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SEP. 3, 2014

Courage and Self-Reliance in the Outdoors

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The first day of school is infamous. It’s full of uncertainty, awkward interactions, potential, and hopes for the year to come. Students at the OA face the additional challenges of a fresh place, completely unfamiliar faces, foreign scheduling, and new social practices. Perhaps nowhere is this felt more acutely than during our outdoor Orientation Trek, where we begin in earnest to learn what self-reliance and courage really means.

My trek group, one of three, were still learning one another’s names as we unloaded our packs from the van. And yet each of us had invested months, at the very least, to prepare for this point. After all that time and anticipation, we were finally here. Something completely new to all of us had  begun. Laura, the other Trek  leader, started up a trail clutched by roots and shaded by trees, and one by one we all followed.

We trekked with loaded packs through mud, over fallen trees, past wasp nests, and across streams;  alternately facing heat and the threat of afternoon storms. Feet hurt, blisters started on chaffing skin, and shoulders ached, but even in our shyness and soreness laughter was never far from us. It crept in as we hiked, while students cooked, as they hung bear bags high in the trees, washed dishes, and set up tarps each evening. Only we could teach and learn what was needed to live out here and only we could make it fun. It takes time and practice to find the beauty in a hard day, in rough weather, or in a new community; and more than anything it takes COURAGE. Our students learned to find that beauty quickly on Orientation Trek.Or Trek 1

Moments like these, the start of an Orientation Trek, show better than any other activity why OA depends upon self-reliance. We were thrown together with all that we need in our new homes on our backs and in each other: we brought nothing more. Such a move cannot be made without bravery, curiosity, the desire to push yourself in new ways, and the conviction that the OA semester will be worth every precious moment.

Franklin Jacoby


Franklin Jacoby
Resident Wilderness Leader

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