Introduction to Leadership in the Himalayas

Hello, my name is Thomas Burga; I am a freshman at the College of Business Administration studying Finance and Business Analytics. I am beyond excited to participate in the Leadership in the Himalayas program since I have never been to India in all my travels. This past summer, I participated in the Haller Global Honors Fellowship Program, and that experience solidified my interest in going abroad again. Having the opportunity to travel with my peers helped me shape many of my perspectives today. I genuinely believe international experiences and getting out of your comfort zone is the true way to learn more about yourself and the world. One of my goals is to apply this knowledge and understanding of the world around me to a potential career in law. I have always been interested in the American justice system and attended many classes at Pitt Law as well as held various information-gathering sessions with attorneys. Also, the Haller program helped me realize that client-based work is fun and beneficial. Seeing the Implementation of our work on the client’s website and social media was truly rewarding. The program’s objective was to drive long-term strategies for our client, and our goal was met.

Regarding my international experiences, I have had the opportunity to live in England for two years. I was very young, so many of my core memories come from England. Every time I go abroad, I learn something new about myself through reflection. The Cliffs of Moher in the Haller program helped me think about my high school experiences and college plans. I anticipate a  similar sentiment in the Himalayas through meditation and the program’s focus on leadership reflection. I am incredibly grateful for the emphasis on reflection, as this has benefited me through my previous international travels. Additionally, I seek the opportunity to unplug from technology and recognize the beauty of the Himalayas. As a busy college student, I haven’t had much time to enjoy nature and reconnect with the world around me. I hope to rectify this abroad and return home with a newfound respect and understanding of myself and my future plans.

In the Himalayas, I am very excited about the climb. Working directly with NOLS-certified trainers and our talented group will be very transformational. I am not an experienced backpacker and I look forward to asking many questions and improving my skills. The program’s emphasis on first-aid and wilderness survival is also very intriguing to me as I have not had the chance to develop this particular skill set; this provides an exciting challenge that will test my limits in an international location. Whenever I go abroad, I always take a piece of the culture home with me so I can remember my time there. In Ireland, I brought back various blankets and books detailing the manuscript of the Book of Kells. When I read the books, I am able to tap into the culture, learn, and relive my experiences. I am looking forward to what I decide to pick up to remember my time in India. Looking ahead, my travel experiences have followed a natural progression. Going with a small group for a few days focused on client-based consulting in Ireland to a very personal leadership-focused month in India is noticeably more challenging, but I am happy to take this on. I am considering an exchange program in Asia and working abroad during my final year at the University of Pittsburgh to further my natural progression. I believe all of these experiences will shape me into the person I want to be once I complete my college career. I expect to think about and remember these experiences for the rest of my life, hoping to one day share these experiences for the benefit of others I cross paths with.

Outside of school, I enjoy photography, playing the electric bass, working out, and reading books. These activities keep my mind sharp while giving me the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. I have chosen this program specifically because I want to put my leadership skills to the test. As an active member of the Panther Leadership Academy, I learned some leadership theories and look forward to putting them into practice. This trip will not only allow me to expand on my understanding of leadership theory but allow me to apply these theories to complex backpacking situations. I look forward to reflecting on my development at the end of the month and sharing my new experience.