Hicks Lake Self Evaluation
1. What did you actually accomplish, learn and/or experience for the first time?
For the first time, I felt a sense of community. I didn’t fully understand what all the older TALONS students were talking about when they talked about the TALONS family until the retreat. The environment was incredibly safe, comfortable, and excited, and I was pleasantly surprised with how close we all got. I got to truly feel accepted, and I didn’t feel as if I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. Our community is amazingly close, and I was very happy to experience that closeness for the first time on our retreat!
2. What specific trip committee skills do you need to improve on? Why?
I feel like I have to improve on my communication skills. Because there were two people in our group in the foods committee, only one member in our group went to buy food, which meant our food order got mixed up. I feel like because there wasn’t as much collaboration as there should be. When Phia got sick for the trip, I wasn’t notified and therefore I didn’t bring the menu and recipes for the trip. This wasn’t a huge problem because we had made the menus together, but it was a bit of an inconvenience for the the other students in my food group. A quick check-up and a bit more communication would have fixed that.
3. What was the most difficult part for you during the trip? Why?
The most difficult part of the trip would have to be leading the group back to camp. Because I’m doing Duke of Edinburgh, I had to stand at the front of the group and make sure we were on track. I don’t have a lot of experience in pioneering, and it was a challenge for me to make that endeavor. I had to push myself to notice signs and hints I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It was a strange feeling to be completely responsible for a large group, and it was not a feeling I was used to. In the past I have been in many leadership roles and events, but it was nothing like what I had experienced. However, I found myself enjoying the role, and I liked being thrown into a situation I would not have otherwise been in.
4. What would you do differently on the next trip? Why?
Next trip, I would spend more time trying to get to know more people. On the retreat I got a lot closer with many friends, but I didn’t branch out often. Many of the new friends I made during the retreat were a product of them reaching out to me, or my friends creating connections I would then benefit from. I wish I had spent more time talking to people I usually wouldn’t have talked to. TALONS is an amazing space for making connections, and I wish I had spent more time doing so.
5. What did you expect of our retreat before we went? Did your expectations get met? Explain.
I expected to be more scared. I guess I didn’t envision the kind of atmosphere our program has. I could write a book about how amazing TALONS feels, and how everyone is accepted with open arms. I thought there would be more drama, fighting, and loneliness, but in reality I felt loved. I feel like we all share the same views, morals, and social-justice-warrior traits. I’m very glad my sad expectations were very much avoided. I can’t wait to spend the next two years here.
6. Describe your openness to this retreat experience.
I was fairly open to what the retreat was going to offer. I was happy to sit back and watch the retreat fold out. Unlike my old school, I didn’t feel pressure to be ‘cool’ and reject the games, laughs, and memories. I felt open and excited about the history that was about to be made. I guess I knew that whatever happened, I wouldn’t forget. And I was definitely open to that idea.
7. How well prepared were you for this retreat? Explain.
Equipment wise, I was very prepared for this trip. I was not short of anything I needed, and I felt comfortable the entire time. I had all of the knowledge I acquired over the weeks prior, and I did not feel inadequate in any way during the trip. I was short of the menu for food because our other Foods member was sick, but as I had helped compose the list I was also prepared there.
8. What are you most proud of? Why?
I am most proud of myself for being brave enough to do the night solo. I have struggled psychologically for the past two years or so, and it was a big step for me to be alone in the dark woods. I did not expect that of myself, and I was extremely proud when I managed to stay calm for the majority of the time. The night solo was a big step towards my happiness, and I’m glad I passed the test with flying colours!
9. How did this experience change you? Explain.
This trip made me realize how strong I really was. I’m not the most self-assure, but having a strong group of friends who feel the same way morally made me see how passionate I am about social justice issues. In the past, I had always stayed quiet about matters concerning social justice because of how other may perceive me. The experience of having many strong people feel the same way made me look at myself differently. It wasn’t bossy to stand up for the less privileged; it was confident, strong, and right. And how people see me shouldn’t change the way I approach topics that are important to me.
10. What did we learn from each other? Be specific.
I learned leadership from Aislyn and other strong leaders. I learned compassion from Emily, and close friends. I learned teamwork from my fellow tent-mates every morning and night. I learned organization from Phia, my other food committee member. And I learned community from the whole of TALONS. We are a team, a single unit, and a family. I learned from TALONS that we don’t leave anyone behind. That in our community we are all the same, and nobody is any better than another. I feel that it’s strange that I learned and experienced so much in just two nights, but I did. I guess I learned that’s possible too.
11. Predict what the long term effects of this experience are going to be for you as an individual.
I’m a lot more honest now. The nights my tent-mates spent together talking helped me open up. In the past, I was scared of sharing details about myself because of what they might think of me. I realize now that the worry I had was futile, and as long as I am kind and true they won’t think any worse of me. Everyday I get a little more honest with my new friends, and it feels good. In the future, I think I’ll be a lot more comfortable with not being ‘mysterious’ and instead being close as family. I’m looking forward to building trust with my TALONS family through the honesty and acceptance I have learned.
11. Who made the retreat special for you and what did he/she/they do?
Aislyn made this trip amazing for me. She and I are so alike, and I find myself being completely comfortable with her. We have had many of the same significant experiences, and because of this we bonded unusually fast. Instead of it feeling like I had knows her for weeks, it felt like I’d known her a year already. Just having her around made my trip that much better. I can’t wait to see what our friendships like in two years!
12. What other question should have been asked on this evaluation? Write it in the space below and answer it below.
Question: What was your favourite memory from the retreat?
Answer: The last night on the beach. It was dark, but the sun wasn’t completely set, leaving a faint glow in between the mountains. They were dark, creating a silhouette. The water was pitch black, with glistening waves lapping on the shore. We laid down on the sand and watched the thousands of stars’ glitter. I made sure to implant that image in my mind before we left, so if we would never go back I would always remember. I had all my amazingly close friends beside me, and it’s nice to think we all have the exact same beautiful memory.
13. How is this experience going to prepare you for your adventure trip next semester? Explain in detail.
I think I will be more physically and mentally prepared for the next trip. While I was technically prepared for the retreat, I feel like I will know what to expect for the next trip. This retreat gave me the experience of being outdoors without significant items in suburban life, such as technology, electricity, and flush toilets! Because I got to experience this unique feeling, I think I will be more prepared for future trips.
14. What would you change about this retreat? Be specific.
I loved everything about this retreat! If I had to change one thing it would be the length and weather! I would have loved to go for a week and spend more time playing games, singing, and exploring the area! It also would have been nice if the weather was a little warmer. This retreat was surreally amazing, and it exceeded every expectation I had. It was an overwhelming positive time, and it makes me even more excited to be part of this amazing program.