On Dec. 27, 2016, students from the William Jewell College Pryor Leadership Development Program departed for a 13-day experience with Outward Bound in the Everglades of Florida. With them were three Jewell alumni and the Director of Student Activities, Sara Bailey. While the stories of students who have gone through this experience are well-known, Bailey provides an adult perspective of this “life-changing” trip.
Hilltop Monitor: Why did you go on Outward Bound?
Sara Bailey: I’ve worked at Jewell for 10 years. It was the right timing, a good opportunity to get to know students better and since part of my title is “Leadership Development,” going on Outward Bound to experience it and find out what [Pryor students] go through was helpful.
HM: How exactly does Outward Bound grow a person’s leadership skills?
SB: It’s interesting because you actually learn a lot more about co-leading than you do on leading. You learn and grow as an individual leader but there’s also the opportunity to learn how to lead with your peers. So throughout the course of the time, we would have people who navigated and then we had different people who filled different roles. Like, we had someone called “The Voice on the Water,” which was the person who kept everyone together and made sure we had enough water. Everyone had to find different roles and then within those roles, had to take on leadership.
HM: What was the hardest part of the trip for you?
SB: I did a lot of camping when I was growing up and I’ve been on a lot of mission trips, so the physical dynamics weren’t too much of a stretch for me. So I think one of the most challenging things for me was the fact that I was kind of in limbo. I wasn’t an Outward Bound instructor and I wasn’t full-on part of the team, so my role a lot of the time, like during our final where our guides don’t tell us where we’re supposed to be going, was to basically be quiet. So even if I knew we were going off-course, I couldn’t say anything. I was in that limbo-land where I’m supposed to be doing what the instructors are doing and at the same time, part of the team, but not to the point of adding to it. One of the biggest challenges was turning off leading in some situations so that it wasn’t just me leading the group but it was them co-leading each other. I was choosing to step back and not lead so that the students could get the full experience. Also, I had tons of bug bites.
HM: Did you feel like you could really be a part of your crew even though you were an authority figure to most of them?
SB: That was one of those things that was kind of neat because everybody knew of my role at Jewell so there were moments when they suddenly remembered, “Oh, there’s an administrator here!” but at the same time it was also like, we’re literally all in this boat together. So now I see everybody that was in my crew (shout out to Stealth Toast) around campus and it’s like, “Hey! How ya doing?” You really do get to know everyone when you’re like, this is the trenches and this is outside of my
HM: How do you think you experienced the trip differently from the college students?
SB: I think some of it comes from just having more life experience because of the years of practicing leading. Coming in with the leadership experience I have gotten from my roles at Jewell and then finding myself turning off my leadership [during the trip], I did a lot of reflecting on how much I had grown in my time working at Jewell. The lessons [the Pryor students] were learning made me remember the times when I learned those lessons myself. Watching them learn these lessons for the first time was a good reminder for me to take back home.
HM: By the end of the trip, were you sad to leave or were you ready to go home?
SB: All of the above. I was ready to have a good shower and to not be bitten by bugs as much, so for the general comforts, yes, I was ready to come back. I wasn’t ready to come back to “life” and the tech dynamics. I really enjoyed that dynamic of just being away and being present as opposed to constantly being distracted by our phones. I wasn’t ready to be back in the swing of things because I wanted to process the trip more [as the Panhellenic advisor, Bailey had the stress of recruitment to come back to right after the OB trip].
HM: What lessons did you get from this experience?
SB: There are three main things I keep coming back to. First, when we went through the mangrove tunnels where you’re literally weaving in and out of roots and branches, I was in the front and so I would usually be the first one to encounter each tree. I did not realize it at the time but the girls told me later that I laughed every single time we went under a tree. Some of them were stressed beyond all get out but I was just laughing. I realized that joy is just so much more energizing than frustration. I have been resonating on that. Another lesson came from Whitewater Bay and it was a really windy day. Everyone wanted to take a break but because it was so windy, the waves would just kind of pound you into the mangrove trees so there wasn’t really a safe place to take a break. It’s one of those things where you just keep paddling and that’s your option. So I pondered that one a lot, too. What are the areas in my life where I need to push past that comfort zone? Am I pushing myself enough? What goals do I need to make and not let myself quit? I also learned the value of being seen and being yourself. That was one of the things that was really neat and profound for me on the trip. Just being a part of this team where, even when I am laughing in a tunnel, you have that freedom to just fully be yourself and then to have people see that and recognize that as a benefit to the group.
HM: If you were giving advice to people considering going on Outward Bound, what would you say to them?
SB: It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself in a way that really is unique and different. To completely let go of our tech-based world, it required face-to-face communication. You learn your breaking point and how to get past them. You’ll be uncomfortable and learn how to kind of live in uncomfortable situations which is also a good life lesson to have under your belt. Definitely, if you have the opportunity to go, go. Everyone comes back having learned different life lessons but it’s a good investment in learning who you are. Having talked to some of the other staff members who have gone, one of them said to me, “It was life-changing,” and, in hindsight, I can see what he means now. You’re different because of it. Big or small differences, you come back different because of the experience.