Lessons from Iceland

The trip to Iceland with Wharton Leadership Ventures was so exciting and filled with adventure that I often forgot that it was related to Wharton or academically affiliated at all. Almost everything we did, from lamenting the wetness of our feet, joking and laughing with each other in the 15-person van, and scrunching our noses at the smell of shark, was entirely different from the typical classroom experience. But I learned many valuable, life-long lessons, and I will always count this Icelandic Trek as one of my most cherished memories at Wharton.

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Photo credit to the amazingly adventurous Dr. Chris Maxwell

Lessons from Iceland:

  1. Attitude is everything, and it colors your entire experience. Part of the reason why we were able to enjoy Iceland so much is because we were all adventurous, open to new experiences, and hardy in the face of sometimes-less-than-ideal conditions (read: wet shoes for five days straight – something green started growing on mine). I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to go on the trip with such a group of lively, fun-loving people! A large contributor to our fantastic experience was the attitude set by our guides, who made sure that we were all safe and on schedule but also gave us plenty of room to explore and have fun.
  2. Don’t take anything too seriously! This was the prevailing attitude of the guides: you can have fun and things still get done. We were able to get dressed and depart on time, make our meals, and stay together on hikes while staying on schedule, and all of it was made more pleasant by joking and playing along the way. The same itinerary could have been executed with a COMPLETELY different experience. In addition, it’s important to hit everything on the itinerary, but oftentimes the best memories are created between items on the to do list or during events that were never planned.
  3. When one person is down, it can drag on the group; but the converse is also true: when one person is energetic and excited, it can take the entire group up to greater heights. A prime example was one guide’s insistence that we all go to the nearby hot springs when the majority of us were dragging our feet and wanted nothing more than to nap. But it turned out to be one of our favorite places on the trip, and our energy levels quickly reached (and, in many cases, exceeded) that of the guide that instigated the trip.
  4. It’s not about reaching the destination – it’s all about the journey. Though we weren’t able to hike to the top of the glacier, I think I’m just as satisfied with the experience that we had as I would have been if we had actually reached the summit (perhaps even more satisfied, because I’m not confident that I would have been able to climb another 700 vertical meters with all of my toes intact). We bonded over comforting each other and asking if we were all okay, and we left the mountain with great stories, which is all that counts.

To those at WLV: Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this trek! I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up my time at Wharton, and I am proud to be part of the WLV Trip Participants Alumni Network. All the best to WLV, and I am excited for all of the future trip participants!