Catherine Hao, A Turning Point, C4
Sometimes when we get used to the current lifestyle or the place where we live in, we seldom make changes and think differently. However, changes can be surprisingly easy and common whenever we put ourselves in a totally different environment, and that’s what I have experienced during my exchange life in North Carolina. Last year around this time, I was still struggling with homesickness. I dwelled in the center of the campus, with several hundreds of students sharing the same building with me. I had some friends, mentors, and advisors keeping in touch with me, but I wasn’t acquainted with many people and I also had no clue about whether I could be fine alone for six long months, let along the lists which I had set up earlier to accomplish. Therefore, I was hesitant when the residence assistant asked me to join in the half-day outdoor challenge course.
Let me introduce this fascinating adventure to you :) Challenge courses are popular among campuses because they are designed to “address the needs of a wide range of participants” and customized to meet a group’s specific goals. Just as the introduction on the webpage of North Carolina State University Recreation, “participants are challenged to expand their comfort zone, build self-confidence, and overcome self-imposed barriers, while being motivated and encouraged by other group members”. This unique experience was held by our residence hall in Global Village and there were thirty of us to participate in the program. On the early Saturday, we were brought to the Schenck Forest, which was 6 miles away from the Central Campus. I remembered that most of us didn’t know each other since we lived in different floors and we were exchange students or first-year college students. In the beginning of icebreaker games, everyone seemed to be reserved and self-restraint.
After the safety-instruction and basic rope usage lesson, we were paired in teams to begin our challenges. When I saw that we were about to do the high course, which meant the elements were built forty feet above ground, I quickly made sure that I securely put on the helmet and the harness. As I climbed up the cargo net and was about to start, I realized that I was really clumsy at using the ropes and the karabiners. For example, when I tried to pass through the Bosun Chairs, I couldn’t help but fell many times. There was even a circumstance that I slipped and was then hung by the rope between two large chairs. What worried me was that I couldn’t lift myself up despite of using all the strength. I could see that everyone presented was trying to help me out, but their hard work was in vain since the distance between was too far to lend a hand. In that instant, I knew I had to do something to break through the obstacle and somehow I could feel others’ faith in me. I thought they believed that I could solve the problem by myself and I persuaded my heart to think in the same way. I tried to swing my body violently; then stretched out my arms and feet as far as I could whenever I got near to the chair. Even though I couldn’t manage to climb on the rope, it didn’t stop me from using other methods. After several attempts, I finally climbed onto the chair and managed to finish this task on my own. To be honest, I felt so contented because of the accomplishment☺
With the confidence and the built-up strength from previous attempts, I was eager to challenge myself more. I had experienced Multi-vine traverse, Burma Bridge, Swinging Log, Floating Islands, and much more. I enjoyed the course a lot more than the beginning and I had a great time with my newly-made friends. We became talkative and encouraged each other in the meanwhile. It was hard to explain the excitement that we had. With all the laughing and shouting, we left all the worries and constraints behind; we simply expressed ourselves and it felt so nice to be the way we were. I could recall the moment when I was about to end the rope adventure course by zip-lining. This entertainment can often be seen in forests, for challengers are able to enjoy the speed, the height and the spectacular view around them. As I slid into the broad-leaved forests along the cable, the experience was one of a kind! I suddenly understood Albert Camus’s words—“Travel, which is like a greater and graver science, brings us back to ourselves.”
All the high courses which I have mentioned so far are more of an individual breakthrough than a real teamwork. However, the last challenge which I had taken before leaving the field was truly cooperative. Pamper Pole looked like an independent task, but it needed ten teammates on the ground to support you in reaching the goal. The concept of “wheel and axle” was used. Basically, I had the sit-harness on and the rope was tied steadily on my back, with the other end holding by ten helpers. Originally, I thought it was easy until I climbed to the top of the wood.
First of all, the diameter of the wood was so small that I almost needed to stand on one foot. Secondly, it made me dizzy when I looked down from the height. The rope on my back was also extremely tight that I felt hard to stand still. When I looked straight at the target bar which I needed to hold onto, it seemed to be far away as if it’s moving away from me. At that time, all I could do was taking a deep breath and keeping concentrated. I told my friends to pull as hard as they could whenever I counted down to one. As for myself, I imagined myself as a flying squirrel, being able to slide through large distance. Guess what? I did it. When I jumped and stretched out my arms, I could feel the lightness of my weight and the wind blew through my hair. The hold of the target bar was like holding the trophies and the cheers from the ground was like a beautiful melody.
Before the adventure began, I was anxious and totally unprepared. Thanks to the invitation of the residence assistant and the encouragement of every participant, I grew stronger and became surer of myself. The individual development of self-confidence, independence and strength, along with the inspiration, well-communication, and trust between each other, I underwent a journey full of hope and love. So why should we be afraid of making differences? Open your heart and embrace new things because the outcome is beyond your imagination!!
Evaluation by Howard Hwai