26 CBS students split into 3 separate groups recently made their way through the backcountry of the Patagonia wilderness over 8 days of hiking. Each group was led by two instructors from NOLS who taught us essential backpacking and navigation skills while instilling in us an appreciation for the power and beauty of the wilderness. Each day, the groups split up into hiking teams led by a Designated Leader from the team, responsible for delegating roles and leading their team to that evening’s destination. Each night at camp, the hiking teams would sit down to reflect, debrief, give feedback, and set plans for the following day.
Despite these structural guidelines for the trek, there was plenty of uncertainty and ambiguity to manage. Routes planned the night before were often revealed in reality to be impossible to traverse, requiring significant backpedaling or consideration of more difficult terrain. Beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine would be blown away before our eyes, replaced with strong gusts of wind and rain which forced us to scramble to put up tarps to keep dry. Aches and pains in our backs and legs would make us question whether we had the physical strength and fortitude to put on our 60-pound bags the following day for another full day of hiking.
MBA students are natural planners, and leading teams under this adversity and ambiguity was a challenge for many. Luckily, MBA students are also adaptable and quick to learn, and by the last few days we had the technical competency to navigate through the uncertainties of the wilderness with little guidance from our instructors. Instead of fearing the remaining adversity and uncertainty that no level of skill or experience could overcome, we learned to tolerate and at times even welcome it (an ability that we all hope to bring back into our “frontcountry” lives).
As business school students in New York City, our minds are always one phone buzz, ping, reminder, or alarm away from being pulled into a world of coffee chats, interview preparation, and social media interactions. Removed from those distractions in Chilean Patagonia, we experienced a level of flow and focus on the present that is almost impossible to capture in our daily lives. The expedition allowed us to press pause on the constant stream of information, responsibilities, and deadlines that run through our days, offering us the opportunity to reflect on personal goals, to appreciate the privilege that allowed us to experience such beautiful landscapes, and to center ourselves before facing head-on the last semester of business school.
Sho Fujiwara ’18