Our second day at [email protected] started off with a typical French breakfast mainly consisting of croissants, pains au chocolat and fruit. After all, we are in France!
By 9.00 am, we headed off to the Forêt of Fontainebleau. A little jet lagged for some of us but looking forward to getting to know each other. Team building was the focus of the day, we were told.
After a small bus journey through pretty French villages, we arrived at the base camp “La mer de Sable”. Our coach for the day, Philippe, gave us a small brief about the forest, its famous boulders shaped like animals and the programme for the day – a course d’orientation with several challenging problem-solving activities.
We then split into teams and off we went into the forest with just a compass and a map. A guide was with us the whole time to facilitate our journey though it did to stop us from getting lost on several occasions. It was a little awkward first to be in a team with people you don’t know at all but the ice rapidly melted when we got to speak about football.
For us, the most memorable moment was the abseiling. Imagine, going down vertical a 15 metre boulder attached with just a rope. Some girls were really scared of height but the spirit was high. With some cheering and some tips – e.g. legs apart at 90 degree angle and feet flat on the boulder – they managed to overcome their fear and did it!
Another highlight of the day was walking on a tight rope. It is really tricky to keep one’s balance. But cheering helps. Scarlett did great because of her ballet training! Boys were a little clumsy 🙂
Back at the base camp 7 hours later with scratches all over, physically and mentally exhausted, each team presented their key take away for the day.
Trust was one. To climb massive boulders, we needed to trust and help each other- especially Olivia who was carrying a massive rucksack with 26 water bottles for the team! For many students, it was also their first time participating in this intense level of rock climbing, and we had to put a lot of faith into each other, even if we had been acquainted for less than twenty-four hours.
Perseverance was another. The day was really hot and it was hard to keep going for many of us. On top, many were first-time climbers. It would have been understandable for some of us to give up on some of the challenges. But, everybody put in their maximum effort for their team and everyone succeeded at the end.
Communication was also important. For many students, English is not their first language. But we managed it with enthusiasm and good humour. Bouncing ideas off each other was also critical at getting through the most difficult challenges.
We ended the day with a BBQ at the Dean’s residence – a beautiful house with walls lavishly decorated by a nineteenth century local painter called Tavernier – and a game of football.
Olivia, Amira, Tabby, Anna and Klara