Bleary-eyed and uncertain of what to expect, we set out for the day’s activities in the beautiful and world-renowned Fontainebleau Forest, following our first daily debrief by Adrian. When we arrived at the forest it became clear why people from all over the world travel to the forest: it remains a pristine heritage site, with few defined trails and soft, white beachy sand. Hidden among the Fontainebleau trees were hundreds of massive boulders steeped in the folklore of generations of climbers, from the mighty ‘elephant’ to the sacred ‘heart of the forest’, and climbers’ mats lay at the bottom of each one.
The aim of the orienteering adventure was to build our teams in an active and challenging environment. We broke out into our groups, and then, accompanied by our fantastic guides, set out on a circuit of games and challenges. The first challenge was an exercise testing communication, in which participants had to line themselves up on thin wooden plank according to their birthdays…all without saying a word. Students mimed out their birthdays to each other and tried to scramble into different positions without falling off the board, and at least a few giggles couldn’t be helped.
After completing that, and ready to begin our orienteering challenge, each team received a set of instructions alongside a map and a compass, and had to follow the compass bearings to different locations deeper in the forest. What followed were a series of different team-building and confidence-enhancing activities that tested students and counsellors in multiple ways. One activity was abseiling off the side of a boulder, another was slack-lining between two trees. At one point, we re-enacted a (mini) “Grand Canyon”, whereby participants were all trapped by the base of a tree, and had to reach the base of another tree, about five metres away, without touching the ground. A rope was tied connecting both trees, and team members had to attach themselves to this rope with climbing equipment and then transport themselves until they reached the other side. Throughout, the counsellors encouraged the groups to think critically about the processes they used to come to team decisions; about the team dynamics that arose during each exercise; and about the influence and interplay of each team member’s skills and personality.
We couldn’t leave the forest, of course, without trying out bouldering in this climbers’ paradise. The team members were encouraged to climb five different boulders, all with varying levels of difficulty. This was definitely challenging; mentally and physically, but it was heartwarming to hear the constantly reinforced encouragement and joyous cheers as each participant successfully managed to climb their boulders.
The forest adventure ended with a ski race in which all group participants had to work together to move forward without stepping off their skis. This resulted in a lot of laughter (and some cheating) as the teams inched themselves toward the finish line.
Led by more probing questions from the counselling team, the teams were then given some more time to debrief and reflect on the tasks and what they had learned from them, talking about ways in which our team worked well and ways in which it could have be improved, before preparing a presentation for the other teams on their key findings. One of the big take-aways was not only seeing everyone present their discoveries thoughtfully, but also noticing how much more comfortable and people seemed with each other – and so quickly too!
Once we arrived back at campus, a little tired but very satisfied by our achievements, all of the students took a mystery survey in preparation for their Decision Making course the following day and learned more about Maywood Cycles, the company at the center of the YFCD simulation. How much was it really worth? What were the most important points to take into account when negotiating the terms of the sale? Feeling a little more aware of what was going to follow, but also filled with many questions, the teams headed to dinner for a barbecue meal and ended the first official day at INSEAD with music reverberating from Freddy’s Bar.
~ Andrea and Romanshi