After reflecting on my time in India, I know one thing for sure. I know that I have never been happier. I have never been in an environment where I felt so sure about myself, about my academic passions, and about my future. Aside from the fact that this trip was an amazing learning experience and a great opportunity to practice leadership in more intense situations, it also solidified my academic and professional goals. From the second we arrived in Mussoorie, I was incredibly eager to observe as much as I possibly could about the physical world around me. After taking a higher-level geology class in the spring, I knew that I had found an academic path that I absolutely loved, but it wasn’t until coming to India that I fully realized how passionate I was about it. The geology of the trek alone told an amazing story of past geological processes, depositional environments, and glacial periods that I hadn’t been able to interpret outside of photographs in a classroom. It was mesmerizing. In my first blog post, I touched on one driving force that pushed me toward this program. I wanted to observe the amazing geology around me. I did just that. I took every opportunity to read books, look at samples in Hanifl Centre, and observe outcrops in the field. I found that the more I pursued these academic interests, the more and more I fell in love with my field of study. This made me realize that I desperately want to pursue a career in the field. I want to conduct research, map geological processes, and analyze anything and everything I possibly can about the world around me.
Because I want to form a career where I’m working in backcountry environments such as the Himalayas, this experience was a significant step in learning how to be a leader in the outdoor context. The backcountry presents a lot of high-stress situations where uncertainty in the physical environment is a guarantee and the safety and well-being of a group is a constant concern. This experience has taught me a lot about what it means to lead in a group and contribute in a way that puts the overall needs of the team above all else. I learned a lot about my strengths in a group, where I can improve, and what is most important. And most importantly, I learned to always expect the unexpected. From the environment, from the team, and from myself.
WAFA training also taught me a lot not only about wilderness skills but lessons that can be applied to the front country as well. During simulations, I learned the importance of taking my time rather than rushing through things as well as doing things right the first time. Especially when the simulations purposefully created a lot of external pressures and distractions, it was difficult to remain focused so as to not miss any important tests or steps in applying first aid. Occasionally, I would begin to rush under the pressure and apply a messy bandage or forget to go through an important set of medical questions. But when I learned how to focus and not let the pressure affect me, I was able to provide more effective first aid. I believe this lesson can be applied to any academic or professional project I take part in.
Overall, I’ve loved my experience abroad. The time I’ve spent getting to know a different culture and environment than I’m used to has been such an amazing adventure. I know that the learning and growth I’ve had won’t stop just because I’ve left India. As I continue to think about everything I’ve experienced I know I’ll begin to notice more and more ways in which I’ve changed as a person and what this program has taught me. I’ll miss the Himalayas, but I can’t wait for my next adventure and everything that I’ll learn along the way.