One of our students Leah H. has been away this past semester at High Mountain Institute. I thought it would be appropriate to share her experience here. This is an essay she prepared for us!
Think about the last time you went through a big change in your life, whether it be your life after high school, the years after your wedding day or when you realized you wanted to quit your job and do something completely different. My change in life happened at a semester school in Leadville, CO called, High Mountain Institute.
The Rocky Mountain semester at HMI is one of the best programs I have ever been involved in. In the four months I was at HMI I have never experienced so much love, pain, challenge, excitement or had so much fun. Explaining every aspect of the Rocky Mountain Semester would not mean much to you and would be too much to put into words, but what I can tell you is what has begun to change me for the better while being there.
The four jobs I did everyday to once a week became second nature to me and are things that I am continuing to do everyday at home. Cleaning, starting fires, chopping wood, shoveling, and preparing a meal for thirty five students, are things teenagers my age have their parents do. While at HMI all thirty five of us did not have our parents there for help. We had to stay active and healthy all on our own. During the first few weeks these things were tedious, but I picked up the habits very quickly and learned other people in the community really appreciated the small things I did for them. When the opportunity comes to help out a friend, I have no hesitation to step up and help. At home before HMI, my mother would do things such as the dishes, cleaning the house and cooking the food. My father would chop wood and shovel. Now that I have returned home they have had lots of help from me. The Rocky Mountain Semester has helped me realize, without my parents I would not live the healthy lifestyle I live at home. The work they do around the house is no longer a job only for them, but I too take part in all of it when I return.
At HMI, I lived with nine other girls in a small cabin which is extremely far from my family. Outside of the RMS, I attend a boarding school, called New Hampton, where I have been a day student for the past two years. One of the things that made me nervous about attending The Rocky Mountain Semester was the distance from my home. Living in a new place for four months without my parents and being very far away, frightened me more than anything else. The nine other girls I lived with helped me realize I was not the only girl who felt this way and we all support each other when someone missed home. After the first few weeks these nine girls became sisters to me. They helped me learn how to except everyone for who they are and showed me how to never look for the bad in people. When you meet someone new, love them for the good and never hate them for the bad. Yes, there were times when I need my space, but that never compared to how much I learned from each and every one of them. It is challenging to live with others who come from many different backgrounds. This helped me to give people space and never push them to do what you think is right, because they may have a very wonderful, but different approach to the situation.
The most important aspect of The Rocky Mountain Semester is the time we spent in the field on expeditions. Throughout my time at HMI we went on three expeditions. Before attending HMI I had done some hiking with the summer camp I attend each summer, but not to the extent of HMI. The expeditions helped me grow as a person. It is a complete change to go from living at home with your parents there, supporting you, to going into the field and having to work with two or three other people all on your own. We went from the instructors helping us almost every step of the way on the first expedition, to only seeing the instructors once a day on the third expedition. We had a leader of the Day (LOD) everyday. The LOD is a very important role in backcountry hiking. They help others have a positive attitude throughout the day and make sure they are staying healthy and energized. Learning about how to be a good leader has helped me realize how important leadership skills are in every aspect of life. When I return home I will become a stronger leader in my school community and I hope to help others develop these skills.
The most important part of this essay is that no matter where you are you should always try to learn something. The more you learn about life the easier it will be when you have to face it all on your own. You should never judge others and always remember not everyone can be just like you. Always state your opinion clearly and make sure people understand you because everyone is unique in their own way and we all deserve a chance to express ourselves. It is not easy to do these things, but never give up because the minute you give up a wonderful opportunity to learn and to express yourself the opportunity is over.