What I learned stepping outside my comfort zone


In his first ever article on LinkedIn, Kieren Kershaw, who has been one of our Summer Interns and one of our Kilimanjaro ICOs for 2018, shared his reflections on his time as a member of our in-country team.

Kieren kindly allowed us to share an excerpt from his article. You can read the full piece here.

For the last four weeks, I had the amazing opportunity to live in Tanzania and work as an In-Country Officer (ICO) for Choose a Challenge … supporting students from universities across the UK & US as they took on the 6-day Machame route trek to Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5895 metres above sea level in aid of some fantastic charity causes.

I went into the posting somewhat nervous. Given the fact that I'm not particularly well-travelled, have never lived outside of the UK and do not speak Swahili, it would be extremely accurate to say that I was a long way out of my comfort zone.

However, now back in familiar surroundings, I've had some time to reflect and wanted to share my thoughts from the end of my time in Africa.

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The world outside your bubble is not that different.

…I still had this preconceived notion of Africa being leaps behind the U.K. and this had me wondering about how I would handle living somewhere so drastically different. What I discovered was that 4000 miles from home, Moshi town is just like anywhere else. People work, go to school, meet up with their friends and go out to nightclubs to drink and dance to the same music I do to my surprise.

This was an eye-opening revelation and has made me start to re-evaluate my perceptions. It's far too easy to take in everything we see and hear in media or the news and use that to form our opinions. Instead what we should all be doing is having as many experiences as possible and using those to build our picture of the world around us.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is the best decision you can make

Tough times are formative experiences; the classic quote from George S. Patton (Former U.S. Army General) captures this perfectly for me - "Pressure makes diamonds".

The human mind is extremely resilient and nowhere could that be more evident than with our student teams. It's widely known that the toughest part of climbing Kilimanjaro is the exhausting 8-hour overnight summit trek in freezing winds and this year, through "ice fields" towards the top.

What gets you through the night isn't your physical fitness necessarily, but your ability to keep pushing on while your brain screams at you to turn back. That mental strain is the 'pressure' and the feeling of reaching the top is one pretty amazing diamond.

This job has shown me that when you push your own boundaries, more often than not they expand and this is the foundation of growth. Comfort zones are bubbles we put ourselves that suffocate innovation and suppress our ability to do better - make the choice to burst yours.

Finally, as to whether I'd recommend the In-Country Officer job in Tanzania (or any of the other locations on offer), put it like this; It's a really great experience and you'll learn a lot from it - but don't expect it to be a walk in the park and a relax by the pool. After all - it's Choose a Challenge, not Choose a Holiday.

Kieren Kershaw, ICO 2018

We’d like to thank Kieren, as well as Evie Little, Frankie Doherty, Leo Thompson, Macaulay Norris and Hannah Howells for the vast amount of effort and hard work they have given to us as ICOs over the Summer departures season.

In addition, we’d like to thank our Expedition Medics, Dr Anna Wallace and Dr Nathan Hudson-Peacock, and our Expedition Medical Advisor, Dr Craig Miller for their support of our in-country teams throughout the season, and assistance keeping all of our participants safe and healthy whilst undertaking their challenge.

Here’s to you. We go again next year.