded in their deepest values as those I was surrounded by at Leadershape. Alas…Ah, there’s the rub! It hit me– I spent an entire week hammering down on these exact traits because it takes clarity to see this in society, and confidence in your capabilities to help bridge that gap! Personally, Leadershape was the type of experience that I feel everyone should encounter, yet not all can endure. This eye-opening week was what I, as an individual collegiate leader, needed to revitalize my excitement and commitment to my values, goals, and those around me. My experiences at Leadershape have shaped how I lead as an independent, and as a tiny freckle of a much large community.

STEP: Discovering Leadership in New Zealand & Australia

My STEP signature project focused on discovering what being a leader truly entails. We explored the landscapes of New Zealand and Australia while simultaneously exploring various leadership theories and strategies. As a team, we then incorporated the theories we analyzed into our everyday journeys on the other side of the world.

When I stepped out of my comfort zones and the realms of what I thought I was capable of I truly found myself. I spent almost a month in Australia and New Zealand with no communication back home or distraction from social media. With the silent moments I encountered, instead of looking at my phone I started noticing the world and those around me. I truly saw this amazing world for the first time. My patience was tested but I now understand how to wait without the luxury of immediate entertainment in my hand. I went on an incredible journey with amazing people who each had a positive impact on me as a person and I hope I can say I left a positive impact on each of them. Traveling the world taught me a lot. Here some lessons I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life:

  1. Everyone has a story.
  2. In order to maintain good relationships, you have to be willing to give yourself away fully.
  3. Look up from your phone because the moment you are in is just as pretty as that Instagram picture you’re probably looking at.
  4. Don’t put limits on what you can and cannot do. If you want to do something, do it. Your body and mind can do amazing things when pushed beyond their limits.

There were so many memories I tried to collect while overseas. I didn’t know how to keep track of all the experiences I was going through, the sites I was seeing, and the people I was meeting. So, I was given a journal and started writing down everything in hopes I would never forget. I could probably write a book on all the events, interactions, and activities that had an impact on my personal transformation while traveling the world. Instead, I’ll just share two of my favorite transformative memories.

New Zealand. The views are incredible, breathtaking, and cannot be put into words. However, it’s not always about the views but rather with whom you share those views with. Get to know those around you and share the beauty of this world together. The moment that led me to gain this new understanding was in the Fjord land in the South Islands of New Zealand. We were on a day cruise through the Milford sound. The captain of the boat then came over the speakers and said let’s all take a moment of silence to truly listen to the nature and take it all in. The engine turned off and everyone went silent. I just stood at the railing of the boat looking up at these mountains that engulfed me with their monstrosity in size and their glimmering snowcapped peaks. It was weird to know no man had ever stepped on some of the mountains I was staring at. There were no car horns, buzz of electricity, or chatter filling the air. I thought about how nature is such a mystery and I was so lucky to be experiencing this part of the world that was not touched by humans. I wish I could bring this moment back home with me to share with my family and friends. That’s why when I looked around at the other 22 people on my trip I was so happy to get to share this wonderful moment in the world with them.

The next moment that transformed me to think I can do anything I want with the right mindset was when I collapsed on the floor of the hostel after hiking Australia’s Blue Mountains. We had begun with the sunrise and ended with the moonlight for two straight days full of hiking. However, when I thought I couldn’t keep climbing or walking anymore my body pushed onward. As a group we picked each other up. When the end was nowhere in sight we motivated each other to reach the end together and enjoy the journey along the way. Nature really put my mind and body to the test and pushed me to my limits. I believe that as I was pushed to my limits I really began to discover who I am as a person and what I actually am capable of doing in this life.

The lessons I learned, outlooks I gained, and personal changes I made to myself are valuable to my life because I hope to use them every single day. At the end of my trip I told myself just because I may not be in a foreign country doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty in everyday life. I promised myself to find that beauty every single day. I promised myself to continue to seek out adventure and step out of my comfort zone I tend to limit myself to. I promised myself to stop being stressed about the mundane stressors of life and rather thrive off of them. I promised myself I’d look up from my phone. I promised myself to collect as many memories as possible. Going into this trip I called it the experience of a lifetime. Now after the trip, I know now that I don’t want it to be the experience of a lifetime. I want it to be one of my many great experiences I have in my lifetime. I will forever look back on all the memories I can take away from this adventure and I look forward to the memories I will learn from other adventures.

 

Leadership: My Australia and New Zealand Journey

Hmm where do I even begin? This trip was the trip of a lifetime. 22 others and I explored the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand and the adventures Australia had to offer. We hiked, kayaked, bused, boated, snorkled, hiked again (and again and again), and more for 23 days. Not to mention, every day, two people were “Leaders of the Day” and they had to guide our group to the finish of that day’s journey by working together and fine-tuning their leadership skills.

This trip transformed me in more ways than one, and this aspect honestly surprised me the most. Never did I think I would become so close to a group of people I had only met a month before. Never did I think that the beauty of nature would bring tears to my eyes. Never did I think I would go bungy jumping AND sky diving. But, those are all events that happened, and I am exponentially grateful. My eyes are now open to the possibilities in the world around me. I have the ability to take on so much and accomplish whatever I put my mind to.

