The fourth annual Student Leadership Retreat
By Naomi Ambrose, Contributor
Remember Weekend at Bernie’s, the movie where two friends had an awesome weekend at Bernie’s? Well I just had an awesome weekend too, though not at Bernie’s, and not with only two friends. Mine was at the Student Leadership Retreat, and it was with 50 Douglas College student leaders and staff from the Office for New Students and the Centre for Campus Life.
Imagine walking into the woods with a huge shimmering lake to your left. That was one of my many new experiences during the retreat. With this as our backdrop, Kyle Baillie, manager of the Centre for Campus Life, took us on a mini-trek into the forest to learn about survival skills. He taught us how to use found materials to provide ourselves and others with food, water, shelter, and warmth. He then divided us up into smaller groups and gave us a limited time to do these four tasks.
At first, I felt nervous. I’d never done anything like that, and I wondered whether I’d be bitten by spiders or if Bigfoot was lurking around somewhere. But the survival skills exercise was a brilliant way to demonstrate the true nature of leadership and teamwork. I realized that if I want to be a dynamic leader, I sometimes need to experience unfamiliar situations to challenge my strength of character, my ability to think critically, and my team building skills.
We also participated in an exercise called Personal Sharing Cards. We were randomly paired with another student and the goal was for us to engage in meaningful conversations in a positive and trusting environment by answering a series of questions. At first, I said to myself, “Hm. Dishing out my life story, hopes, and dreams to another student that I don’t know all that well? I don’t think so.” But I kept an open mind and while we spoke, I realized we had a lot in common. I learned that it is always good to be unbiased and to try to build meaningful relationships with people you meet.
There was also a particular segment during the activity that improved my listening skills by paraphrasing what my partner said to me. This was my highlight of the activity. When it was time for my partner to paraphrase what I told her, I discovered that I really love creative writing and I had a passion for helping students speak and present themselves with confidence and professionalism.
I wouldn’t have had all these experiences and made these discoveries if I only came to Douglas to get my credentials and then leave. The retreat gave me an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom, make meaningful connections with other students, and discover new ways of making a difference. I look forward to next year’s Student Leadership Retreat and I hope you do too.