The top reasons why a week on the frozen tundra of Antarctica was a curiously life changing experience…
As the plane started to descend below a thick layer of clouds, I peered outside the window. Beyond was the world in grayscale. I had never seen this much snow in my life and I was on the verge of panic. Minutes later, the plane had dropped us off on a gravelly runway and taken off, as if it were in a hurry. And I said to myself, “I have spent thousands of dollars to get here – seven days in the coldest of places. What was I thinking????!!!”
But, by the end of it I couldn’t have imagined a better use of my winter break. I think speak for 39 Wharton MBA candidates when I say that the week since the fateful landing above was an absolute B.L.A.S.T! While I am sure that everyone took away many different things from that week in Antarctica, here are my top reasons why it was a curiously life changing experience –
1. The tent snuggles – How many Whartonites can you fit in a 48 sqft. tent? 14 when you are in Antarctica. At that point, it doesn’t really bother you that everyone stinks.
2. Boiling water – First, pick up snow that looks clean. Second, put it to boil on a really small burner. Third, wait for 15-20 minutes. Voila! You’ve got one bottle of water.
3. The Poop tube – The Poop tube was your friend and crucial to your sustenance. You get used to (some said they even enjoyed it!) going behind the rocks, often with a penguin staring at you.
4. The Penguins – There are two kinds of penguins you will see on the trip. One species is a bird that is small and very cute. The other species dresses like a bird, is rather large, loud and not cute at all.
5. The Seals – You will see sea lions and elephant seals. The sea lions are playful and very active. The elephant seals, on the other hand could win the “Laziest creature on Earth” contest.
5a. More Seals – By the end of the trip you will go from “LOOK! A seal!” to “UGH! A seal!” It was worst when we were told to flee from the tent at night if we felt it shaking. Why? Because it meant a seal was trampling it.
6. The damn SKUA – Question: How does a bird dumb enough to be eaten by elephant seals make your life so miserable around the campsite?? Answer: Overconfidence. They think they can fly away with a bag that’s twice their weight, only to crash into a rock.
7. The best New Year – A dip in the Antarctic Ocean and slumber party in an Igloo that YOU built. Add to that flare gun fireworks and a non-alcoholic sparkling drink (thank you VFs), and you’ve got yourself a New Year’s Eve that you’ll never forget.
8. No network – It turns out that you can survive without Facebook and Gmail.
9. The amazing guides – I could not imagine that people did ventures like this for fun, but their stories amazed and inspired all of us. (So did Ernest Shackleton, but no one could get past the fact that he was solely responsible for significantly lowering the seal population in Antarctica.)
10. The VFs – Three incredible people who reminded us that at the end of the day, Whartonites could speak about leadership experiences for HOURS on a daily basis.
11. Last but not the least, your amazing rope team. The team that eats together, sleeps together, hikes together and pretty much does everything together. People that you will trust with your life.