The plan all summer has been: go to Greece, come home for one week, work with National Student Leadership Conference in D.C. for one month, come home for one day, work with NSLC at UC Berkeley for two weeks, and finally return home one week before the fall semester kicks off. I knew it’d be a jam-packed summer, but I also knew the reward of it would be vast.
Having just a one week turnaround time from Greece to jumping into training with NSLC was tough. I knew my emotions and culture shocked mindset would still be ever present. Instead of giving in to the emotions and allowing them to hinder me, my time at NSLC so far has only enhanced my growth, maturity and leadership traits. But challenges still come.
In the two-and-a-half weeks I have been home I was in a wedding, worked a 14 hour day putting the June issue of The Sentinel together, began a monthly payment plan for a new phone after my old one broke, mismanaged my money for rent, learned of a dear friend’s suicide, and learned about an active shooter situation at my cousin’s place of work. It’s been difficult.
But over that period of time, I have found so much joy. I have found joy in friends I was able to catch up within the week between Greece and D.C. I found joy in the new friends I have made since beginning my time working with NSLC. I have found joy in teaching students about photojournalism and communications, while also guiding them through leadership activities and learning more about themselves. I’ve found joy in so many minuscule moments.
Event though so many difficult, emotional, and stressful days and events have transpired since being home, I don’t feel deterred from my own personal growth. If I’m being honest, working with NSLC has allowed that to happen.
I was scared to step into this job. I’m a college student that is responsible for 16 high school students. I’m responsible for their well being, making sure they’re taking care of themselves, aiding in their development as leaders, and opening up their perspectives within the field of communication. I’m also responsible for relating with them and listening. It’s a tall order. But it is all taken care of because of the incredible team I’m privileged to be a part of, and it helps that the students are eager, respectful, open, smart, and simply put: remarkable.
The days can get long, and exhaustion can run rampant if you allow it to. The schedules we adhere to with the students force us to constantly scurry from place to place, and session to session, constantly. It tests your abilities as a leader.
In Greece, I discovered more about myself and humanity. I grew my emotional capacity and expanded my comfort zone to work under stressful and difficult circumstances. At NSLC, I’m learning about myself in a leadership capacity. I’m finding out what I like and dislike about my leadership style. I’m learning to not live life so seriously 100 percent of the time. I’m changing.
So often I feel that a lot of people — including myself — approach opportunities like working with NSLC as moments to show the world what we have to offer. We treat these opportunities as a platform to show off our abilities and interests to whoever may be present to observe. Every single time I’ve held that mentality I’ve been way off base. Rather, I begin to see that it’s more about what I need to learn.
It’s not only the students we are leading at NSLC that need to develop in leadership and relationships. I need that, desperately. That fear I mentioned that accompanied working with NSLC has vanished and was replaced with curiosity and an open mind. I now approach every situation, interaction and moment with those characteristics. It has produced a growth and understanding in ways I haven’t experienced before.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about leadership in my life, it’s that everyone can learn something from anyone. It just takes trust and openness. Those two things play together in an awkward way, but it works. Here’s to more of that.