Novices; plural of novice- someone who is just beginning to do something; someone who is not yet a full member of a community. Synonyms: learner, beginner.
Leadership Safari is a four day program at the beginning of the year for incoming freshmen at Central Michigan University. At Leadership Safari, students have the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of leadership, how leadership is portrayed throughout campus at CMU, and to branch out of their comfort zone to new relationships and experiences. There is no other freshmen orientation that can even be compared to Leadership Safari.
At Leadership Safari, the participants were all broken into small groups of about ten participants and one student safari guide on the very first night. I did not know anyone in my group of black leopards, and I had no clue that I would spend the next four days learning about what kind of experience we were going to get here at CMU through tears, laughter, and anger. I had gone to countless leadership conferences in the past, by this time I thought I was a pro and had done all there was to do at a leadership conference, but I had no idea how all of the things that Safari has to offer can make such a huge impact on someone.
Coming into this, we were all novices. We were new. Whether you had never attended a leadership conference, never been away from your parents for that long, or were just a new student at CMU this was a new experience for everyone. The truth is, I don’t think anyone came into this expecting what they got out.
Between talking about extremely personal topics with practically strangers, crying to slam poetry, and activities that show you who you really are, this week is hard. This week is exhausting. This week is uncomfortable. This week is sad. This week is happy. This week is only described in one word as “Safari”.
The toughest thing for me during this week was being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I try to hide it because I know that it is not a strength of mine, but I am very shy. I wouldn’t say I don’t like meeting new people or trying new things, but they scare me. Like I said, Safari is full of new things and new people. There is not one activity that you do where you don’t either try a new thing or meet a new person. So having to be out of my comfort zone this entire week was hard for me. I recognized this right away. I recognized within the first hour of Safari that this was going to be a challenge, so in everything that I did, I tried to figure out ways that I could push myself as far as I possibly could.
Recognizing ways that you can push yourself and others around you to be better is one of the most import parts of leadership. By being able to see your own strengths and weaknesses, you are able to act upon them to utilize your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Safari was an amazing way to practice the skill of self evaluation and stepping out of your comfort zone because we were constantly doing things to push us to our highest potential.
Leadership Safari opened my eyes to the fact that there is always more to be learned. There is always more to benefit from. There is always more to do. Like I said, the number of leadership conferences I have attended in my years is probably close to record breaking (sorry I’m dramatic, I know). So coming into Safari, I had done a lot of the activities we did. I had heard almost anything that the speakers said somewhere, sometime before; but there was something different about hearing it in a place where everything and everyone is new. There is something to be said about an atmosphere where you are surrounded by people who are there because they want to make a difference. Being in a place like that makes you see things differently. It’s hard to explain, but you realize that there are so many things that are so much bigger than yourself and you start to hear things a little bit differently and start to see things through different eyes. Safari showed that no matter how many times you hear the same speech, no matter how many times you play the same game, no matter how many times you’ve done the trust fall, you are always looking at things from a different set of eyes than you did the last time and there is always more to be taken out of these things than what you may have gotten before.
Overall, Safari is definitely one of those things where you get out what you put in. It is however an experience that is impossible to not take anything out of. I would recommend Leadership Safari to any incoming freshmen. In fact, I think I may even go back next year as a Safari Guide because I’d like to help other freshmen have an as poignant experience as I had.