by Jenvit Seriburi WG’16
Whenever I heard the phrase “Leadership Venture,” I always thought of how expensive and how tough the experience would be. However, after spending one week in Ecuador on the Cotopaxi trip, I now associate “Leadership Venture” with “the best experience I’ve had at Wharton.”
One of the most surprising things from the trip was just how much I learned about leadership. There were many elements of venture that helped me and other participants to grow. From the first day, we were split into two patrols of twelve. Each patrol then spent time talking about our mission, goals, and strategy for the whole trip. In addition, every day we’d assign a Leader of the Day who would lead the patrol and every evening we’d conduct an after action review (AAR). These activities might sound cliché—but trust me, they weren’t.
Over the course of the Venture, you could see people evolve and step up to the challenge. For example, one of my teammates came into the trip wanting to be better motivator, and was randomly assigned to be a cheerleader for the patrol on our mountain climbing day. He came up with patrol chant and motivated us to keep climbing all the way to the top! No one would have believed that his goal was to be a better motivator! (His voice yelling, “A team that hydrates together, stays together” is still stuck in my head.)
Even though a Leadership Venture allows you to take risks and do something you haven’t done before, it would not be as meaningful without the support of an amazing patrol. For example, my patrol was open-minded and cooperative when I was Leader of the Day. They could have ignored me or our cheerleader when we tried to motivated them with songs and random quotes, but they didn’t, and even cheered along with us.
Moreover, I truly believe that the relationship you can create with your team is truly special. During the eight days our patrol spent together, everyone cared about one another and was totally selfless. We cleaned each other’s boots, shared each other CLIF bars and Gu gels (the most delicious food ever—OK, I lie), and motivated one another to make it to the top. In fact, the person who I was most reluctant to speak to at the beginning of the trip turned out to be one I admired the most, and is now a good friend of mine. I came back to Philadelphia knowing that I had 23 new best friends who had shared one of the toughest times together with me.
At the end of the day, this trip was more than just a mountaineering trip. It was leadership training, relationship building, and a meaningful climbing.
As our guide asked, “What’s the point of making the peak but missing the point?” I learned from the trip that making it to the top was awesome but the top would literally mean nothing without my team standing next to me.
Thank you Cotopaxi, I’ll never forget you.
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