Imagine sitting in a room filled with over 2,000 students bursting with school pride. Imagine sitting in that same room as a first time college student hardly knowing anyone. The thought can be pretty intimidating. My first week at Central Michigan University perfectly mirrored that description. As an entering freshman, I had the opportunity to attend what CMU likes to call, Leadership Safari. It was a week filled with team building exercises, guest speakers, meeting new people, and bonding with Team Dolphin.
During the week, the entire body of 2,000 students was broken down into smaller groups consisting of closer to ten students. Every team was given an animal name to call themselves (embracing the “safari” aspect of the program). Each group had a safari guide who was trained to be incredibly enthusiastic about everything CMU, which helped with keeping the energy level at a high all week.
My favorite activity during the week was executing trust exercises with Team Dolphin. The exercises really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and forced myself to put full faith in people I hardly knew. One of the most intimidating trust exercises was the trust fall. The person falling was told to stand with their heels on the edge of a box about five feet in the air, and completely trust the idea that the group was going to catch them. In any normal circumstance, I would have never attempted that fall. My subconscious told me to take the leap of faith though, and step outside of my comfort zone. Leadership Safari encouraged myself to be more daring and less afraid of the unknown, which are both necessary to improve as an individual.
As you can probably imagine, Leadership Safari was a week full of new experiences. I moved into an unfamiliar dorm room with unfamiliar people, I was left in a new place with no one to lean on for moral support, and I experienced attending a leadership camp for the first time. Needless to say, there was lots of opportunity for personal growth to occur.
During the week, a variety of motivational speakers/performers came to speak on behalf of an important message they wanted to get across to the student body. One of the most inspirational and eye-opening performances, for me, was slam poetry night featuring The Asia Project. The poet recited a piece dedicated to his sister who recently passed away from cancer. The poem put a lot of emphasis on the idea that too often the most important things in life are the things that are taken for granted. In many ways, that message translates well with where I am at in my life right now.
To make a point, only a select group of students get the opportunity to go away to school each year. Thinking that way makes me feel guilty about how insecure I have felt while away at school, I should be focussing on how grateful I am to have this incredible opportunity. Secondly, every day is a gift. Each morning we should be waking up fortunate to be surrounded by love, and thankful for the opportunities presented in front of us. Leadership Safari has provided me with an outlook on life that will be beneficial for my future at Central Michigan University and beyond.
This new outlook on life will also encourage myself to stay humble. Remaining grateful pushes a person to continue working hard towards their goals. There is a difference between being confident and arrogant. If you assume success will continue coming your way, it is inevitable for things to eventually come crashing down. It is important to continue working hard despite how successful you may be.
Never would I have thought that when I signed up for this experience months ago, I would be walking away a changed person. I will be forever grateful for the new values Leadership Safari has instilled in my life.