“My 8 Month Outward Bound Course Experience”

Niki King shares her personal growth, and perspective on what it’s like to be an Outward Bound Instructor.

As a field staff instructor for Outward Bound, I thought it might be helpful to share the perspective of someone in this position and a little about my own 8 month Outward Bound course…

When I arrived at the initial Town Hall gathering in the Baltimore ballroom I was extremely nervous. There were over 50 Outward Bound staff laughing, joking, hugging, and conversing with one another meanwhile I didn’t know what part of the room I should stand in.  But then, I spotted a familiar face in the crowd, someone I recognized from the Philadelphia area, my elementary school in fact, so when I approached this woman and asked if she had children that went to SRS and she replied yes I felt relieved. My next question was “do you work for Outward Bound?” She chuckled to herself, and so did the people surrounding us who had overheard the question; I froze in place, and said “You are probably, like, the Executive Director or something aren’t you?” And Katie Pastuszek nodded. So I thought to myself, “strike one”.

I spent the rest of the day surrounded by a group of wonderful people, but little did I know the friendships I would form with them over the following months.

The next day was the start of all staff training. So 9 of us new staff went out on course with Shawn Forry and Erica Morey (just a couple of OB legends).  In this time we formed an amazing bond and I learned not only from our instructors but also each member of the Beaver Shark crew. My take away after course in regards to my perceived ability as an instructor was that: my soft skills or people skills were pretty decent, but my hard skills needed a lot of work.

In the following weeks as I learned much more about Outward Bound, the student population we work with, the overarching goals and objectives, and the impact we strive to make in these student’s lives, I decided…this is where I am meant to be right now.

But it wasn’t easy. Learning new systems, soaking in a ton of information, trying to improve on a thousand things I had already received feedback on, and going out on course with students as a third- while still developing my own leadership style… it was a lot. And if this was any other organization it might have been too much.

The overflowing support and care provided by the staff at the Philly and Baltimore bases is what kept me around.  The genuine investment in the emotional well-being of the employees here is uplifting.  I can’t imagine there are many work environments filled with people who are as thoughtful, self-less, patient, caring, creative, and down to earth as this special community of people.  Your dedication and commitment to your job make me want to show up to work each day and do my best.

The unique thing about this position is that when instructing a course, each is completely different from the next. Not only are our students partaking in a learning experience, but as an instructor, we are participating in our own Outward Bound course that brings to light a greater awareness about ourselves, how we work with others, what strengths we possess, or the changes that need to take place in order to improve as a leader, friend, person, etc.  It is an opportunity for growth and reflection on a weekly basis.

Some things I learned about myself while working for Outward Bound really surprised me. Things that applied to life outside of work:

-I discovered the satisfaction that comes from being self reliant, of running into an obstacle and not going to someone else right away to ask for help but instead coming up with my own solution.

-I learned the importance of carrying out a task fully in a way I am proud of.  How to start something and finish it without cutting corners or giving up before it’s complete.

-I became more consciously aware of racism, sexism, and other prejudices against those with a different sexual orientation, religion, or background. I try to speak, think, and act with clearer intentions regarding diversity and bring up conversations about these topics if it seems someone is being insensitive or close-minded.

-I gained a greater sense of confidence in my voice as a leader. As well as increased confidence within my own skin in its most natural form- untouched, unwashed, un-put together.

Many of these things I have been “taught” before, but to see the Outward Bound Community actively role-modeling these behaviors on a daily basis has done far more for me in allowing them to resonate long term. I am a better person for having been surrounded by this group of passionate, motivated, and hard working individuals. You all inspire others to be their best! I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have spent this year with this Outward Bound family.  The Mid-Atlantic bases will continue to have success due to the efforts put forth by all staff.  Thanks for everything this season!

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