Czarina's Reflection Letter

summer program

Many Summer Search students have said that their wilderness trip changed their lives. I’ve heard it plenty of times but never truly understood what they meant, until I experienced it myself. I went on a 21-day All Girls trip with Environmental Traveling Companions. Throughout the trip we went on a ropes course, sea-kayaking, organic farming, whitewater-rafting, and expedition backpacking. I expected to gain confidence on my trip, but I never thought I would open up to people so much.

My trip with ETC involved taking risks ranging from physical, mental and emotional. Growing up in an environment where sharing my emotions and opinions was taboo taught me to be cautious of my words and actions. Being encouraged to open up was a frightening experience for me. I started making friends by taking the safe route through sharing stories about my childhood, school, family, music, and slowly unfolded as the days continued. Afterward they shared their interests and stories, and we found that we had a lot in common. We had a nightly ritual called council where we shared our emotions, accomplishments, and what we wanted to improve on. There is a special portion in council where one person per night shared her life story. Afterward the audience shared comments or questions about the story. I often chose to skip the comment and question portion because I was afraid that if I expressed my opinions I would be insulted and embarrassed. I didn’t want to risk being judged the way my family judged me. The leaders told me council was a safe zone, a place where I didn’t have to worry about expressing myself. I slowly gained trust and believed council was a safe zone so I began to ask questions, share comments, and even shared my life story! When I shared my story I let my mind, emotions, and voice take me away. I was no longer afraid what my audience would possibly think afterwards, if I would make a mistake, or if I would be myself. I finally came out of my shell and freed myself. All along I thought I was afraid of what other people thought, but I was actually afraid of what I thought and my self-expectations. I’m slowly gaining confidence in my thoughts, words, actions and myself.

As I look back on the adventures I’ve gone through, the friends I’ve made, and lessons I’ve gained, I feel immensely blessed. I took huge risks when I voiced my emotions and opinions, but I learned that if I don’t take risks I will forever be glued to the pavement. I never expected in my entire lifetime that I would be given the chance to gain so much more than straight A’s. What I’ve learned from my trip is beyond what can be printed on a transcript because, what I learned is engraved in me. Like the song “For Good” from the Broadway Musical Wicked says, “So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You'll be with me like a hand print on my heart.” I will forever cherish the lessons I learned from my trip. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to change “For Good.”

With much gratitude,

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