The orientation offsite is the Kick-off program for the new Y3 and Y1 students at LEAF Academy. It is the time when they first get to know their classmates and staffulty in a unique and unfamiliar environment. The format of the offsite orientation is expedition based. We have asked 3 newly admitted students about their first-hand experiences from the Offsite – Eliška Pastieriková, Natália Pčolovám, Martin Abelovský, and Gavin Beetlestone from Character Development about the intention to organize this kind of events for the students.
What was the memory from Orientation that you would share with your friends?
Walking in the rain and singing at the same time.
I think waking up to the rainy morning in a tent, packing and preparing for another adventure with people you called strangers three days ago and now are sure your friends is such a great memory I will keep forever.
I would definitely have to go with the memories from the very last day. Even though it was raining the whole time, some of us were extremely cold and we had a great opportunity to feel miserable, out of all of the days, this was the one that resonated in me the most. I really enjoyed the talks I had with some people and the calming sceneries we had the opportunity to see during the hike. It was just a great way of wrapping up the whole program and I think we as a team, did a pretty good job with keeping up the positive mood.
Did you have any concerns or doubts before or during the Orientation offsite?
That I’m not gonna fit in my group, I wouldn’t manage it physically, or that I won’t find friends.
Indubitably. I wasn’t sure if I am going to have enough strength to carry a back of that size with me all the way to the camp but I learned that I need to believe in myself more and that there are still some good people that are willing to help.
I was very worried about the whole offsite program. It felt truly intimidating to go out camping into the woods for a few days. I’ve been camping already but I’ve never had to rely just on myself with carrying everything in my backpack before. However, my biggest concern was the question of a water source. I wasn’t sure if I could manage to live only out of the water from the natural springs that we collected along the way and we carried with us.
What was the moment that you have learned something new or inherited a new skill?
Learning how to cook with Saška, even though the recipes sounded difficult, it was easy and turned out very well. I can reflect on my days better, because of our evening reflections. And I also learned how to pack a backpack properly and other outdoor skills.
I learned a lot about others but also myself and nature all around. Gavin thought us about some healthy herbs and how to build a tent or some tricks on how to survive in nature.
Possibly the one first evening when Gavin showed us how to use a portable gas stove we cooked our dinner with. I have never used it in my life but cooking dinner for ourselves in a group outside turned out to be a lot of fun. This is how I feel about the whole offsite experience actually.
What is the intention behind organizing outdoor activities such as Orientation offsite?
The reason we choose this type of format and environment as a space for meeting and getting to know each other is that it accelerates the process of integration for new students to life at LEAF Academy. People genuinely open up on such programs, show their authentic self, and therefore have an opportunity to build strong, supportive relationships between their new classmates. Since the students work, live, and learn together with a high focus on the community this type of program serves as a transferable metaphor for what they are likely to experience during the next 2 – 4 years, depending on their enrollment. Strong friendships and supportive relationships are crucial aspects for success at LEAF and participation in our expeditionary program really sets the students up for success and further development at the Academy.
On this year´s expedition, the students immersed themselves in a 3-days backpacking journey across the beautiful Small Carpathians. They spent the first day preparing all their food and equipment, sleep at the academy building for 1 night, and then depart for 3 nights out camping and exploring the nature surrounding Modra, not far outside of the Bratislava region.