Adventure to Australia and New Zealand – My STEP Project

For my STEP project, I traveled with the Outdoor Adventure Center to Australia and New Zealand for a leadership development trip. I explored the two countries and their cultures through outdoor activities like hiking though World Heritage sites and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reefs. For an extra challenge, I took on more adventurous endeavors like bungee jumping to push myself out side of my comfort zone. All along the journey I participated in many leadership activities like leaders of the day and partner projects to shape my leadership abilities.

These group and partner activities challenged my previous assumption that if you want something done right you should do it yourself.  On the trip, I learned that you can’t do certain tasks by yourself and often others are needed for their ideas and support. Welcoming this group setting fosters a strong and multifaceted work force that can collectedly accomplish any mission. When we went sea kayaking there were two people sitting in each kayak and the one sitting in the back controlled the rutters to help steer.  I was in front while Haley was in the back trying to figure out how to properly steer the ship. Between her adjusting the rutters and me paddling we ended up swerving in every direction for the first few minutes.  I had to learn to trust that Haley would steer the rutters while I paddled ahead to keep us moving.  Once I let go of trying to control everything we were off in the right direction and quickly paddled our way to the front of the group together.  While working together might seem like an innate action I needed to learn to let go of the thought that I had to control everything in order for things to work out. Getting to know everyone on the trip and developing trust and communication with them allowed me to put that need for control and constant concern about things going right behind me and opened a door for me to build connections in the future. I’ve learned that instead of worrying about whether things will work out I need to focus on how to fix what is going wrong and appreciate what is going right. Once I did this I quickly found that my overthinking and stress dissipated and I enjoyed what was right in front of me more.

This STEP project has also helped me appreciate the things and people around me more. Our first day in New Zealand we went on a river cruise throughout the Doubtful Sound.  They took a moment of silence out on the lake where the engine was turned off and everyone was quiet for three minutes as we all took in the scenery around us. I was floating in the fog with a 360 view of unimaginable beauty around me. The only thought in my head was pure astonishment at the never-ending mountains; no room for worry and no reason to be. All my problems seemed so insignificant standing next to a towering mountain or laying below an endless sky of stars. Appreciating all the things we saw and did helped me stop over thinking my problems and live in the moment to take in the incredible sights in front of me.

Our trip leader, Spenser, made us define what adventure was to us and Ali said that “adventure is living in the moment despite fear”.  While fear of what could go wrong stopped me from doing things before or caused me to stress about them, having the support of the group gave me courage to do things that fear and anxiety held me back from. As someone who hates heights I never pictured myself bungee jumping, and yet when I was on that bridge surrounded by my new friends, all equally terrified and excited as I was, the fear of the jump pushed me forward instead of held me back. While swimming up a river in the Daintree rainforest I began to get winded and with my loss of breath came the loss of faith that I would make it upstream. Spenser saw and encouraged me to keep swimming, believing in me even when I didn’t. I realized it wasn’t my breathlessness that had stopped me from trying but rather the fear of the current and my failure to reach the top. With Dory’s mantra of “just keep swimming” in my head I headed back upstream until I finally made it to rocks with a huge smile on my face only topped by the sense of accomplishment I felt. This new-found confidence and gusto was used as momentum to get me through every moment of struggle on the trip and it is something I will carry back with me to tackle any challenge that comes by way later in life.

I implemented this drive with the new leadership theories we discussed on the trip when I was leader of the day. Working with Ali, we sorted what extra activities everyone wanted to do, guided the group through our Bondi Beach walk, got dinner orders placed, and set a schedule for the day. Whether guiding the group in front or herding everyone in the back, it quickly become clear that leaders and followers are equally as important and that only with trust and collaboration could the group succeed.  When we were trekking through the Blue Mountains we trusted that the leaders of the day could guide us through the terrain smoothly and when we made a wrong turn we worked together to find the right path again. I know this was leadership trip but going through this program taught me that leadership isn’t always guiding people but simply taking initiative and working together.

This was the most evident when we went white water rafting on the Tulley River.  Our guide was a bit quieter and therefore only Devin and I could hear his commands since we were in the back next to him. The seven of us needed to steer together if we wanted to get through the river smoothly, so we relayed the commands to the rest of your raft so that we were all in sync paddling. This communication was key to getting us safely down the river and it opened the door for some hilarious conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed more than during those few hours white water rafting. Getting to know everyone on the trip was one of my favorite things about this program. While the views were amazing they were nothing compared to the people I was gazing at them with.

The days when we didn’t have any wifi connection at all were my favorite because those nights consisted of endless euchre games, mafia rounds, and heart-felt conversations that forged long lasting friendships.  Not having to worry about what to post or how many likes we got allowed us to focus on and appreciate the people and things right in front of us. Being rid of these petty distractions like internet and appearances was a refreshing change of pace for me and while I was quick to connect to the internet once we got in range I didn’t have the constant need to always be on it. This trip has given me more appreciation for people, nature, and myself. I never would have thought I would go bungee jumping or that I would trek 23 miles up a mountain range within two days, but having pushed myself on this trip I know I am capable of much more than I initially thought if I just push through the fear and live in the moment.

Working in a cooking group, being leader of the day, and interacting with everyone on the trip helped me develop my teamwork skills. Talking with the natives and guides, visiting local villages, and getting to know the people on the trip helped me gain cultural competence and develop my understanding of others since I got to experience a different way of life. Discussing the various leadership methods, planning our free days, being in a cooking group and leader of the day developed my communication skills. I’ve learned to trust others and communicate more. The activities we did like bungee jumping pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me the courage and confidence to push through things that initially seem challenging. Where I might have backed away from difficult things at first, I now dive head first into those situations and make the most of them.

