Experiential Education is Awesome

Walking around the same streets as when I left is an interesting experience. No longer do I merely pace by the moving cars, beautiful flowers, or faces of many people, but rather absorb every aspect of my surroundings. Coming back from India, a country so far removed from American civilization has opened my eyes to many new lessons and life experiences that I otherwise would have not been exposed to.

When describing my month long study abroad experience to family and friends, I like to break it up into three chunks: education, trek, and culture. May 3-May 14 were spent at the Hanifle Centre for Outdoor Education in Mussoorie, May 14-24 were spent in the Himalayas on the trek, while May 24-31 were spend at various points in India and was where we had more of a chance to be tourists.

Prior to the trip I didn’t know exactly what skills I would pick up or what lessons would actually stick with me. However as I sit here and reflect in this American Starbucks, I can identify many ways in which I’ve seen growth in myself personally, academically, and professionally.

Personally I’ve seen myself grow immensely as an individual since the trip by becoming more aware of my surroundings (noticing and appreciating beauty on runs). Academically, I’ve learned not only many leadership theories, but also now have a general understanding of how to approach and assess a patient in need. Professionally, I have come away with many transferable skills that I will be sure to employ in current and future roles. One example of these transferable skills are the six C’s of the patient assessment algorithm; call (911), consent & intro, competence, confidence, compassion, control (situation). Although I will not be calling 911 in the workplace, I will have to introduce myself to others properly and exhibit the qualities of competence, confidence, compassion, and control amidst every situation.

One of the classes we had on the trek was about the ‘No-Doze’ leadership style. During this exercise we were placed in one of the four quadrants; analyst & architect, driver, spontaneous motivator, or relationship master. This exercise made known to me the different leadership styles that exist and provided me with a heightened sense of self-awareness. As a leader, I should strive to exhibit qualities of any of the four quadrants and have the ability to transition as needed. I was also reminded of the fact of my tendency to fall into the driver category. Moving forward with my academic and professional journey, I will be more aware of the positives and negatives of being a driver. For example, I am great at being direct and sticking to a vision, however sometimes struggle with making mistakes by moving too quickly.

Upon my arrival in India, I had a few expectations of what the country would be like. For starters, I expected the language barrier to be larger than it actually was. I was concerned that I would have trouble navigating myself in the Dehli airport and would struggle with communication. Fortunately for me this wasn’t too hard and mostly everyone I came in contact with spoke good English. One of the personal expectations that I had was being able to successfully complete the ten day trek in the Himalayas. Despite being an avid runner, I hadn’t had any prior multiple day hiking experiences. Sleeping in the woods, adjusting to the high altitude, and traversing snow covered mountains were all new adventures I had to overcome during this whole experience.

All in all, I kept a lot of culture and personal expectations at bay prior to studying abroad in India. Because of this, I felt I was able to experience everything that happened to me as it came and without judgement. Immersing myself in another culture other than my own was a humbling and awesome experience that I will never forget. The lessons I learned through experiential education will impact me for the rest of my life.