August 20, 2016 was the day I left my home, my family, my friends, and my comfort zone. The two and a half hour drive in a car packed full of my belongings to Mount Pleasant, Michigan was an anxiety-filled one, but I was ready.
After settling in my dorm room and saying goodbye to my parents, I was finally on my own and on my way to Central Michigan University’s Leadership Safari. This is a five day long safari-themed orientation where incoming students develop leadership skills and create bonds with their new peers. I was excited for it- everyone I asked said it was a great experience and I wouldn’t regret it. So, I went in with a positive attitude and lots of anticipation.
The week began with an opening ceremony followed by our first team meetings. Each student was assigned to a certain team, each being its own animal in this ‘safari’. I was on Team Wallaby. Throughout the week, my team and I participated in activities that challenged the way we think and opened our minds. For example, on one of the days, we spent a few hours devoted to learning to trust both ourselves and others. We did this by doing different exercises that scared us. The most extreme of these was getting up on a podium and falling backwards on my team members’ open arms. It was such a good feeling knowing there was nothing to worry about, and that they would catch me. Trust is essential for success, especially when working with teams. It helps a team be more cohesive. When you trust yourself, you will have more drive to achieve big goals. Knowing you can handle difficult situations allows you to move forward in the path to success.
Another activity that opened my eyes was coloring a picture of an ice cream cone with my team. Simple as it sounds, the meaning behind this activity was powerful. Each part of the picture was a category: one scoop would represent our social class, another represented our religious beliefs, and so on. Different colors represented different answers. In the end, we all had different looking ice creams, but we forgot what each color represented for each category. We were just ice cream. College is an amazing thing- people from all over are brought together in one place to get an education. Such a diverse environment means that prejudices and preconceived judgements are inevitable. But, after going through Leadership Safari, I hoped it sparked others’ excitements as much as it did mine to get to know everyone. We are all just a bunch of different ice cream cones, all great, none better than another.
The speakers at Leadership Safari were phenomenal. They had the perfect balance of light-heartedness and seriousness, and they didn’t sugarcoat anything. They simply motivated me to do great things and work for what I truly want out of this college experience. I am going to ensure that I make great use out of my time here and eventually love my career. How would I achieve my big dreams without telling myself that I am capable of achieving them in the first place? (Again with the concept of trusting myself).
Leadership Safari was both a great and challenging week. I have never heard so many movingly powerful speakers before, and the team-building exercises I did with my group had great meaning. If there’s one con out of a sea of pros, it’s that I was tired. 14 hour days were crazy, but coming out of the experience, I am extremely glad I did it. Safari was difficult in the best of ways, because everything was enjoyable. It was a very constructive and helpful start to my college career, and it got me so excited for what is to come. I have the resources to achieve my goals, and that is something to get wild about.