Wilderness orientation creates strong base for SNC students
From a WO leader’s perspective, SNC gives a unique opportunity to Freshman students
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Wilderness Orientation (WO) has been the building blocks for my college career here at SNC to both gain the connections I needed to be successful as well as the confidence to pursue challenges that I may not have originally faced. The WO trip was so important that I felt the need to help continue this as a leader myself. Students these days are filled with social anxieties, fears of not being capable enough to cope with the large workload, worries of never making any friends at school and even concerns of never amounting to anything in the working world. These issues are legitimate and many schools have a difficult time addressing these problems from the starting gate. My own experience of WO made me want to contribute to these new students and give them the strong starting point that I was given because of it. The professional preparedness I felt after being part of this orientation is what I want all students to feel attending SNC.
With leadership, many of the skills taken in the backcountry translate with relative ease into the front country. For example, when working on a group project, it helps that someone takes the lead who is confident in their ability to express themselves for both the tasks at hand and the plan on how to approach the goal. A leader in the backcountry also looks at his or her group’s strengths and weaknesses. This is vital when divvying out tasks and projects to members of your team. This is both important the backcountry and the front country. Without the ability to recognize your group’s abilities, you will find yourself hard pressed for success in the later goings of your project. The other task of a WO leader is time management. When backpacking, it is key that you and your co-leader come to a consensus on when to leave camp, times to take breaks and about what time you want to reach camp. These pieces are important because if the weather were to change and become drastically hotter, being out of the sun will keep the group spirits up and the functionality on high. Rushing through a task will have a higher likelihood of diminishing results and less effort from the team.
To be a WO leader, you have to be willing to be both an ambassador for the school and the ideals they embody as well as a mentor for the new students attending SNC. As I mentioned before, the primary things I gained being in the WO orientation were confidence and connections, but I also gained respect and love for the outdoors and the importance of why the environment around us must be protected. As a WO leader, we also taught the importance of service to our wilderness by helping clean and trail maintenance through Phipps Pass, a portion of Desolation just outside of Rubicon Lake. Being able to experience the hard work needed to keep these trails clean allowed the new students to gain a better awareness of what it takes to be able to visit these beautiful locations.
The skills gained as a leader are vital in preparing yourself for the professional working world. For one, you are leading a group of hikers that could be your employees at a job. As a leader, you do not want to place yourself on a pedestal, but rather try and keep yourself as close to level as possible with them. Some of the best reviews I got back from the students were that the leaders were “lots of fun, but serious when necessary.” A leader needs to embody these skills to gain both the respect from his or her employees as well as maintaining an approachable characteristic so these employees feel safe about asking questions about the job. If it were not for these WO trips, my professional ability would be much more stunted.