I have always been shy, I tend to struggle to make new friends because of this fact. When I signed up for this trip, I feared with all of my heart the the people alongside me would just carry-on and forget I existed, while I watched from the outside. I mean, this has been happening my whole life, so I am quite used to it after all. But, that was Never the case. Everyone was so warm and open to making friends that I felt included from the beginning. I never realized that making friends should be easy and fun. This makes me think that all my life I have been trying to befriend the wrong people. I’ll keep this lesson close to my heart in the future.

Secondly, I love our earth and everything she has to offer. But, I have never been so moved by her beauty that I have actually cried. Well, the Doubtful Sound in New Zealand changed that. When the heavy reality of all that surrounds us hit me, I lost it. I will always remember this moment and now will try to appreciate the beauty of nature every single day.

And lastly, I learned I have some grit. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would go bungy jumping off of a bridge in freezing temperatures or skydiving at 5 a.m. to have a 360 degree sunrise surrounding me as a plummeted to earth. But, I did. I did because I was terrified, but I sucked it up. I saw everyone around me so excited for these events, so I decided to throw away my nerves and be excited, too. I know now, I can do anything I put my mind to, and I can so it with a smile on my face.

My ultimate life goal is to be happy. Just genuinely, truly, and utterly happy. On this trip, I felt that happiness. Happiness without constraints. The joy wasn’t just from being in Australia and New Zealand, it was from discovering that life is what you make it. Who says I can’t be friends with people who make me laugh until my ribs ache? Who says I have to sit at a desk and work before I can enjoy life for what it is? Who says I can’t seek adrenaline on a random Tuesday afternoon. Basically, my transformation was from someone constantly waiting for life to bring her a smile into someone who will actively seek out that joy every single day. Life is wasted if you spend it dreaming of the “what ifs.” Now, I’m going to turns those dreams into reality.

STEP Leadership Business Trip to Chicago

My Business Trip to Chicago with the Accounting Honors Program

My project was a business trip to Chicago, which I attended with my fellow Accounting Honors Program students. We visited the Big Four Offices in Chicago and met with professionals, some of which were graduates of the Ohio State University Accounting Honors Program. It was a tremendous opportunity to not only learn more about the accounting careers available to me, but it was also a great way to get to know my classmates in an informal setting.

My trip allowed for me to think about what I want in life and where I want my career to take me. This trip allowed me the opportunity to interact with professionals who have went on a similar path that I am currently taking. I was able to learn more about their day to day responsibilities, as well as their interests outside of work. My two biggest takeaways from the trip was that I want to work for a Big Four Accounting Firm, and I want to work in Chicago.

The biggest change for myself was definitely deciding that I want to begin my career in Chicago. Throughout high school and my first two years of college, I wanted to begin my career in my hometown of Cleveland. It was always where I thought I would end up, but after going on this trip, I saw the numerous opportunities in Chicago that I wouldn’t get if I were to work in Cleveland. It has always been important for me to be challenged, and I feel that Chicago will be able to provide me with the best growth opportunities. This is definitely not a safe choice, or a choice that I would typically make, but I learned that in order for me to really challenge myself, I need to move away from home, and experience the world on my own. Without this trip I am not sure that I would have the desire nor confidence to make this decision, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.

Reflecting on my recent trip to Chicago, and my big transformation in decided to live in Chicago instead of Cleveland, I noticed a few key moments that led to my decision. The first moment was getting into the Accounting Honors Program last semester. Without getting into this program I would not have had the opportunity to go on this trip. Being able to go on this trip with my classmates in the program made it all the more memorable. We were able to talk about each of the site-visits that we went on, and it was really beneficial to talk about our likes and dislikes of the companies. It allowed me to determine which companies I liked the best that we visited.

Another key moment on this trip was the site-visits themselves. Being able to actually see the different companies and talk with the professionals at each company was very helpful. I was able to not only learn about the job, but I was also able to talk with the professionals, which just so happened to be recent college graduates. Being able to hear not only why they chose to move to Chicago, but also what they enjoy about living in Chicago was very helpful in decided where I wanted to work.

Finally, the last moment that really helped me make this change was having time to explore the city. Being able to walk around and get a feel for the city is the best way to decide whether or not you want to work in a certain city. I was able to explore the city with my friends, and I realized that Chicago is a city where I can see myself in the future. I had never been to Chicago before this trip, and I am really happy I went because it could really have a profound effect on my future. Before this trip I never had a thought of living there and beginning my career there, and ever since this trip all I can think about is how I can start my career in Chicago.

This change in where I want to begin my career has a huge impact of my professional, personal, and academic goals. Personally, it will be a new adventure, living in a city where I am not very familiar with other than this trip. It will be the place that in a few years I will be able to call my new home. Moving to Columbus for college was a change and an adjustment and I have been able to grow a lot from this experience, but I still feel that I am close to home. I feel like I will really be able to personally grow when I am living in a new environment. This also will have an impact on my academic goals and plans because I have a clearer focus on what I want to do with my career and where I want to do it. This experience will allow me to focus on my grades, as well as doing everything I need to do in order to work for a Big Four Accounting Firm in Chicago. Perhaps most importantly, this trip and my transformation had a huge effect on my future professional plans. Like I have mentioned above, I always pictured myself living in Cleveland, but now I am excited to live in Chicago. I believe that there will be so many incredible learning experiences and growth opportunities in Chicago, and this trip made these future plans possible.

 

The above image shows my friends and I visiting the Skydeck at Willis Tower

This above image shows my Accounting Honors peers visiting the EY Office in Chicago