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Surf’s Up & Spaced Out – Engineering a Strong Community

There’s only been two times when I felt the closeness of a community.  The first time is when I trained to become a Bondi Surf Lifesaver and the second time is when I helped out at the International Space University’s (ISU) Space Studies Program (SSP) at the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). 

Both events were vastly different and weirdly similar at the same time. They each ran about ten weeks and both programs absolutely put me through my paces. 4190_89951452175_4291611_n

When I trained to become a surf lifesaver for Surf Lifesaving Australia (SLSA) many moons ago, we were 20 total strangers from diverse backgrounds. Some of us were visiting backpackers, and some of us were newbies to Sydney.  There were even people like me who had been living in Sydney for a number of years and was really interested in helping the community whilst staying fit and getting a great tan!

My surf lifesaving training team ranged from 18 year olds to those in their 60’s. This was a diverse group that I was a part of and ya know what, it didn’t matter.  What I learned over time through the strenuous training is even though we were here for different reasons and came from different backgrounds, we were all a part of incredible community.

The same thing happened when I attended the SSP in Cork, Ireland.  This time, there were about 150 space enthusiasts from all different parts of the world with a multitude of backgrounds.  That’s a lot of personalities!

During the SSP, the staff (and let me remind you again that we were all from different parts of the world) had to all come together to make the program run smoothly; we had to rely on each other and learn how to trust each other very quickly.  I think this is why programs like SLSA and the SSP work.  They put you though your paces with a bunch of different personalities within different scenarios and you pretty much have no choice – you need to make it work.  The end result from programs like these pave the foundation for an incredibly strong community. _7S25635

For example, when I was training to become a Bondi Surf Lifesaver, I was physically and mentally exhausted.  Whilst at the SSP, I was sleep deprived and mentally exhausted.  Both times,  I called upon my fellow lifesaving volunteers and SSP space mates for companionship and support.  It’s experiences like these that help build trust.  By having compelling and challenging opportunities, we all look to each other to solve problems.

Both programs require a high amount of dedication and do come with a large amount of stress. Even though both programs are vastly different, they do require a high level of commitment.

So I guess my thing is this: If you’re feeling like something is missing in your life or that you want to be a part of a community, go out and challenge yourself!  Get out of your comfort zone.  Do something you’ve never done before!  The great thing is, if it challenges you, you’ll probably find support within the organisation to push you on and keep going.  The added benefit could be that you’ll gain a bunch of life-long friends that will look after you.

Have you been a part of a larger community?  What was it like?  Share your experience in the comments below!

taraustralis View All

An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!

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