5 Lessons From My Most Unconventional College Course

New Brunswick Tourism CC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/tourismnewbrunswick/
New Brunswick Tourism CC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/tourismnewbrunswick/
This spring, I took a class called “Adventure Games” at college. Just getting into the class was a long shot. As one of the most popular courses at William and Mary, securing a spot meant crossing your fingers and hoping the class registration gods would smile upon you. Somehow, I lucked out! “Adventure Games” took me out of my comfort zone in nearly every way. The course provided some super cool experiences and several valuable lessons:

  1. Teamwork Is the Real Deal
    To begin the semester, we did a lot of trust-building activities. One was a typical “trust fall.” It was difficult to just let go, but in this course (as well as in life sometimes) that ability is really important. And even though I was the only one my classmates dropped (don’t worry, I was fine), it was a good way to show us that we had each other’s backs. I gained confidence in the people I was sharing this experience with, even though only a few weeks ago I hadn’t known most of them. I learned how important it is to have a team supporting you when you are starting something scary, and how (cliché as it sounds), everyone is so much stronger when they work together.

  2. Take Your Time, Do It Right
    A lot of our activities involved a technique known as belaying, where one person climbs a ladder, rock wall, tree, or anything else while harnessed to a tether. Several people on the ground are responsible for securing the climber above. We had to learn to use a lot of new equipment, and we also had to strategize about who would belay whom. If the belayers weren’t heavy enough, someone could fly in the air when the climber came down (this happened a couple of times). Learning these techniques was complicated and sometimes not the most interesting, but it was vital for safety. Taking the time to learn to do it right was worth the effort. I’m starting graduate school to become a physician assistant in the fall, and the importance of precision and safety is definitely a lesson I’ll carry with me.

  3. An image of the "belaying" technique from Laura's class.
    An image of the “belaying” technique from Laura’s class.
  4. Get Comfy with Discomfort
    I took this course when the weather was really cold. One day, we were scheduled to go zip lining across a lake. I’d never gone before, but I thought it would be both scary and exciting. The downside? It was about 13 degrees. To pass the class I had to attempt it, which would have ordinarily been fine, but in weather that cold? I’m not super tough, so the experience was pretty painful. I subjected myself to a lot of temporary discomfort for something I knew was worth it. I was glad I stuck it out because it was pretty awesome to have that experience. I highly recommend it! Another upside — I didn’t feel scared at all, because there isn’t much room for fear of heights when you’re pondering the shade of blue your toes are turning.

  5. You’ll Probably Fail, but It’s Cool.
    We spent a lot of class doing activities on a ropes course in the woods, 45 to 65 feet in the air. Yikes! They tested our balance, strength, and strategy, and some were harder than others. Nearly everybody stumbled or fell at some point. (Including me.) Because we had formed our team early and were well-trained on the equipment, everyone emerged pretty much unscathed. And while I often struggle with embarrassment when I fail, I learned that everyone struggles, and no one can do everything perfectly, all the time. Rather than tear each other down, I watched happily as we cheered each other on and supported each other. It gave me a little taste of what life could be if we focused on building each other up.

  6. Remember, Baby Steps
    One of the last activities in the course involved repelling 65 feet down the side of a building. We were told about this on day one of the course, and it seemed impossibly difficult and terrifying. We started off with more manageable activities and slowly built up to the challenge. When it was time to climb down the building, we had practiced belaying and climbing so much that it seemed downright simple. And it was! A lot of my friends remarked about how it actually was one of the least scary experiences we had. I learned that something might seem insurmountable at first, but careful repetition and practice can help develop the courage to take on something scary.

Laura Stephens

Laura Stephens is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and is studying to become a physician assistant at DeSales University. She thinks God, her family, her friends, Catholic Social Teaching, writing, movies, cooking, and doing yoga are pretty awesome.