This article is divided into two parts:
Let’s first begin by stating that Anu’s story is not a one off incident. There are several other people like her who have learnt life long lessons from their experience in the mountains.
This is the story of how transformative this experiential learning program is:
A Drop In The Ocean
Anu was part of Rahul’s team in their Himalayan Mountain Challenge Program. While Anu was a timid, soft spoken girl, Rahul was the college’s topper and her team leader.
As he directed the team with confidence, Anu felt reassured that they were in good leadership.
She really felt like a drop in the ocean. She believed everything would be fine as long as everyone did their assigned job well.
Taking The Lead
The mountains are a rough place to be.
The heavy backpacks, the hard terrain and the biting cold were beginning to bring Anu’s team down. All of her team members were struggling to keep moving forward, including their team leader Rahul.
The Himalayan Mountain Challenge does not allow teams to drop out. So when Rahul said the words “let’s just enjoy the trek”, everyone understood what he meant.
They were going to give up on the challenge.
Anu was disturbed. This wasn’t right! Why should they give up? They have come so far! Through her timidness she spoke up “now that we are here, let’s give it our best shot.” The teammates were not very amused with her words but they did find reason in her words.
Anu’s team was not the first, or second, or the third team to reach the summit. But they did make it to the finish line.
Things Get Harder
As the Challenge progressed, the team exercises also began to get more complex. Anu’s team was not faring well.
When it came to planning and strategizing for a task, it was difficult to hear one person over the other. Some would use loud voice, some used sarcasm and some sulked.
It was no surprise that her team was losing challenge after challenge.
Learning Through Reflection
The Himalayan Mountain Challenge is a program built upon the principles of experiential learning. At the end of each day, the students sit down and reflect on their experience so far. This is the time they can introspect and learn from their experiences.
During her reflection session, Anu thought about why her team was losing at all challenges. She began to question her beliefs.
She realised that her team was greatly flawed at communicating with each other. They lacked the humility to listen to their fellow teammates. They were not generous to consider another one’s ideas and this brought about fear of expressing thoughts.
After realising this fundamental flaw, Anu began to take up the facilitative role in the team. She found that she was able to calm down a heated situation and allow people to talk to each other.
Nourishing A Team
A team can flourish like a thriving tree if the conditions and components are right.
The reflection session had a positive effect on not only Anu, but her whole team as well. Each one realised what they had to improve in order to make the team function as one unit.
The more they slowed down and listened to each other, the more their trust built. They realised that achieving the common goal is much bigger than their personal likes and dislikes. As their teamwork improved, Anu found strength in herself. She found out that she was capable of much more than she had thought. Most of all, she was able to come of her shell of unconfidence. And she would carry this new found strength of hers for the rest of her life!
How Do We Facilitate Such Change?
Such a change in temperament is the result of three things: 1) the experiential learning model, 2) the focus on team effort exercises, 3) and the students’ willingness to apply their learnt skills and learn new skills.
To begin with, the Himalayan Mountain Challenge is in the format of a competition. We want students to actively apply their minds instead of taking it as a holiday.
The next element is the team environment. All the challenges in this Program necessarily require teams of consult, plan, strategise and execute their decisions together. Moreover, universal participation is a must- a team cannot ride on the strengths of a few.
As a result, the stronger members are able to further sharpen their skills. And the weaker members are able to look into themselves and find out how they can contribute to the team. This moment of revelation is always life changing for the student.
The best way to look inside of oneself and find hidden strengths is through the ‘Reflection’ session that is conducted every evening. The students come together with their program facilitator and discuss about their day, their teams and how they can improve. Negative points are evaluated and their solutions are discussed. What this leads to is building of trust between the team members. With repetitive reflection sessions, the teams bond and start working as a whole unit.
This Program is conducted in a rugged, outdoor environment. It is much outside the comfort zone of the students. This forces the students to face hardships and adapt. The students realise that to reach the finish line, they must move together, help each other, depend on and encourage their teammates. Taking one step at a time leads to a much bigger result. And all these life lessons are learnt in the backdrop of the ever resilient Himalayas.
What you should do now
1) If you would like to read more articles on Experiential Learning, click here.
2) If you are interested in signing up for this programme, then contact us here.
3) If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do, then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.
4) If you want to see the 13 best treks of India, then get our free guide book here.