The main point of my S.T.E.P. project was to learn new leadership skills in an exploratory study abroad atmosphere. Each of the individuals on the trip had a chance to be the “leader of the day” for two different days of the trip. When you are the leader you must direct and communicate with all the others (24) on the plan and logistics for that day and ensure everything runs smoothly. This is not an easy task because each day is a new adventure, hiking, white water rafting, traveling, etc that you usually do not know all the details of until the day everything occurs.
I have always enjoyed travel and considered myself a person who craved to know more about the world. My time abroad completely amplified these feelings. I had never been off the continent before this trip, so my hobbies had never been fully backed up but after this trip, I can confidently claim these characteristics. Each place, country, city, and hostel we stayed a
t I strived to learn something new. I fully immersed myself in the culture. I made sure to talk to locals and interact with them in order to better understand the world I am living in. I even recorded the information I learned. The most rewarding part was getting to explain my perceptions of the U.S. and learning how that affects the rest of the globe.
Going into this experience I thought I was an excellent leader due to the fact I had, had prior experience. However, this trip showed me how stressed I truly become when there is no definite plan in place. To remain a calm and helpful leader, while personally stressed is something that was difficult to balance. Yet, I feel like because this trip forced me to “go with the flow” I was able to improve my skills of leadership in that regard and better adjust to changing plans.
I so much enjoyed my time in these countries and specifically, New Zealand that I now have new goals in life. My future goals include returning to both countries to see even more of what I did not have an opportunity to see. The biggest new goal of mine is to someday live in New Zealand. Everything about that country made me feel more at peace with myself then I have been for most of my life. Before this trip, I never considered moving outside of the United States. Now I want to live in another country for over a year in order to fully immerse myself in the culture and witness the landscape.
I did not think it was possible to create such lasting friendships in the amount of time (less than a month)that this trip was. However, living together each day, traveling constantly, experiencing some of the best and worst moments together, seeing each other stressed, afraid, sad and extremely happy all while trying to comfort each other and experiencing an array of emotions yourself. Missing family, friends, and the comforts of home life with no connection to the outside world. Getting to witness peoples firsts and share in the success of climbing mountains together, conquering your fears together, talking and playing games on every bus ride, and growing as a person with them by your side. You create a bond that I believe is unbreakable. This group of friends truly made my trip what it was, an amazing, life-changing, experience that I would not have chosen to have with anyone else.
I got the chance to completely step outside of my comfort zone due to the activities on this trip. It was my first time off the continent as previously mentioned, as well as my first extended plane ride with connecting flights (16 hours and 4 flights to get there to be exact), it was the first time I got a chance to live with 20 other people whom I barely knew for a month, not to mention completely wireless with lack of communication with the outside world. It was the first time jumping off a towering cliff with nothing but a harness, it was my first time white water rafting, it was my first time hiking two 7 hour hikes back to back even though every part of my body was screaming to stop, it was my first time snorkeling (and I got to in the Great Barrier Reef), it was my first time jet boating, and my first time jumping 15,000 feet out of a plane. All of these activities I was fearful of before the trip and most of them during the trip right until they occurred. Each of these experience taught me how to push my personal limits and instead of being scared to fully live every moment. I can truly say I left this trip with no regrets and that is one of the best feelings, to know I got everything possible out of this once in a lifetime experience.
All of these personal changes in me have shaped a new person, that has lasted when I am back in the states. Living each day to the fullest and not having regrets is something I have carried each day. I have sought to see more of the U.S. and nature every day. I have already visited the friends I made and have future plans with them. These relationships will not only be lasting friendships but future networking opportunities with individuals in a variety of fields. This will help me in my career and has also shown me how much I crave a job with travel and new elements. This trip taught me so much about myself and molded me into a better leader, person, friend, and world citizen.