I have a stronger appreciation of others, nature, and myself. I’ve learned not to get caught up in the distractions of the Internet and appearances and not over think things but rather live in the moment despite fear. I now push myself to take initiative more while utilizing and working together with others by using the leadership theories we discussed. This will allow me to work better in groups at school, create more meaningful relationships in life, and be a better leader in my future career.  Overall, I have gained confidence and courage in myself as a leader, developed communication and trust with others, and gained an appreciation for nature and other cultures.

My First Semester at OSU

Over the course of these first few months at OSU I have gotten involved with many things ranging from BEGO’s executive board to quidditch and I have loved it all. It’s hard to believe I once had any reservations about coming here. Before entering college I was worried about going to such a big campus and making and doing well in classes but after a semester here those fears have mostly disappeared. Making friends come quick with all the new people I was meeting through the different clubs I joined and with proper effort my classes were not as much of a struggle as I originally thought, although time management is still something I am working to perfect. Now my biggest concern is passing my finals. This semester has been so much fun with all the activities I participated in from my clubs to my scholars community. The humanities scholars community helped me engage in and learn about language, the arts, culture, and many other aspects of the humanities while meeting people with similar interests as me. Participating in activities like the gender blender, community meetings, and mentor group outings has helped me gain a better understanding of humanity as a whole and how I can help better it by getting involved. Throughout the next few years I look forward to continue being an active member of the humanities scholars community and hopefully my class schedule will allow me to attend more discussions and outings. One type of activity that I wished I could have made and hopefully can attend next year is the social justice discussions. With all that’s going on in the world and all the conflicts occurring domestically I think it is really important to discuss such issues if we want to fix them and as someone who wants to help with that I would love to be able to go to one of these events and learn more about what I can do.

My Top 5 Strengths

My stop five strengths were Strategic, Competition, Intellection, Input, and Achiever.  Cohesively they make me a hard-working and curious individual who loves learning and accomplishing tasks. Having Strategic as a strength means I can quickly evaluate a situation and all its possible outcomes so that I can easily select the best solution by thinking through the problem in a unique way. This strength will help me solve problems quickly in academics by utilizing the creativity it gives me during problem solving and it helps me remember things by making up acronyms for usual facts. Since I can find the “right” way to things quickly I often take on leadership positions and use my creativity to help plan things just as I’ve been doing on executive board of BEGO.

Being an Achiever means that I strive for accomplishment. This will help in academics because I constantly want to get things done and do them well. I like staying busy which is why I’ve joined various clubs on campus. Since I enjoy achieving things, I tend to make friends with other people who are driven since they get things done. This will help push me in the future to continually accomplish something each day, no matter how small. Having Input as a strength makes me very curious about the world around me. I’m always trying to soak things in and am amazed at the smallest things.  In academics this will help me because I constantly store things, even seemly irrelevant facts, to be used for later and to build upon my knowledge. I love interacting with other people who are just as fascinated with the world and talk with them because it further builds to my collection of facts.

Intellection creates a need to learn more. It also makes me very introspective and sometimes antisocial since I like to take time alone to think through things and what they mean. This can help me in academics because I always want to know more and therefore focus on learning and asking questions until I have an answer. Over time this will help me learn more about myself and the world through my inquiry and reflection. Competition makes me compare my progress with others and incites a desire in me to win. In academics this pushes me to be at the top of the class which helps me work harder. In life I motivate others with this strength and we make each other better. In the future, competition will constantly make me strive to be the best and accomplish a lot.

My First Week at OSU

Overall the first week of my college career has been a positive one filled with lots of changes and thankfully many friends to share in the experience. I moved in early on Thursday as part of the OWL program and was immediately bombarded with countless icebreakers in the coordinators’ attempt to get us to talk to each other. Some familiar faces were established as the day rolled on and games continued to flow but it was not until the second day that I really had a chance to have a meaningful conversation with people and create a small group of friends. I also got to meet my roommate just in time for move-in the next day. While the day was long and the effort certainly tiring, I loved helping everyone move in Saturday. I got to meet a lot more people and learn my way around Baker East and the rest of South campus and I have yet to get majorly lost on the university grounds.

My group of friends quickly expanded as ice cream socials and late night talks ensued. Welcome Week was certainly an experience to be remembered as the amount of free sunglasses, t-shirts, and food I was bombarded with went beyond the realm of reason, but of course that did not stop me from grabbing as many free things as I could. When classes started I was definitely a bit nervous. We were all told coming into OSU that it was expected for us to put in two to three hours of work for every one hour spent inside the classroom and even more with science classes, so needless to say the difficulty of the classes and the amount of effort they required scared me coming onto campus. However things have run smoothly so far and the plethora of opportunities and the sense of freedom from being away from home offer many chances to get involved at OSU: the 1,200 booths at the involvement fair attest to that. I have already joined the Quidditch club and I enjoy every minute of our practices. This sense of endless possibilities is what I am most excited about. The university is one of the largest in the country, with impeccable programs for every major, all while being centered in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the nation: there are an infinite amount of ways to be inspired and get involved. Going forward that is exactly what I look to do. I want to participate in resident life and continue making new friends as I make the most of the next four years.