Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Maui, HI
I looked out of my dorm window at the snow-covered ground, blue bird sky and frosty trees. The sun was shining, illuminating the snow with brilliant clarity as it sparkled in this early February morning. I smiled at how foreign yet beautiful this wintery landscape was. Gone were the sandy beaches, the 80 degree weather, the rustling palm trees and breaking waves that I had grown up with in Hawai’i. What would I do today? Normally I would head to the beach to get a surf in, but that was hardly a possibility here in Durango. Then, as if my thoughts had been heard, my phone beeped and I opened it to read a text: “Hey, wanna go climbing?” I had wanted to try rock climbing since I had arrived in Durango, but I hadn’t had the opportunity yet. The idea of climbing made me nervous. But my love for the outdoors and adventure prompted me to quickly reply, “Ya!” before I really thought about what I was doing.
Thirty minutes later I was trudging up a path with three crash pads and seven others as we approached the Sailing Hawk boulders. The air was crisp, the ground patched with snow and the trees stood tall like winter skeletons. We arrived at the desired boulder. It was a big rock, with blotches of chalk trails outlining the efforts of climbers before us. The guys laid out their tarp, put on their shoes and pulled out their chalk bags. Unsure of what to do I followed suit, pulling on my over-sized hand-me-down shoes. Little did I know that this first climb was a V-6 (pretty difficult for a beginner!). The four guys started climbing. I watched in amazement as they navigated the overhung boulder. Soon they asked me if I wanted to try. I swallowed my fear and said, “Okay.” It was a sit start I was told. So I sat down and positioned my feet. After several tries I had only managed the first move. ‘This is hard!’ I thought. The four guys who were teaching me were super encouraging. And even though they were all way more skilled and experienced than I was, they were very patient. I didn’t make it very far that day, but returned to campus with bruised forearms and bloody fingers. It was awesome!! In the weeks following I began climbing more and more, and now I am quite an enthusiast!
This experience exposed me to one of the many new and exciting opportunities that Durango has to offer. However, more importantly it showed me the genuine kindness and friendship of this small group of students. I had met these students through a club on campus called Connect. I was only supposed to be at Fort Lewis College (or “the Fort” as we call it) for one year through an exchange program, but the fun, fellowship and family that I experienced with friends from Connect essentially prompted me to transfer to FLC and finish out my education in the midst of this beautiful location, amazing educational opportunities, and loving community. Looking back on this past year since I have transferred to the Fort, I can hardly believe what a blessing it has been!