How ISB Class of 2024 discovered camaraderie on OWLS Experiential Learning Program

OWLS Adventures > Experiential learning > How ISB Class of 2024 discovered camaraderie on OWLS Experiential Learning Program

Around 41 students of ISB class of 2024 came on Dayara Bugyal Trek as strangers and went home as friends. They anticipated the mesmerizing view of the mountains and the vastness of the Dayara meadows. Little did they know, the four-day-long trek will deepen their friendship and give them memories to reminisce for life. Amidst rain and snow, these students discover camaraderie, empathy, humility, and most importantly, their inert potential. 

This is a story of 41 strangers becoming friends on a trek, at 11,100 ft. above sea level. 

A few days back, OWLS organized its first Experiential Learning Program for the students of the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and Mohali. A total of 41 students of ISB Class of 2024 joined us on a trek to Dayara Bugyal, Uttarakhand. The program spanned over four days and started from a small hamlet of Barsu in Uttarkashi. The trek was a part of OWLS Experiential Learning Program.

OWLS Experiential Learning Program

ISB students starting their adventurous journey with OWLS ELP

OWLS ELP is a specially designed program aimed at facilitating learning through experiences in the wilderness. The program is crafted to promote learning in a natural setting. 

“The core of OWLS Experiential Learning Program is to curate outdoor experiences in the rawest and purest form. We emphasize on learning while experiencing the outdoors, and implementing the same in the daily life of our participants,” shares Himanshu Singla, our founder.  “We aim to draw a parallel from outdoor experiences in the daily life of our participants,” he adds.

Planning the Experiential Learning Program for ISB Students

“In the last two years, OWLS has organized batches of 10-12 people. However, this was a first for the OWLS team. Handling around 50 MBA students coming from different parts of the country with dynamic personalities and experiences emerged as a challenge for us,” says Himanshu. 

The student representatives approached us with a sole objective: To create bonds that sustain them for life before they head to their respective campuses in ISB Hyderabad and Mohali.  

As the ISB students came with a clear purpose, we designed our day-wise plan and activities emphasizing on their intent. The 4-day-long Experiential Learning program targeted various skill sets through OWLS activities. Team building, communication skills, leadership qualities, collaboration, critical thinking, and human values were a few attributes considered while designing the OWLS activities. 

Aligning objectives with activities on the trek

The students of ISB class of 2024 wanted us to draft a program where they could break the ice and connect as a team in a short span. Our task was to curate activities that would engage them as a team and foster team bonding.  We included competitive games that would help them to understand each other better. The activities revolved around building communication and trust among the team members.  We incorporated characters and elements of expedition planning and management skills in our ELP activities. 

ISB students navigate a challenging trail, pushing towards their next campsite.

“From my experiences of expeditions, I based the activities on expedition behavior and planning. The teams were divided into small groups of 8-10 people named after the elements of nature. They were given unique tasks each day. All of these tasks and challenges emphasized promoting team collaboration. The objective here was to help them emerge as a strong team where each member plays a significant role,” shares Himanshu who facilitated the OWLS Experiential Learning Program. 

The challenges on the trail

The students were strangers in each other’s eyes. Their interactions were limited to online meet-ups before coming on the trek. With distinct personal and professional experiences, the first challenge was to break the ice and establish initial dialogue among them. 

Once they reached the base camp in  Barsu, they were assigned a specific team and a team coordinator. 41 students were further divided into five different teams. Agni, Vayu, Akaash, Dharti and Jal. 

On day one, the task was to reach the campsite together as a team to earn wilderness points. However, not even one group managed to reach the campsite together as a team. 

ISB students navigate a challenging trail, pushing towards their next campsite.

“Keeping them grounded and making them work as a team was difficult on day one. On the first day, the team had to reach the campsite together to win the points. However, they completely sidelined the team part and focused on reaching the campsite on their own. A few of them reached the campsite first, while the rest of the team struggled to pace up, shares Anagha Parate, the medical officer of the batch, and the team coordinator for the program.  

The story of the rest of the team also replicated Anagha’s experience. 

The students gathered in the dining tent in the evening for a reflection session and revisited the experience they had over the day.

“It was surprising to witness the majority of the team agreeing to the fact, about the lack of coordination, communication, and empathy within the group. The team accepted that they lacked team spirit, strategizing, and planning,” she adds. 

Witnessing Changes in Teams

The impact of the reflection session was visible the next day. The day’s challenge was to discover the trail in the wilderness and reach the next campsite. As it was a team-building exercise, they needed to reach their destination together as a team to win the task. 

