Leadership Safari is every CMU freshman’s dream. You get to move in early, roam around campus, and basically be independent from parents and responsibility for a whole week. I personally didn’t have the great safari experience I was told would have, though I did appreciate some of the events and also made a good friend.
Move in day went great! I got all settled in, met my roommates, met the neighbors, and was ready for safari to begin. Each year, Leadership Safari gets bigger and bigger each year and this year they had record breaking numbers. 2500 college freshman were coming to CMU for safari. I don’t think I had seen 2500 people at one time until I got here. I give credit to the facilitators of this event because I was unaware that most of the animals they used even existed. Some of them were even hard to pronounce! Throughout the week, they kept us busy with dance music; if I hadn’t already known all the words to “The Wobble” I definitely would have after the week of hearing it 6 times a day. *Please expand the playlist for next years participates for the sake of their sanity*
I was on team Polar Bear, and it was in this team I met my now good friend, Jessika. We immediately clicked because of our laid back, sarcastic humor. I give her most of the credit in helping me survive the long week that was Leadership Safari. My team really didn’t bond like I saw many of the other groups, so having Jessika to lean on was a God sent. My safari leader wasn’t the typical rainbows and sunshine you picture being at safari. Most of the week we sat around during down time because no one really wanted to play the pointless games he was required to suggest. Though we didn’t click on a real personal level, we were able to share some laughs. This particularly stood out to me because of how different we all were. But I guess that is the point, accepting others as they are and adapting to the awkward moments we are involuntarily thrown into. Leadership!! Besides Jessika I haven’t spoken to any of my group member since safari. I will wave or smile if I pass them on my way to class but that’s about it. My safari leader even avoids eye contact with me when I run into him.
Though everyone tells you how fun Leadership Safari is, they don’t tell you how exhausted you are going to be during and afterwards. Early mornings and late nights for five days definitely gives you a taste of the college life. They have you busy from sun up to sun down listening to speakers, doing team building activities, etc. I was slightly disappointed in the facilitation of the events, however. We were often times sitting around for hours on end with nothing to do after an event was let out early or if we were waiting for lunch. It was also extremely cold during safari and they didn’t have the proper accommodations for everyone, so we were forced to sit outside in the wind, rain, and cold. And because we are new college students they wanted to “keep us busy” for as long as possible to limit the amount of time we had to get into trouble. Because of this, I personally, and multiple other people, felt babied, not treated like adults, but as risky teenagers.
My favorite part of Leadership Safari was the acapella group on night one and the slam poets on the last night. This generation is that of acapella given the break out of the Pitch Perfect movies. It was super relevant and extremely entertaining. I was very impressed with all the entertainments acts provided at 2015 safari and would definitely suggest some returns. The Asia Project, one of the slam poetry acts, actually made me cry. Because I’m horrible at poetry I have a great respect for their craft first of all, and utter disbelief in the power of their craft and their words. As a future leader, I hope I have the power to affect people the way their 45 minute act affected me. Along, with these performers, there were also many speakers that had great messages. One man gave me a blow pop and told me to give it to the person I value most and appreciate without telling them why. Though my sucker didn’t make it to my person, it prompted me to tell her what she meant to me and that’s actually one of the nicest things you can do for someone, I learned.
A few major issues I had with Leadership Safari was the topic of a lot of the speakers. Many talked about sex and relationships and I don’t see the relevance to leadership. It was very frustrating to me because I couldn’t relate and it often became a joke to many of the participants, obviously, because what 18 year old doesn’t laugh at sex jokes, distracting from the message. Another problem I had was with safari was the volunteering activity. I take great pride in volunteering and was extremely offended by the effort put into this part of the week. We packed meals for the less fortunate in assembly line style. We spent more time learning how to package the food than we did actually doing it. I was in there for probably 5 minutes before I was corralled out. Many participates didn’t even get the opportunity. I would have preferred to spend my whole day doing the volunteering instead of the pointless games I was forced to play afterward. I think the safari coordinators need to revaluate what their message for the week is and how they plan to format leadership safari to fulfill that message.