Life at the Hanafil Center


We’ve now been in Mussoorie for three whole days at the Hanafil Center and we’ve done a lot. Every day starts with breakfast at 7:30 and ends with a group reflection at around 7 pm. We’ve got about an hour for meals in there, but that’s the only free time we have. It’s been a lot and has been really exhausting. The jet lag has finally gone away over the last day or so which has been great; I finally feel awake and up to the day’s challenges. The first full day we were here we started the day out with a hike on a nature preserve right down the road from the Hanafil Center. We had an awesome hour to spend by ourselves reflecting on our personal goals, exploring the area, and taking in the stunning views. We spent the rest of Thursday and all of Friday starting to learn about leadership and implementing what we learned in some leadership games. The games were teamwork based and ranged from simple tasks such as keeping a ball in the air for a minute as a group, to a much more complicated number game, where small teams tried to systematically press numbered buttons in the fastest time. Today was definitely the longest and most exhausting day; we started our wilderness first aid training and it was a lot of information. We’ll be getting WAFA certified as well as CPR certified. Over the next few days, we’ll finish our certification and then go for a one-day overnight hike.

What are your personal goals for this experience that you created/reflected on during the solo on Thursday?

One of the biggest factors as to why I decided to study abroad was that I wanted to grow and expose myself to a new culture. I’m not quite sure what direction I want to go in as far as school goes, and more broadly life, so my hope is that by putting myself out of my comfort zone I’ll be able to discover some things about myself. Maybe I’ll be able to find some clarity, although I’m also not expecting to find any and certainly not putting any pressure on myself to find any. This particular trip appealed to me much more for the 10-day trek through the Himalayas than the leadership aspect of the program if I’m being honest. With that being said, I think I’ll be able to take a lot away from the leadership aspects of the course as well. One thing that I’d like to improve on and be more cognisant of is being able to make myself heard in large groups. I find that I’m great with small groups, but because I’m rather soft-spoken sometimes I’m not heard in larger groups. Another thing goal that I have when it comes to leadership is simply to learn about leadership and through that hopefully, discover where I can improve as a leader. If I know where some of my shortcomings are, then I hope that I can then become more conscious of them and hopefully improve on them. 

What new perspectives did you learn about leadership from the leadership games/activities from the past few days? Is your perspective of leadership changing? Why?

The main takeaway from the leadership games is how important teamwork is and hearing everyone’s unique perspectives on how to solve the problem. Another thing that I noticed, and the entire group became aware of, was that some voices were heard consistently over others. Often the quieter members of the group were naturally spoken over, and even though it was often unintentional, it was still preventing the group from hearing valuable ideas. 

I wouldn’t really say my perspective is changing that much, although I think I am becoming more aware that not everyone can lead in every situation. If everyone tries to be a leader in every situation, there are too conflicting voices and opinions trying to direct one another and nothing gets done. Instead, most of the group has to follow one or two individuals who take on more dominant leadership roles for the specific situation. The follower’s roles aren’t any less important than those in more leadership roles, and as many leadership theories point out, they are still being leaders in their own way. Those following still make valuable contributions and have many ideas, and it’s imperative that the group has a balanced mix of those in more typical leadership roles and those following.