Being back in the US for 17 days has been an experience. I never had a shocking feeling of reverse culture shock, but I have noticed a change in my approach to life. The bagel store having a long line or getting cut off on the Garden State Parkway (which happens all the time) feels like a tiny problem after spending 10 days dealing with the harsh reality of the outdoors. I have found that I react in a much more deliberate way to any challenge that I come across. I credit this in part to the WAFA simulations we did. The high pressure got to me in the simulations but once Vipul taught me how to approach it, I understood it was about making the right decision, not the first one that presents itself. Since getting home, a situation occurred where my WAFA training came to life when I was present during a medical emergency. I was able to stay calm and rational which was incredibly helpful. I didn’t use the technical skills that I learned, but I did use the content I learned and the confidence I had built.
I can still remember getting the Teams message about the program in November and thinking “that looks amazing but, there’s no way I could do that”. I can’t remember what made me do it, but I had a compulsion to look for the gold at the end of the rainbow. Next thing I knew it was January 9th and I was up at 8am to go meet Bryan for the first time. All I could think when I walked out was “I am going to make this work” and “wow that guy is taller than I expected”. Going into the program, I kept my personal expectations highly limited. In a lot of ways, I went in with the mindset to trust the process. My lack of personal expectations was accompanied by a few expectations. The inherent complexity of a program to a developing country such as India, in combination with Bryan’s incredible attention to detail in both the interview and pre-departure meetings, I was incredibly confident that the trip would go off without a hitch and be strongly structured. Leadership is a topic I am more interested in than I would normally admit, and I was excited to explore it while also gaining some outdoor experience.
Nowhere within my expectations for the trip did I anticipate building the quality relationships I was able to. Reflecting on the trip, I can’t help but miss my Himalayan family. Although we weren’t all naturally compatible, I felt like the group did a great job building trust and a sense of community. The friendship I was able to build with my tent with Simon and Chris, along with the jokes I was able to crack with the once straight-faced Burga, have already translated to my life back in NJ. Burga has already had the chance to come hangout with me and I spent last weekend at Simon’s apartment in New York City. I am looking forward to when Kandhi returns from Korea so that we can all hangout together. The biggest shock I had coming home was not being able to see my friends every day. When Simon and I were together last weekend, it hit both of us that we had known each other for only 5 weeks. I feel like this was not only a testament to how close you can get with people in challenging situations, but also a reminder to not be scared to jump in the deep end and try to get to know someone.