While it is nice to be back at home for the summer, I am incredibly grateful for my study abroad adventure in the Himalayas. Not only did I have an unbelievable amount of fun, but I feel as though this program provided a platform for personal, academic, and professional growth.
Having the opportunity to earn Wilderness First Aid and CPR certifications was probably the highlight of the curriculum for me. Over the course of the training I realized that having the knowledge to save a life felt empowering, and ultimately enables you to take the lead in difficult situations without letting emotions get in the way. Having proper first aid training gives you the confidence to act, which makes it appropriate material for a leadership course.
Learning about a variety of leadership theories prior to traveling to India and then having the ability to see different leadership styles in practice on the trek was beneficial to me as someone who is still trying to develop their own personal leadership philosophy. Observing such great leaders such as Shantanu, G and the team of porters made me come to a realization that is applicable not only in outdoor leadership but across any number of professions: the best leaders are dynamic and do not behave the same way in every situation or with every audience. The “No-Doze” exercise we performed on one of the last days of the trek illustrated this point really well. There may be situations that require a leader to be a “driver”, while at other times it may be best to act as a more cautious “analyst” for example. The ability to seamlessly adapt to the environment is the mark of a truly great leader.
I believe that working so closely in a team for a month (especially during the trek) allowed me to grow in the sense that I now I have an even greater awareness for how my actions affect others. Moving forward, I hope to incorporate this awareness for other into my leadership style.
Before travelling to India, I knew that English was officially one of the primary spoken languages so I did not expect communication to be a severe barrier. In the larger towns and cities, this was the case. However, in the small mountain villages we passed through on the trek, no one spoke English. We relied heavily on our guides for verbal communication in these scenarios and picked up a few Hindi phrases to use along the way. I also came to realize there are many aspects of communication that transcend language—a hand gesture, a hug, a smile. One of my favorite moments of the trek occurred during one of our earliest evening camping. Just before dinner, a small group of local children gathered and we began to play with them. While we did not speak the same language as them, we were able to communicate with the rules to a number of games that we then all played together successfully.
I learned a lot from my experience in India and hope that I can return one day in the future!