September 27, 2017

Reflecting on their lives is a key part of every Summer Searcher’s journey. After our high school sophomores complete their first summer program, they write a reflection letter to process their Summer Search experience thus far.

This is an opportunity to put into words who they are, and to take an honest look back at the challenges, triumphs, and growth that has happened since joining Summer Search. It’s a practice that, alongside their weekly conversations with their mentors, helps students integrate these profound summer experiences into their lives, as well as a chance to practice writing a personal statement for college.

These pieces are generally composed after the summer programs are completed during the start of the students’ junior years. Not everyone writes a reflection ten years later… but that’s just what Bay Area alumnus Alvin Sng did!

Alvin SngSummer Search Bay Area alumnus Alvin Sng.

Inspired by the 10-year anniversary of his first Summer Search experience, he decided to dust off the old photos and share his transformative story on his own personal blog.

“10 years ago, I completed a 30-day, 135-mile backpacking expedition across the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. This rare opportunity was organized by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to educate on the outdoors, wilderness survival, and leadership.”

2007 Alvin Sng NOLS groupAlvin (far left) with a few fellow NOLS travelers in 2007.

Alvin, who is the vice chair of the Summer Search Bay Area Alumni Board, as well as a volunteer and donor, reflected on the lessons learned from that adventure, and how he applies them to his life now, lessons that include: working as a team, taking risks, hard work, and gaining an appreciation for the outdoors.

When it comes to hard work, Alvin said, “This trip changed my outlook on hard work. Previously, I never would have imagined being able to hike 135 miles. Coming home from the trip, my normal life felt so much easier and less challenging in comparison. Now, working long hours and taking on new responsibilities don’t feel as taxing as before. Now, I use my backpacking course as a standard to push myself harder.”

Alvin definitely puts that work ethic to use in his professional life as a Software Engineer at Airbnb (his resume also includes stints at Facebook and Cisco, as well as being the founder of a web startup).

Outside of work, he really enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling. Alvin says that his affection for the outdoors was strongly influenced by his NOLS experience a decade ago.

2007 Alvin Sng mountainsAlvin in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming with NOLS in 2007.

“By being so remote from civilization, there were no distractions. It was the perfect environment to reflect, meditate, and relieve stress. The long break away from the bustling city life allowed one to think deeper, something that was hard to do with our everyday lifestyle. After experiencing the calming and healing effects of being surrounded by nature, I’ve grown a stronger connection with the outdoors. I’ve since traveled to dozens of National Parks across the country to find a break from the normal routine. Each time I return to the outdoors, I get the same positive feelings from my backpacking trip.”

You can read the rest of Alvin’s reflection on his blog, and follow his other adventures, from the world wide web to the whole wide world.

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