This Spring Break, M&T Kristen Tilley (’19) did something a little different. She put on her shades and suited up to attend the Wharton Leadership Ventures Caribbean Sailing Expedition. These groups of expeditions push students out of their comfort zones to help develop leadership, decision-making, and interpersonal skills outside of a traditional classroom setting. The immersive trips give students the opportunity to step away from daily life and focus on the once in a lifetime experience they have with their classmates. We asked Kristen to share about her trip with us.
This past Spring Break, I participated in the Caribbean Sailing Wharton Leadership Venture. I signed up because sailing is something I have always wanted to do and recently got involved with through Penn Sailing. Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect! I looked forward to experiencing something new and different – something way outside of life in a classroom.
Learning to Sail
We jumped into the nuts and bolts of sailing right away, mastering the basics: raising the anchor or dropping a mooring ball, raising sails, tacking and gybing, navigation, etiquette, and dropping anchor or picking up a ball at a new location each night. Each day, everyone had a chance to take on a new role: captain, first mate, navigator – we each tried them all. We worked together as a cohesive, self-sufficient unit, performing all necessary operations on the boat, from cooking meals to cleaning the boat and doing all necessary checks. I loved learning how to work as part of a crew of a big boat while experiencing the natural beauty of the Virgin Islands
Between sailing sessions, we had the opportunity to swim out to and explore many of the islands, taking in all of the natural beauty. On the very first morning of the trip, we did a sunrise hike up to the highest point on one of the smaller islands in the British Virgin Islands. It was incredible to look out at the other islands around us, with ocean as far as the eye could see. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Besides getting to learn the ins and outs of sailing in the open ocean, I also learned about my own personal leadership style and how I work in a team. One defining moment was the ‘challenge day’ where we were in charge of the boat for the day while our captain sat back, only intervening if we were doing something that could put us or the boat in danger.
After the experiences of the day, along with feedback and reflections from everyone involved, I realized one of my strengths: providing a calming presence to help the team take a step back and walk through things logically. However, I also found I tend to sit back and quietly analyze, potentially drowning out my voice among others who are more vocal and assertive. I certainly took away some new strategies from the experience and definitely learned how to be a more effective leader and team member in other endeavors.
All in all, I think the Wharton Leadership Ventures are a fantastic opportunity for M&T students to step out of their comfort zones and experience something that will stay with them for years to come. Sometimes, especially as M&Ts, we can get caught up in everything we’re involved in around campus. Trips like Wharton Leadership Ventures give us space to step away from our usual life at Penn, meet a new and diverse group of people, and walk away with a new perspective.
Kristen Tilley is a systems engineering major concentrating in finance. A member of the Class of 2019, she plans to go into growth equity after graduation. Her favorite part of the M&T Program is the sense of community within each engineering major and in the Program as a whole.