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One Student’s Experience Participating in the 28-Day Outward Bound Course, offered by the Carolina Center for Public Service

By Samantha Hoffman

Hoffman guest writes a reflection about her experiences during the 28-day Outward Bound Course and what she gained from participating in the program. Samantha is a sophomore double majoring in media and journalism and environmental studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, with an expected graduation date in 2025.

Samantha holds a hiking stick on a dirt pathway in the woods. She's wearing high socks, a t shirt and short. To her left is a taller person holding a hiking stick and wearing a shirt and pants“Want to live in the woods for a month?” said my friend Nate Worley, looking up at me with a large grin. Nate participated in the UNC 28-day Outward Bound course a year prior and had just received an email about recruiting new members.

“Huh?” I replied, intrigued, yet confused by the offer. Nate went on to describe how impactful the opportunity was. Drawn by his passion, I decided to apply, and before I knew it, I had just a few days before a month of living in the temperate rainforest.

With no experience backpacking and a lot of experience bench-warming, the length of the trip was daunting. I moderately trained beforehand to gain confidence but still did not have the star athleticism I thought I needed. What I had was the opportunity of a lifetime, thanks to the fully funded scholarship by Carolina Center for Public Service, and my drive, curiosity and humility to carry me through tough moments.

The 28-day course included backpacking, rock-climbing, white-water canoeing, wilderness first aid training, a trail maintenance day and a personal challenge event (for us, a seven-mile run). This list might make you excited or make you immediately exit this page. Stay with me.

What I feared most going into the experience was the unexpected. I feared being unprepared, getting hurt, falling behind or not making friends. However, the first night, my crewmate and future friend, Alaina Plauche, said she was excited about the unexpected– those beautiful treasures in nature and life you never thought you would experience.

People sit in blue and red canoes floating in the water. Behind them a large rock feature and luscious trees.I want to be honest. Living in a temperate rainforest for a month is far from perfect. It is powdered food, afternoon thunderstorms, weeks without showering, blisters in your hiking boots, bee stings, and your 55+ pound bag getting soaked after you fall in the river. However, it is also seeing breathtaking views, eating wild berries, passing purple butterflies, cooking dinner during sunset, swimming in rivers at lunch, sleeping under the stars, telling stories on the trail, discovering new passions, getting mentally and physically stronger, and forming friendships that last through it all.

Hoffman poses with the UNC mascot Ramses. Ramses is holding one finger up to represent number one.Outward Bound, literally meaning “to move beyond your limits”, taught me just that. I now have courage to try new things without any experience. I learned there are many leadership styles, and that education and service are so much more than what we perceive them to be. Service is pack lifts, carrying someone’s gear and calling a break to help a friend. Education comes from all people and places and is fluid rather than linear.

I could go on about all the topics I learned throughout Outward Bound, or the academic course the following semester (EDUC 149), but what matters most is this: if you value teamwork and have determination and a willingness to learn, this course is for you. Even if this experience feels outside of your comfort zone, I challenge you to try something new and go Outward Bound.

Each summer, CCPS provides scholarships for undergraduate students to participate in a 28-day leadership course through the North Carolina Outward Bound School. You are eligible if you are a current UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate student who participants in the Buckley Public Service Scholars program, are affiliated with the School of Education or involved with leadership programs through Student Life and Leadership. 

Apply for Outward Bound by Feb. 6


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