On Thursday July 27th, the Women and Leadership cohort was having their challenge course. We all had to meet up with our RA’s at the shuttle stop by 8:00 AM. So, I made sure to get up extra early to ensure that I had enough time to get ready and eat breakfast. I left my hall by 7:00 AM and arrived at the dining hall too early. So, I waited for 7:30 AM for it to open. I hurriedly stuffed my face with oatmeal and coffee and headed back to the shuttle stop. Turns out the shuttle was arriving late so all my scarfing of food was wasted.
When we arrived at the park where the challenge course was taking place, we all gathered into a huge circle. Women and Leadership, Immigration Policy, and Social Entrepreneurship were the courses that went. Turns out the park we were at was gift given to Brown University. It made me pleased to see that the park was being used for these great activities, and not just isolated.
Within the huge circle we all played a warm up game where we put our left hand out and one finger on the person’s hand to the right of us. When the leader RA would say “got you” we would have to close our left hand to catch our neighbors finger, and pull away our right hand to save our finger from the grasp of someone’s left hand. This was a fun game that was intense. I would compare this game to rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time, because it takes a lot of focus.
After our energizer, we learned about a “tick check” where you would check your partner for ticks by looking at their hair line on their neck, and their clothing. To prevent ticks from crawling up our legs and getting into our clothes, we sprayed a bug spray on our shoes. We also talked about lime disease and how to tell if you have it. Essentially, you can tell if you have lime disease by seeing a target-like rash on your body. It will resemble circles of a red rash within other circles just like a target symbol.
After going over the safety, we divided everyone into groups. I got put into a group of 11 students. I knew all my team members fairly well and was happy with them. Zunarah and Esmerelda were also in my group so I was happy about that since we are familiar with each other’s communication style, and work ethic.
The first thing we did was play some team building games, the first one was an elbow chasing game where we would have to lock arms with someone to be safe and then the person that was there would have to detach and run from the tagger. This exercise was more like a fun game to get familiarized with each other than an exercise to work on our communication skills.
The following was a combination game where four bandanas of different colors were placed on the floor and we had to guess the combination of people who went on which colors. This exercise was very stressful and I immediately noticed that communication became hard since everyone was trying to solve it themselves. Everyone had their own methods and ideas of how to solve the combination but many who weren’t in the combination were put aside. I happened to be one of these people and didn’t feel like I could contribute in any way. After the combination was solved we talked about how people were put aside. Then we talked about how it’s important to make sure every group member can put in an idea and is acknowledged. I really think that this exercise showed me a different perspective on leadership. When we are trying to solve a problem we often think about the end goal and forget about including everyone to make sure we are being as effective as possible. Before, for many group projects I would take it upon myself to complete all of the work so that I know it is being completed correctly and successfully. However, now I realize that’s probably one of the least effective ways to solve a problem, since someone might know something important you don’t, or have a smart idea. By becoming put aside, and feeling like I had nothing that I could contribute to the group I know that it is so important to step back and ask each group member their opinion or thoughts on the plan.
Then we played a very interesting game where I was the mouth, Lauren and Zunarah were the eyes, and Victoria was the body. Basically, I had to give directions to Victoria who was blindfolded. However, since I was the mouth I could only speak so that meant that I was blindfolded as well. It was Zunarah and Lauren’s job tell me what to tell Victoria. But since they were just the eyes they couldn’t speak. The only way that we figured out how to communicate was by drawing patterns on my hand with their fingers. For example, a rapid patting on the top of my hand meant to tell Victoria to stop. Drawing a line going straight meant to walk forward. A circle would be to turn. They pushed me down to tell her to kneel and grab an object. This game was harder than I thought but we still managed to complete it. Zunarah and Lauren successfully worked together as a team to get me to understand what to translate to Victoria. I am so proud of us and how great we worked together, even if it was a little confusing.
After that we moved onto trust falls, the point of the exercise is simple, to get your partner to trust you. One partner would lean back and the other would hold them in place before they fell to the ground without hands out straight. This game was easy, but I think that’s because I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and try a trust fall with someone else, instead I did it with Zunarah who I already trust. I think that if I tried this game with someone else it would’ve been way more beneficial for me and my group. Not just to meet new people but to also be an advantage for our future challenges so that we are more comfortable with each other. Similar to the trust falls, next on our list was a levitating game where one person would lay on the ground and be picked up the rest of the group carefully.
We then moved through the forest to go to our first main challenge. The first challenge was to “sail across the ocean to the Bermuda triangle”. Basically, there was a seesaw-like board that we all had to stand on. The objective of the first part was to balance the seesaw and list the seven C’s. The seven C’s are the seven critical values of leadership which are, collaboration, consciousness of self, commitment, congruence, common purpose, controversy with civility, and citizenship. Collaboration means to work with others in a common effort, consciousness of self is being aware of the values that motivate you to make this choice, and commitment is having duration, desire, and concentration. Congruence thinking with honestly, common purpose is to work towards the same goal and share the same values, controversy with civility is to be aware of two opposing ideas and treat them with respect, and citizenship is to be an active group member, and immersed in the group.
For the second part of the challenge we had to try and switch places on the seesaw without having it become unbalanced, this was extremely hard because so many voices were going on at once, and it was so very hectic. People were becoming frustrated and didn’t know who to listen to or what to do. Too many people were focusing on directing everyone, and everyone else didn’t know who to listen to. Our roles became mixed and instead of having two balancers everyone would lean to one side causing the board to starkly hit the ground. We couldn’t complete the task and moved on to the next challenge.
The second challenge was an “island challenge”, where it was three wooden islands and two planks of wood. We had to use both pieces of wood to get across and a few people on top of one side of the plank of wood so that it could stay up without falling to the ground. If the plank of wood or a person touched the ground there would be a punishment. A person would become blindfolded or lose their voice. We couldn’t finish this challenge because we took up too much time deciding on what to do. I think that if we would’ve listened to each other more and listened to the ideas that others had we would’ve been able to finish. Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted we still learned a very valuable lesson in group collaboration.
I think that our main problem was that some people were too focused on using their method to complete the challenge because they saw it was working well. I think that some of us needed to step down and listen to what others were saying. A lot of us became frustrated and didn’t even want to contribute anymore because we weren’t being heard. I learned how important it is to stop even if you are so close to your goal and look at the people around you. You never know, you may just use a different method that works better and is more effective.
I also think that even though we didn’t finish this challenge we still learned something extremely valuable that will follow us throughout our careers and lives. The point of this challenge wasn’t to finish it in the quickest time, it was to learn how to communicate with each other in a way that allowed us to work together proficiently. So, if I could take anything away from this exercise it would be to step back, stop and listen to what’s being said by others.
Not only was this the day of the challenge course, but it was also the day that marks I’ve been gone from home for a whole week. It’s already been a week and it feels like time has flown by, but also at the same time as if I have been here for so long. I reason it’s because I have already learned so much from everyone here. I compare myself to a desiccated sponge who came here without a suspicion, now I am soaking up all this rich knowledge and learning so much about myself and others around me. I realize that the lessons I’m learning right now, are the lessons that are going to be remembered and utilized throughout the rest of my life.