Moving Up Mountains: “Complaining Does Nothing To Achieve A Goal”
Challenge New Zealand Course Teaches 18 Students Leadership’s Many Facets
By Stacey Hartmann, GlobaLinks NewsWire Editor
Words of encouragement.
Turns out these verbal motivators – not gear, muscle or outdoor experience – are the most powerful means of getting 18 North American college students up the side of a chilly New Zealand mountain.
The students, participating in a two-week Challenge New Zealand leadership program of GlobaLinks Learning Abroad June 8-24, faced plenty of obstacles as they started their all-day hike across unfamiliar mountain terrain with only a map and their wits to guide them.
It was Kelcii Peck’s day to lead the group. The 23-year-old senior at Kansas State University describes herself as “directionally challenged,” and to top it off, she wasn’t feeling well.
“I was worried everything was going to fall apart,” says Peck, a nutrition, exercise science and dietetics major from Wichita, Kan., who in her 18 years of playing basketball had felt more growing pains than personal growth in her experiences with leadership. “I was full of doubt that I could do it.”
Meanwhile, Drew Lattier, a 20-year-old junior accounting and operations management major at the University of South Carolina, was ready, yet again, to tackle a challenge presented to the group during its five days of exercises at The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand, named after the famous mountain climber and located near three of country’s most spectacular volcanic peaks.
What Lattier and the rest of group encountered that day represented one of their greatest challenges of the trip – and also one of the most rewarding of their many experiences.
It wouldn’t seem so, however, considering the resulting demands of the hike: eight hours of foot travel; crawling through caves; getting lost; running out of water; blisters, aches and strains; fragile emotions; and a rush against time to set up camp before the chilly night set in.
“Somehow, we bonded together and found a way to keep going,” says Lattier, who is from Kingsport, Tenn. “Somehow, we made the best of a difficult situation and learned that complaining does nothing to achieve a goal.”
In the end, they accomplished what they’d set out to do. They made it to camp – together – and back down.
“I was really amazed by the verbal encouragement,” Peck says.
She saw members of the group help one another carry heavy packs and lend their hands to fellow hikers over tricky terrain and slick areas of the trail.
“It felt almost as if we’d become a family in that short two weeks,” Peck says. “Everybody was on each other’s team and wanted each other to be successful.
For Peck, it was the leadership challenge that restored confidence in her abilities.
“I had people come up and say to me afterwards that I was confident,” she says, “and they felt safe while I was leading that we weren’t just wandering into the abyss.”
The many leadership lectures, journal entries, Maori cultural lessons and outdoor challenges left her with lasting impressions, too, mainly that she should branch out and get to know more people and embrace with confidence her leadership skills.
“There was a closeness that happened that I really didn’t expect,” she says. “It made me realize how distant I’d become over the years.”
The group is making sure not to let the physical distance between them blunt the impact of their time together, so they keep in touch via text and Facebook.
“I would say that every single one of the students was affected by the course,” says Michael Creech, a GlobaLinks Learning Abroad regional director who led the group, “and while they all took away something different, and each had their own challenges, they came together as a team more than I thought possible over just a couple of weeks.”
Since returning, the group has created T-shirts, designed by Peck and based on group input, that feature the Maori “koru,” a symbol for new beginnings and friendships, other symbols of their experiences and participants’ names in a circle.
For Lattier, the lessons learned in New Zealand are finding real purpose in his daily life.
“It’s a can-do attitude that I took back from that experience,” he says, “that really has given me even more of a drive to never stop going for my goals.”