Sep 17, 2015

How Outward Bound Prepared Me for Life at Tuck

By Elizabeth Ellerhorst T'17

Elizabeth is a first-year student at Tuck. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Elizabeth graduated from Boston College in 2011 with a degree in International Politics. Before Tuck, Elizabeth spent four years in Chicago working for Deloitte Consulting in the strategy & operations practice working mainly with CPG companies and retailers developing customer-focused business strategies. Outside of the classroom, Elizabeth’s hobbies include road biking, skiing, photography (and now sailing!). She can be reached at elizabeth.b.ellerhorst.tu17@tuck.dartmouth.edu

Coming from Deloitte Consulting, a majority of my colleagues are attending MBA programs, so naturally we all shared our plans for the summer, which normally included international party trips with our new classmates. Not surprisingly, when I told my colleagues I was attending a week-long Outward Bound sailing trip, the response was a typically a blank stare followed by the question, “And you have to pay to do that?”

I’m not going to lie, it was certainly a trying week. In fact, I believe the exact words the leader used to describe our trip was, “the worst weather a Tuck Outward Bound has had in 15 years!” but through it all, I learned so much. Below is what I’ll call the executive summary (Hey! I’m a consultant. Cut me some slack.) of what I learned that has proved most valuable as a student at Tuck. 

1. Learning to sail is HARD.

Now, at first glance you may not think this relates to business school, but stick with me. For those of you who have never sailed, it is like trying to learn a new skill and a foreign language all at once. Every sail rope, and pole has a ridiculous name, and don’t even get me started on the different knots. The point is sailing is very complicated, and our instructors basically gave us a two-hour tutorial before leaving the boat in our hardly capable hands. This meant we all had to teach one another. We had to trust each other, listen, and communicate. We depended on each other’s knowledge for our collective success, just as we do in the classroom at Tuck and in our study groups every day.

2. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes.

While I always believed there were different types of leaders, I also always thought that leaders shared many of the same characteristics. Outward Bound showed me that the world is full of all types of leaders. Throughout the trip, everyone steps into a leadership role, and it was amazing to witness the diversity of leadership amongst my classmates. 

The trip was a microcosm of the diversity at Tuck, and it was so surprising to see how different cultures approached leadership. Before this trip, I never realized that my view of leadership was quite Americanized. I realized that, to be a successful leader, on a boat, at Tuck, or at a Fortune 500 company, I need to learn what it means to be a global leader. Outward Bound allowed me to develop a strong foundation that I can continue to build on at Tuck. 

3. Don’t be afraid let down your walls.

In real life many of us hide behind the clothing labels, make up and other superficial barriers. When you’re trapped on a boat with two changes of clothes and a toiletry bag that consists of a toothbrush and sunscreen (no really that’s it), there is not a lot … okay, nothing to hide behind. While this was extremely uncomfortable, at the same time, it meant we quickly got to know the truest, and I may argue in many ways, the best forms of each other. I learned to count on the strength of my team to lift me up, and to recognize when others needed a shoulder to lean on, something that has already come in handy the first few weeks at Tuck. I know that no matter what, I can count on my Outward Bound friends for anything I need.

One of the questions I get most about Outward Bound is, Would I do it again? Now initially, my answer was, “Ehh …” But now that I have had a few proper showers and the post-sailing dizziness has finally subsided, the answer is, “Absolutely!” While it was one of the hardest challenges I have faced (yes, including the GMAT) I wouldn’t give up my Outward Bound memories for anything.