As the Scholarship Manager at Outward Bound, I have the privilege of working with some extraordinary young people. The best part of my job has to be the stories I hear — stories of why students want to go Outward Bound, and best of all, of how experiences on course have transformed their lives.
Most of the stories I hear are from students who are fresh from course, with tangles still in their hair and some residual dirt still somewhere… However, a few weeks ago I received an email from a young woman who had completed a course in Utah in 2005 with the help of a scholarship. When I called Ryanne to hear more about her background I was blown away by how calm and good-natured she seemed in what most would find a stressful situation: juggling a demanding course load as a full-time Business student and a 30 hour work week at a busy restaurant in Denver (and she took time to speak with me during her short break at work during the super busy Valentine’s Day weekend no less!).
I asked if she would have any interest sharing her story to kick-off the general meeting of our National Board of Directors and she was more than excited to give back once again to Outward Bound; in 2006 she had volunteered at the Black Tie and Tennis Shoes Gala in Denver, helping to raise money for more students to receive scholarships.
Ryanne did a wonderful job at the meeting. She exuded confidence as she stood in front of the room of 50+ strangers, and demonstrated that the power of Outward Bound extends well past the moments of overcoming challenges in the wilderness. There is no doubt in my mind that Ryanne will continue to achieve success in life, just like that which she proved herself capable of on the Green River as a 16-year-old…
Here is Ryanne’s talk:
I am Ryanne Buchannan. I am a bookkeeper and hostess at a restaurant and full-time Business Student at CU Denver. I attended an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound school for 7 years, and in 2005 I received a scholarship for a 15-day Outward Bound kayaking trip down the Green River in Utah.
To start off I want to tell you what I think is a funny story about coming here today. After agreeing to speak here, I told one of my fellow co-workers, Nick, about the great opportunity I was being given and I had to explain to him first what Outward Bound is. After explaining it he immediately said, “that doesn’t sound like you– you know you can’t wear heels when you’re doing that right?” I thought this was hilarious that something that has been such a huge part of my life is not really obvious to those around me now. It goes to show that what students take away from Outward Bound aren’t necessarily the skills to guide a raft or pitch a tent or set up a groover; although we do learn these things, it’s not always the biggest part of what we take home with us at the end of the trip. What we bring home with us is self-confidence, self-knowing and a sense of independence. There is nothing like putting a group of 13 strangers together from all over the country and, in my case, from all over the world, without any friends, reputations, and technology to hide behind, to quickly learn who you really are and with the wilderness setting to learn what you can really do.
My group was a very interesting group, we had a little bit of everything– we had joked around that we were like a Real World cast. We had people from Oregon to Maine, from Arkansas to Michigan and even one member all of the way from Norway. After a few disagreements and explanations as to one another’s culture we quickly learned that no matter how silly one another’s accent sounded and how different we thought we were, we all really had more in common than we had differences. All prejudices we may have had about the groups that the other may have come from seemed to fall away. And the more we had to work together, the more we came to appreciate each other for who we were, not where we came from. From this I have learned to really accept everybody and give everyone a fair chance before I judge them. A year after my course I went on a trip to Europe with People to People as a student ambassador and at the end of the trip I won an award for being the only one of the 40 students who befriended EVERY single person. To this day I strive to find common ground in people, and I credit much of this to my time with Outward Bound and our diverse melting pot of a crew.
One instance in which we were all pushed to our limits was when we had to evacuate a fellow group member. One day we noticed one of our group members was acting very lethargic and had a fever. The decision was made by our instructors to evacuate him to the nearest road which was 35 miles down river. Now if any of you have been down the Green River you know that it’s a pretty slow moving river and to make your way down you have to paddle basically the whole way and paddle hard. On average we had been going about 10-15 miles a day so the thought of going 35 in one day was mind boggling to us and we didn’t think we could do it. But the next day we woke up bright and early in the morning and worked hard traveling for 14 hours. By the end of the day we were so exhausted physically, because it was an extremely tough long day, mentally, because we really didn’t we could do it and emotionally because we were like a big family by this time and seeing one of our family members sick scared us all. After completing an urgent task that feels so daunting, day-to-day tasks don’t feel so large. To this day there aren’t many things that I don’t think I can do, they may be scary but I never have any doubt that I can do them. For instance, being a full-time business student while working a 30-hour work week is something I probably wouldn’t have thought possible before pushing myself past my perceived limits at Outward Bound. Recently during an evaluation at work my manager told me that she likes to have me on the schedule during busy nights because I am like a rock at the front of the restaurant, no matter how busy and crazy it is I seem to stay calm and composed and it helps those around me focus and calm down. I really attribute this skill to my experience with Outward Bound, and the lesson that it’s much easier to achieve a goal if you stay calm even if it feels stressful and outside of your comfort zone.
I am so grateful for my experience with Outward Bound. It helped me become who I am today and I know I will take these skills with me in the future when I graduate from business school and pursue my dream of becoming an event planner. So, while Nick, my coworker, may not know that I am a really good paddler, I can make a mean backcountry mac and cheese dinner, and I can go 2 weeks without showering, if I had asked him if I have self confidence, independence, leadership, and compassion for others he would immediately say yes.