5 Lessons Learned From New Zealand Coast To Coast Venture

  1. Expect the unexpected.

At Wharton, we are constantly inundating ourselves with information and data to prepare ourselves to make good decisions. However, information sessions, class readings, and Facebook stalking will not prepare you for the curveballs that life throws at you! Take for example, the weather on our Venture: when we ascended the first mountain on Day 3 of our trip, we set out in the morning to make it to our destination campsite, Mingha Biv. When we left camp at 8 AM with a little drizzle, we never expected that 14 hours later we would still be trudging through torrential rains, frequently crossing waist-deep white water rapids and unable to make it to our campsite before dark.

What sets Leadership Ventures apart from many other Wharton opportunities is the ambiguity that comes with trekking in the wild. At Wharton, when we don’t pull our weight on a group project, there are little consequences. Not true on a Venture! Everyone needs to give 100% effort and failure is not an option. Your decisions truly matter – and you often must make them with very little time and information.  But because the stakes are so high, we feel that leading our Venture teams was one of the most realistic, meaningful leadership roles we have taken on at Wharton.


  1. Don’t sweat your personal brand.

From the first week we arrive on campus, we are warned to protect our personal brand and put our best face forward in everything we do. However, Leadership Ventures are all about physically and mentally pushing yourself to your edge. Showers? Forget it. Pooping in the woods? Get used to it. Tears? There are plenty.

People’s true colors emerge very quickly in the high stress situations that Ventures naturally provide. Lucky for us, we had 11 amazing teammates (not to mention 2 fantastic Venture Fellows!) on our trip and were inspired by every person’s selflessness, authenticity, and grit. So if you want to get past the BS conversations and flaky commitments that we often see in our classmates in Philly, a leadership venture is definitely for you.


  1. Attitude is everything.

Looking back on our Venture, everyone experienced some type of “misery” at one point or another – be it extreme cold, wetness, frustration, or physical pain. In challenging situations in our professional or personal lives, we can often opt to avoid the situation, quit, or simply sit back and complain. But when we were halfway up a mountain or biking through crazy hills, these were not viable options.

We quickly learned that being sad or miserable is a choice. When failure is not an option, looking for ways to turn the situation into something positive is often the only way to survive. For example, on our hike we were faced with very dangerous white water rapids and the rain was making the team very cold. We could have complained…but lucky for us, VF Agustina Bellsola broke out into song (the Macarena, no less!) which not only raised our spirits, but even warmed us up. A miserable, scary situation immediately turned into a Spanish dance party in the middle of the mountains!


  1. Get your sh*t in a sock!

Not literally, of course! However, this was one of the biggest pieces of advice our guides gave us before starting our venture: staying organized, prepared, and keeping everything in its place will allow you to operate most efficiently. After trekking, biking, and rafting for over 12 hours a day, we often arrived at camp exhausted. Setting up tents, cooking dinner, and preparing for the next day ran much smoother when we packed smart and moved quickly upon arrival.

Keeping your sh*t in a sock can apply to so many different scenarios we will face as future leaders. Whether we are managing a team, leading meetings, or making crucial decisions, preparation and coordination are crucial for success.


  1. Hungry to be a leader? Learn how to be selfless.

Once we finally reached the eastern coast of the Southern Island of New Zealand, we were both exhilarated and exhausted: it was hard to absorb everything we had been through in the past week, but it sure felt amazing to dip our toes in the freezing Pacific Ocean! It was not until we finally turned in our bikes, showered, and had celebratory toasts that we were able to fully debrief the trip.

As we talked about our experiences, the anecdotes that stood out were the stories of people going the extra mile and looking for opportunities to help others. Whether it was taking on less popular tasks like dishwashing, carrying extra weight, or giving a few words of encouragement, these were the moments that inspired the entire team to continue onward in tough moments.

It quickly hit us that leadership is not about the personal gratification of power or control. It’s about lifting your team up so you can achieve more together than we ever could alone.


THANK YOU to our amazing teammates (Allison Dender, Frem Reggie, Janet Yen, Jeannie Chen, Jenn Schoen, Lila Holzman, Mher Panossian, Ricardo Salinas, and Ryan Dawson), and fantastic VFs (Agustina Bellsola and Will Hilton)!!!

NZ 2


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