I wasn’t sure what a ropes challenge course was, but it sounded like fun.

I arrived at the course, which was organized by Outdoor Recreation and is in the woods surrounding campus. It looked like a lot of high wooden pillars with ropes between them. I’ve never seen one back home.

“You wanna try this one?” asked the course leader.

She showed me a pillar that was separated from the others. It turned out to be one of the most challenging.

“So, what you do is just climb up to the top,” she said. “It gets a bit wiggly and windy on the top, but when you get there, you should stand up straight on the top of the pillar.”

“And then?” I asked.

“Then you jump!”

I decided not to think about it too much. I started climbing. The only thing I could hold onto was the pillar; it had small steps, so it wasn’t hard to climb. Apart from that, I just had my security rope for getting down. I was on my own. When I got to the top, it was kind of scary to stand up – the wind was blowing and the pillar was shaky. I stood up and looked around. The view was really cool: It was foggy, so all I saw was green trees and fog. Usually, you can see the ocean from there.

“Now just jump!”

I looked down and realized I was really high, and I had nothing but the rope on my back. It all happened a bit fast and unexpectedly, so I felt kind of surprised to find myself all the way up there.

But I jumped!

And it was so nice, and exciting. I didn’t even feel the impact on my back from jumping, because of all the belts I had on me. I slowly came down, and the girl congratulated me and unhooked the rope from my belt. My legs felt a bit shaky from the adrenaline.

The shaky legs didn’t help when I tried the next challenge, where I climbed up an even higher pillar and had to get to the other one by crossing over a wooden log. Being so high without anything to hold onto makes you nervous, which makes you panic and lose your balance. I thought the course would be more physically challenging, but in fact, it was mostly a mental challenge of overcoming the boundaries you set for yourself.

I really liked the one you do in a pair: You and your partner cross the distance between pillars over a thin rope, without anything to hold on to. In order to get from one bar to another, you have to work with your partner — they hold you while you let go of the bar and walk to the next one. When you reach it, you help your partner across.

I felt so confident about myself! I got so confident that at the end I even did the challenge with the log once more, but blindfolded. I realized it was all in my head. I was actually very secure, so I needed to calm my mind and trust my abilities. You can’t let yourself panic. You must trust yourself and just start going. MB


Sara Santini is an exchange student from Serbia, where she is a senior majoring in film editing. This essay was excerpted from the Global Gazette, which is published by the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by World Learning.


Photos: (top) Marilaine Savard; (bottom) Wassim Zoghlami