I used to think that collaboration could only be utilized in group projects or creating a plan. Now, I think collaboration entails so much more than coordinating ideas, but is about teamwork and supporting others. Establishing trust is the most important factor in successful collaboration. When we got to Interlaken, it was time to sign up for the activities that we wanted to do the next day. There were options like paragliding, hang gliding, canyoning, skydiving, and more. No matter what you picked, it was an expensive choice. I knew I wanted to go canyoning, probably the beginner section, and wasn’t sure of what else I wanted to do (that I could afford). I was soon convinced by Jacey, Sarah, Christian, and Josh to join them in intermediate canyoning, a supposed six hour trip. Before I knew it, I agreed to go with them on that trip and then scheduled paragliding for later the next day. I woke up the next day ready to eat a good and filling breakfast so I would be ready for our adventure. However, Europe is more bread focused than protein focused so I settled on bread and coffee for breakfast, nervous that I would not be in shape enough to complete the canyoning trail.
Our small group joined the rest of our team, four recent high school grads from Houston plus their chaperone. Our group was excited and ready to go, although the high school boys looked quite nervous. We were soon told that we would not be in the canyon for six hours but rather drive an hour, canyon for around 2 1/2 hours and then eat lunch and drive back. We were a little disappointed but also knew a shorter trip would protect us from the cold and hunger soon to come.
We were nervous, some more than others, but hyped each other up which made everyone feel better. We started by repelling down a 50 meter cliff off the side of a road and then Christian and Josh immediately started tackling each other in the water, a great start. Seriously though, everyone was being lighthearted and having fun which erased the nervous tension in the group. We realized that sometimes when you are nervous or afraid, sometimes you just need to laugh and mess around. As we stepped on slippery rocks and then used the rocks as slides, we firmly held hands during especially difficult steps. Not only did that establish a grip when slipping, but established trust in the group. Relying on and trusting one another was a huge part of collaboration in our group to beat nerves and have the most fun possible.
Soon, we started completing jumps in which we would jump from a cliff in a certain position, depending on how shallow the water was, into a small pool below. Every person cheered each other on and spread words of encouragement. This helped our small group gain the courage to jump, yet also made the rest of our group, the high schoolers, feel more comfortable and brace as well. Words of encouragement are often overlooked as tools to collaborate and work together. As someone who has played sports her whole life, I knew how vital it was to encourage your team to take a risk or keep pushing when things started to go wrong. Everyone trusted each other to provide a helping hand or catch them during a slip up. I think this kind of collaboration is underrated in society and should be valued and used more. Without trust, the team will not succeed in its goal. My team created trust in the group and everyone got through the trail with no major injuries, a huge success for canyoning.
While our team collaborated and cooperated every step of the way, it gave me ideas of how to improve group dynamics when things are not going well. For instance, when unsure about yourself or others, have trust. As honors students, we often feel like we must do everything ourselves if a task is going to get done and get done correctly. Sometimes, it is important to trust your peers to provide new ideas and help. Also, words of affirmation can go a long way. A sincere compliment or word of encouragement brings a group closer and more in touch with each other. And while canyoning is not your average project of collaboration, it creates a high stress atmosphere to learn about others and the best way to work with them.