Going Outward Bound

When GLOBE 2.0 was announced, we all knew that there would be some significant changes to the structure of the programme. Yet, what we did not know, was that the greatest change to GLOBE would actually be the introduction of the Outward Bound trip.

For those that are not familiar with Outward Bound, it is a global organization that focuses on developing participants’ character and social skills through challenging outdoor activities and expeditions. In our case, this meant a week-long camping trip in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, where groups of 8-12 GLOBE students spent 24/7 together: no running water, no beds, no phones.

This idea was universally uncomfortable to us all. We had only just left our home countries to start the semester abroad at UNC and already we were being thrown out of comfort zones, feet first into a physically demanding challenge with a group of strangers. With that being said, we all recognised how powerful this trip could be in terms of bonding and building friendships, which is arguably the most important aspect of GLOBE, beyond all our professional ambitions.

So, when the day came to drive to Outward Bound’s center in the mountains, with nothing but the bare essentials, everyone felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The entire four-hour bus ride was buzzing with people getting to know each other and talking about our expectations for the week. We had looked forward to the trip, but didn’t know what was actually waiting for us.

The Outward Bound instructors gave us a warm welcome at the center, splitting us into groups that mixed up students from all three universities. I was excited about the pre-arranged groupings since this gave us an opportunity to interact with others that we hadn’t spoken much to yet, and finding common ground wasn’t difficult when we were all participating in the trip.

Admittedly, the first couple of days were tough and we all had some shared and individual struggles we were dealing with. Some found the physical aspect of hiking and sleeping on the hard ground very uncomfortable and there was no doubt that we all felt homesick, to varying degrees. Our Outward Bound instructors were aware of this and I remember our first camp night sitting around the bonfire, discussing our general feelings and expectations about the trip and GLOBE.

These evening meetings were daily and it was a great way to get together and reflect about our experiences. Often, the meetings touched on very personal, even emotional discussions, which we otherwise wouldn’t have had, if our instructors didn’t facilitate it, so I value the fact that we were able to open up more and thereby establish more meaningful connections between us. One of the most memorable nights was spent on Cedar Rock, overlooking the forest and the starry sky. In that meeting, we held some ‘5 minute bios’, where one group member spends the time sharing an insight into their life and future hopes. We learnt a lot about each other that day and the general atmosphere from that night is one that is shared just between myself and the 9 others in my group, which, to me, is really special.

During the days, we would be tending to our campsite, chatting, participating in ice-breaking activities and, for the most part, hiking, which was definitely arduous. On many days we would go on strenuous treks in the mountains with bags weighing 25-35kg on our backs. Of course, this was physically hard for us all, but there was a clear difference in fitness levels within our group, so perhaps the greatest challenge was actually adjusting our speed and breaktimes to acknowledge the fact that some found it more difficult than others. This was a clear example of Outward Bound using a physical task to highlight the importance of respect and empathy, which are values that we must have as GLOBE students.

Overall, when I reflect on the trip, I recognize how many practical, hiking-related tips and tricks we learnt, but I can also now appreciate how these can be applied to our GLOBE experience. Learning how to tie the knots needed to set up a bear hang in itself is not the purpose of the trip, it’s rather the teamwork and communication required which is truly important. Similarly, rock climbing is a fun activity, but the comradeship and trust that you share when you scale the mountain, attached only to the ropes that your fellow GLOBEr controls, is much more valuable.

On that note, I would like to express, on behalf of GLOBE 13, how thankful we are for our lovely Outward Bound instructors. They were so patient with us and all the games, activities and tasks they lead facilitated our bonding experience. They taught us all the skills needed to survive the week and helped us realize how it all related back to our oncoming year abroad.

In previous years, GLOBE Batches spent their study trips in New York City, Boston or Chicago, touring the iconic American cities whilst they went to various corporate events. I’m sure we all would have enjoyed such a trip just as much, but I truly appreciate the change that GLOBE has made and I believe that our batch wouldn’t be as close as we are today if it weren’t for Outward Bound.

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