Written by PEARL XIN
Two weeks into the food coma filled winter break, the last thing on my mind was going to LeaderShape-Texas, a six day leadership program I had applied to months ago under the delusion that I could continue the momentum of the busy semester into the break. Leadership required effort. And moving. Not to mention that I had little motivation to attend what I thought was going to be another generic attempt at preaching the one-size-fits-all answer to leadership. Nevertheless, I took the bus out to Marble Falls not knowing my entire idea of leadership was about to take a turn for the better.
This is where it gets difficult for me to explain what LeaderShape entails without spoiling the details for anyone that wishes to experience the positive change for themselves. LeaderShape was special in its ability to create an introspective environment. It wasn’t about copying the path to success of some famous, abstract person to whom I could hardly relate to. It gave me the opportunity to focus on identifying my own strengths and weaknesses in my interpersonal interactions and taking responsibility for improving myself in each scenario in the learning community.
Another special aspect of LeaderShape was the effort to articulate each of our boldest visions for the world, without the usual dash of cynicism found in our daily lives. This is not to say the program encouraged us to lose touch with reality; rather, it asked its participants to eliminate the usual obstacles of self-doubt and break the vision down into manageable goals after the whole idea came into shape. Supporting these ideas was a community was made up of visionary student leaders and wonderful staff. Together, we braved the 18ºF Texas winter (don’t laugh, out-of-state students) and created friendships that last long past the program itself.
Six days. That was all it took to give me a whole new perspective on myself, my relationships with others, and the incredible scope of possibilities for my dreams. It was the first time I understood exactly how many of the impossibilities surrounding my ambitions were purely constructs of my own mind. People once told me that my visions were too idealistic—too impossible, and like a good little follower, I listened.
On one last personal note, I happened to turn 18 years old during the program, and it was the most meaningful 18th birthday I could have wished for. It wasn’t the cake or the singing that did it for me—it was the idea that I was becoming a legal adult at the same time that I was learning to articulate my vision for the world and for the person I wanted to be.
Needless to say, I strongly encourage anyone to experience the incredible whirlwind that is LeaderShape-Texas for himself. Sessions are available in the summer and the winter break. The sessions are short and will not prevent you from participating in any other activities during the breaks.
Learn more about the program: https://www.engr.utexas.edu/studentlife/leadership/leadershape