Laughter and chatter fill the air as ISB students settle into their campsite.

As soon as the task of the day was revealed, each team was seen engaging in strategizing the plan. The slow walkers were accompanied by a few members of the team for constant motivation on the trail. A few of them volunteered to carry the daypack for the entire group. When all the teams discovered the trail and reached the second campsite, it was heartening to witness all the teams reaching the campsite together. 

“Initially my team was split in a way that fit members were leading ahead and not considering the rest of the team members during the first day of the experience. They were unaware of team members and their capabilities. As the program went ahead, everyone was helping each other achieve more. It was the most beautiful transformation that I witnessed,” shares Akash Jain, OWLS co-founder who also participated as a team coordinator. 

Creating Bonds in the Wilderness 

“We were an entirely fresh batch of ISB class of 2024. Before the trek, we had never met each other. Many of us did not know about the group. The beauty of this trek was, we carried 41 tiffins on the day we reached the base camp, and as the program culminated, forty students ate in mere 10 tiffin boxes. This speaks volumes about the bond and memories we have created as a batch,” shares Vrushav who will be joining the Hyderabad Campus. 

“When we first reached the base camp in Barsu, we were all strangers in each other’s eyes. Now we are returning to our respective campuses as one strong team coupled with learnings from the outdoors. On the first day, I knew a few names, but today I am returning with 40 friends for life,” shares one of the students. 

ISB students enjoy a well-deserved lunch break amidst the majestic Himalayas.

“When we were planning the trek with OWLS we were all bound by the fact that we will be going to ISB together. My idea of coming on the trek, and convincing my batchmates to join was due to my previous experiences on Himalayan treks. I have lived some fantastic moments and earned really good friends on treks,” says Dhwani Panchal who will be joining the Hyderabad Campus. Dhwani was one of the students who initiated and coordinated the Experiential Learning Program with OWLS. 

“The only way you can make good friends within a short span is on a trek. Up in the mountains, everyone is out of their comfort zone.  The natural environment lets your true self out; nothing is in your control. The difficult and real challenges in the mountains unleash your vulnerability and I believe when people are vulnerable, you bond better,” shares Dhwani. 

When we are comfortable on our turf, sometimes ego stops us from being empathetic. On a trek, you are braving rain, snow, and harsh weather together. Sometimes it also becomes a matter of survival, and people discover their inner selves,” she adds. 

Dhwani opines empathy and collaboration come out naturally on a trek. The situations and problems are real. It’s a matter of survival here, so you collaborate keeping your egos aside. 

“In top management schools, people often engross themselves in competition becoming oblivious to human values. Howbeit, on a trek, it is beyond me and myself. You live in the moment, you connect as a team naturally and your bond also strengthens,” asserts Dhwani. 

Experiential Learning in the Outdoors

ISB students concluding their enriching adventure program with OWLS, faces alight with joy.

Everyone gathered in the dining hall as the program culminated in the base camp on day 4. Everyone was communicating with each other. While the ones who were hesitant on Day 1 were also part of the group by now. On Day 1, they knew a few names of their batch mates. After three days, they were familiar with forty names. 

“The experiences they encountered in the last three days will remain with them for life. Every time they will look back to this story, they will derive meaningful learnings from this experience. These three days of exposure to the outdoors have equipped them with management skills that will come in handy beyond their college life. It was visible on the trek, and at the summit that a  lot of them went back with important management skills, along with human values like empathy, humility, gratitude, and generosity. I am confident that they will integrate the skills they learned during the OWLS Experiential Learning Programme into their daily lives,” adds Himanshu. 

The objective with the students of ISB Class of 2024 approached us was achieved. Their bonding was witnessed on the summit day, at the dining tent, or when one of them fell sick. Exposing them to real-life challenges in the outdoors helped them to discover their limits, their strength, and weaknesses. In just three days, the strangers who met on Day 1 at Barsu were returning as friends. 

OWLS organizes Experiential Learning Programs for Schools, Colleges, and Organizations in the wilderness. OWLS ELP aims to promote learning through experiences. The program is a specially designed immersive experience amidst nature in the Himalayas. 

If learning in the outdoors piques your interest you can find out more about OWLS Experiential Learning Program here. 

If you have any queries about OWLS ELP, you can write to us at contact@gooutwithowls.com.

To check out our upcoming treks, you can head over to the trek page here

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