Favorite Activity in the United States (So Far…)

We asked our students to reflect on a favorite activity or experience in the US. UGRAD student Sara Santini (Serbia) studying at California State University- Monterey Bay shared her favorite adventure so far.

I’ve seen a lot of things I liked, and I’ve done many interesting thinSara Santini- Ropes Course 1gs so far. At first I was planning to write about one of the day trips I had, but then, this morning, I did something very, very interesting.

Today I went to a ropes challenge course organized by the Outdoor Recreation Club at my university. I wasn’t sure what a ropes challenge course actually was, but it sounded quite fun, and the other international students were supposed to come too, so I expected it to be good. I actually thought it would be more physically challenging, but in fact, it was mostly a mental challenge of overcoming the boundaries you set for yourself in your head, and that’s why I liked it so much.

I arrived and was surprised to see that there were only two girls there! There were also about 15 people from the Outdoor Recreation Club, but only 3 international students! It turned out to be good, because that gave us a lot more space to try all the challenges as many times as we wanted. The course itself is in the woods surrounding the campus… The ropes challenge course looks like a lot of high wooden pillars, with ropes between them. Maybe it’s more common here, but I’ve never seen one back home…

All I saw were these pillars and ropes, and I couldn’t quite distinguish what I was supposed to do. So I just put on the climbing belt and approached the girl who was leading us through the course.

‘You wanna try this one?’, she asked me. She showed me a pillar that was separated from the others. I didn’t see the difference, so I just accepted, but it turned out to be one of the most challenging ones.

‘So, what you do is just climb up to the top. It gets a bit wiggly and windy on the top, but when you get there, you should just stand up straight on the top of the pillar.’

‘And then?’

‘Then you jump!’

I decided not to think about it too much, I just started climbing. The only thing I could hold onto was the pillar (it had small steps, so it wasn’t hard to climb). Apart from that I just had my security rope for getting down. I was on my own. When I got to the top, it was kind of scary to stand up – the wind was blowing and the pillar was shaky. I stood up and looked around. The view was really cool: it was foggy, so I just saw the green trees and the white fog… Usually, you can see the ocean from there.

‘Now just jump!’

I looked down and realized I was really high, and I had nothing but the rope on my back, so I felt a bit insecure. The climbing, and choosing that challenge, it all happened a bit fast and unexpectedly, so I felt kind of surprised to find myself all the way up there, having to jump.

But I just did it!

And it was so nice, and exciting! I didn’t even feel the impact on my back from jumping, because of all the belts I had on me… So it was really good! I slowly came down, and the girl congratulated me, and separated the rope from my belt and let me go try the other challenges. My legs felt a bit shaky from the adrenaline, but I really liked what I did.

IMG_1747The shaky legs didn’t help a lot when I tried the next challenge, where I climbed up an even higher pillar and had to get to the other one by crossing over a wooden log. It is wide enough so you don’t lose balance, but still, being so high without anything to hold onto (except your security rope) makes you nervous, which makes you panic and lose your balance. But when I did that one and the other ones, I felt really good. I really liked the one you do in pair: you and your partner cross the distance between pillars over a thin rope, without anything to hold on to. There are vertical bars that keep you balanced, but they are too spread apart. So, in order to cross from one bar to another, you have to work with your partner – they hold you while you let go of the bar and start walking to the next one, and when you reach it, you help them cross over to that point.

I felt so confident about myself! I realized it was all in my head. I was actually very secure, so I needed to calm my mind and trust my abilities, because none of the challenges were actually physically too hard to do. They were pretty easy, you just can’t let yourself panic and doubt yourself. You must trust yourself and just start going, calmly.

I got so confident that at the end I even crossed the challenge with the log once more, but having my eyes blindfolded from the moment I started climbing to the moment I reached the ground! I even went part of the log backwards!  All in all, it was a very fun, adrenaline-filled, and inspiring beginning of the day.

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