Blog Post #1 – Clark Soulia. Trip to Malawi – Summer 2016

(Clark is a MSW student at Binghamton University)

Well…here is the first blog post (of four) documenting my upcoming trip to Malawi with three other MSW graduate students, three undergraduate students from various areas of study, and two professors. If you would have asked me five years ago when I was getting back into college, after almost twenty years away from academia, where I could see myself, I would have never said, “in graduate school finalizing a trip to Malawi Africa.”

As I get ready to embark on this trip across the globe, I find myself in a place mentally, emotionally, and eventually physically, that I have never been before. All of this will be new to me right down to the bus trip to New York City. I have never been to NYC; I have flown only once for 90 minutes, twenty years ago, and I have never been out of the United States. So, needless to say, I have been both excited and frightened for this trip; many times floating back and forth between the two within seconds of one another.

Clark SouliaCurrently, I am sitting here on my couch looking over my living room at two small suitcases, a pile of clothes, lots of small knick-knacks, a few deflated soccer balls, and a large cup of black coffee. The clock says 11:30, it is the deadline for this blog entry, and I am asking myself how I got here and what was I thinking when I made the decision to go on this trip.

Since my first year of Grad School has finished I have been on the road visiting friends and family before I leave and I have finally made it back to my apartment…alone once again, left with myself and my thoughts about this trip which, for a virgin traveler like myself, can spell bad news. I have been told that too much unsupervised playtime upstairs is not a good thing and I have certainly been stuck in my own mind a lot lately. I almost talked myself out of this trip on at least 50 occasions since being accepted into the program. Most of it based out of fear of the unknown and getting so far out of my comfort zone that I just want to crumble. I have lost sleep over this trip, isolated myself from others while thinking about this trip, only to finally come to a place of acceptance and gratitude for this adventure that awaits me and my fellow travelers. I have a feeling that this trip will help me grow in areas of my life that I never knew existed or have become dim over the years for various reasons.

I have a feeling that I will rely heavily on many of the lessons I learned while studying wilderness education/leadership during my undergraduate years. In many ways I confronted many of the same types of fears just in different forms. The common denominator between this Malawi trip and, say, a 16-day backpacking trip through the Siamese Ponds Wilderness or solo canoe trips through the Bog River Flow, is that fears were overcome and comfort zones challenged and expanded, resulting in growth that cannot be acquired by sitting in a classroom. This type of growth only comes from being out in the world…live without a net. Until my next blog post, be well.

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