Boot Camp

“But isn’t O-week a total waste of time? That’s what my friend at work told me.”
“Your friend at work must be great at parties.” I responded.
This year, I begin my studying journey with my mother. While I’m doing an honours project on Group A Strep vaccination research, she’s taking the plunge and studying business. This is a rare point in our relationship where I become the mother and she becomes the fresher noob.
“O-week is a pretty much a party except while you’re having fun and making friends, you’re also learning everything you need to know to get stuck into your study.”
I’m living on Steele Rudd College this year, and damn, O-week was a party. A well organised, well executed party that required two weeks of training beforehand by Residential Advisors and Residential Student Club members.
It began with leadership camp, which should be more accurately re-named “Camp of ultimate punishment and toilet lacking doom”.

Boot Camp 1
Here’s how things went:

11.00AM: We arrive at Murphy’s Creek. Are told to discard things like ‘spare underwear’, ‘hygienic items’ and ‘dignity’.

12.00PM: Get given instructions: “Follow compass bearing 340° until you reach the road”. Nek minnit, or should I say, nek two hours of hiking through pathless death terrain of pointy trees.
Boot Camp 2

2.00PM: Arrived at the road. It felt nice to have branches not high fiving us in the face. We were then told that some water jerries were injured and we needed to get them to another destination of unknown length and ridiculousness.

2.30PM: We arrived at the abseiling activity point (fear not, the water jerries lived) and abseiled 30 meters to our next activity point. It wasn’t really abseiling though, it was more overhang freefall without a parachute after the first 2m of rock.
Boot Camp 3

3.30PM: We then embarked on a cliff walk. I’m fairly certain the song “Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge” was inspired by this activity.
Boot Camp 4

5.00-7.30PM: After detaching ourselves from the rock face, we dined on lukewarm space stew. Smuggling coffee in was the best popularity-gaining strategy I’ve ever made. Katharine Bigby, our boss, off-handedly mentions that she was planning to go to Dreamworld for Leadership camp instead of Murphy’s Creek. That was the worst popularity-gaining strategy she’s ever made.
Boot Camp 5

7.30-12.00AM: We then embarked on what we thought was a brief, final hike to our campsite. However, we were faced by an unexpected obstacle after the first twenty minutes – Peter, our camp leader (aka, punishment overlord mature Channing Tatum lookalike) with his Nissan Navara. “Looks like my ute has broken down. You will need to get it to camp along with these injured water jerries.” By the time we were ready to re-embark, we had set up the ultimate vehicle moving team. We put our abseiling harnesses back on, and set up a husky dog style pulling system tied on from the front bull bar in conjunction with people pushing from the back as well as two teams of eight water jerry paramedics. We made it to our camp after 6 kilometers, 5 hours and a 100% gradient terrain hike of intensity.
Nissan Navara

12.00-2.00AM: We ended the hike with a memorable quote from Peter. “You’ve all done very well today, but today is now tomorrow and we begin tomorrow.” Peter is a man of his word, and we continued activities with the 60km/ph flying fox of crotch pain. At this point in time, we were all very tired and found out that we all do very funny things when we’ve reached the wall. My puns were getting steadily worse, Lachlan was snoring on a rock and Josh was telling his infinite punchline-less joke (ask him about it, I dare you).

2.00-6.00AM: Sweet, glorious sleep. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t showered (sunscreen bath counts, doesn’t it?) or that we were sleeping on nothing but the ground. Sleep was sleep.

The next day was a blur of leadership and team building activities, but the mid-ropes course stood out in particular. Peter gave us a preliminary safety briefing, concluding with “Don’t worry everyone, I’ve only had to rescue two people in the park’s history.” Needless to say, he rescued five of us that day. We were on the log avoiding section of the course, and without warning, the steel cable we were balancing on broke off from the tree and we all fell into the hanging position of crotch pain. We all made good use of the opportunity though, and performed an accurate rendition of ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus while we were waiting to be rescued.
Boot Camp 6

Although there was just as much pain after the weekend as during the weekend, it was worth it. I got to know my new Steele Rudd College team better, and in the words of Jack Black, “You’re not hard core unless you live hard core.”


National Student Leadership Forum

Currently I sit at the window seat of an aircraft flying away from one of the most inspiring and challenging experiences of my life the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF).  The mountain ranges dappled with countless water bodies pass below us while (the famous) purple-haired ball of energy that is Ally sits opposite and chats to two of the many forum delegates on their way back to Brisbane.  I am accompanied by my laptop and a favourite hour long dubstep mix and am finding it difficult to describe the amazingness of the last four days.  From the 20th to the 23rd of September, Allysha Jensen-Swift and I (Stephanie Piper) were fortunate enough to be nominated, selected and fully sponsored to attend the NSLF in Canberra.  The time consisted of a fast-paced timetable jam packed with thirteen guest speakers, visits to parliament house, and many other engaging activities.  We both felt that the experience was thoroughly enriching and gave us a new perspective on life.

Stephanie Piper NSLF

The forum was based around the theme of ‘faith and values’ and explored the way that these two crucial aspects formed the basis of an individual’s leadership style.   Each individual guest speaker that spoke to us had some fantastic life experiences and many pearls of wisdom to share.  To name a few, we were addressed by P.M. Julia Gillard, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbot (who is a great impromptu speaker), the CEO of the ABC, Chief in charge of the NSW police Officer Andrew Scipione, U.S. Ambassador Jeffery Bleich,  Senator Gary Humpries and Senator Penny Wong.  We also heard the stories of Australian Local Hero Mrs Lynne Sawyers, who has fostered over 200 children over 24 years.  Her love and compassion for all people was fantastic.  Lynne’s allocated ‘Question time’ at the conclusion of her talk was overwhelmed with requests for hugs rather than insights.  Jane Tewson, the founder of Red Nose Day in the UK was also great to hear from.  She was accompanied by the previously homeless Duane.  Duane had a collection of horrible experiences, including his brother drowning, uncle getting hit by a car, another brother committing suicide on a train line, and his father having a fatal car accident.  After all this, his family home burnt down and he was left homeless with the remainder of his family.  Despite all this, he has pulled out of the despair and has been able to inspire and encourage others to make the best of life. Hearing from the life experiences of all these successful people was fantastic in such a short space of time.  It seems that there are many reoccurring themes from people from all walks of life.

Stephanie Piper NSLF

Nestled amoungst the many guest speaker time slots we had ‘small group’ time.  We were allocated into groups of six to spend the forum time with and managed to form very tight bonds with these people.  During our allocated group time over the four days, each of us had a chance to ‘share’.  This involved giving a full account of our life experiences, inspirations, failures and aspirations for the future with everyone else.  At first it seemed very confronting to share such a personal account with strangers.  However, because of the nature of the ‘sharing’ it was beneficial in many ways and we all found that we share many of the same struggles.  Understanding religion, the direction our future is heading, dealing with loss and family issues were just a few.  When it came to my time to ‘share’ the feedback and questions really were useful and are something I will be able to keep in my thoughts for the future.  It is rare to share such things with others and an invaluable experience to listen.

I encourage others to apply for the 2013 Forum and receive the same fantastic experience that I will now carry with me and shape my decision making for the future.  I will conclude with one of my favourite quotes from the forum – a famous definition of leadership.

Leadership: Dealers in hope.