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Personal Growth through Outdoor Electives

raftWhen people come into a required college course at the start of the semester, they more than likely do not have the intention of pushing themselves to their limits or even forming strong connections with their peers. When I signed up for this class, I had those intentions. Whitewater rafting attracts a certain type of person: someone who appreciates the outdoors, loves mental and physical challenges, and feeds on life. I knew that I would be surrounding myself with a group of people possessing those traits. In three days, I was faced with many challenges that unleashed unique personal growths.

Adapting to Change

One of the best aspects of this Outdoor Adventures trip was the constant push to get out of your comfort zone. This entailed the switching of cars, the switching of people in the rafts, and the switching of trip leaders. The most valuable switch was getting in a boat with a different trip leader each run. I enjoyed adapting to their teaching style and learning how to apply their advice to my guiding or paddling.

This personal growth is meaningful because we are constantly faced with types of environments when you aren’t going to know anyone or you have a new professor each semester. Learning to adapt to new scenarios and cope is essential for survival. Adapting to the changes on this trip forced me to become flexible and mentally prepared. Without the constant switches, I would have never gotten to experience the different dynamic between the various people which altogether maximized my potential as a rafter.

Using Motivation to Fuel Leadership

With any new, unfamiliar challenge in life, my flight response tends to overpower my fight response. When I first heard that we would have the opportunity to guide the raft down the river, I instantly entered panic mode. Once I saw everyone’s eagerness to guide, I questioned my own hesitation. To overcome this internal conflict, I fed off of their innate motivation to fuel my own leadership: if they could willingly attempt something new, I could too. Without being surrounded by those type of people, I wouldn’t have been able to guide the raft at all.

Every so often, you lack motivation to do anything. This trip has taught me that if you surround yourself with positive people who are willing to challenge themselves, their motivation and perseverance will ultimately reflect onto you. I have also learned that I shouldn’t depend on others to enable me to do something. Don’t be scared to fail; learn through experience. Use your own internal motivation to overcome the obstacle to fuel your own leadership.

Applying Classroom Knowledge into the Real Worldraft2

For the majority of college classes, I always find myself asking, “When will I ever need this in life?” Throughout this three week course, we were reminded that the information we were learning would be detrimental to our safety. On our runs, our knowledge was repeatedly tested whether it came to swimming positions or pulling someone out of the water. Very rarely do we rely on our classroom information for real world events but for this course, it was imperative…. which was scary. As Lorin went through the PowerPoints in class, she would reassure us, “Don’t worry. This will all make sense once you see it.” When going down the river, Megan would say, “Tell me about the river. What features do you see?” Suddenly the classroom PowerPoint slides of pillows and strainers came to life. I never thought I would be able to classify the types of rivers or even know how to maneuver the raft. I was amazed as my fellow students and I quickly identified pillows, sweepers, undercut rocks, and eddies. The dynamic from cluelessness in the classroom to confidence on the river was incredible. Those moments were the highlight of my trip.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This course compacted all my fears into three weeks: traveling with unfamiliar people, guiding without heavy-duty training, and putting my life into someone else’s hands. I would not have made it through the weekend without my classmates’ and instructors’ positive mentality, guidance, fearlessness, and outgoing personalities. Most importantly, I would have never grown as a person, student, or rafter. I will continue to use these personal growths in my academic career and future jobs. I am forever grateful for the Nantahala River for bonding us all over one mutual interest: whitewater rafting.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetShannen Keene is a junior from Ellettsville, IN pursuing a degree in Community Health. Bloomington has taught her the value of diversity, culture, and good food. After graduation, she hopes to work for a nonprofit organization in Nashville, TN. Until then, her days will be filled with ice cream and watching Scandal.


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