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Brathay - be as you are

We waited outside the university with our suitcases; excited adults, some handshakes, more greetings, small talks, and liquor checks. As the two buses to Brathay arrived, awkward glances were exchanged. Which bus to board? Conveniently, the Chinese boarded one; Indians another; and the Latin spread out. 

It was inevitable, between the silence and smiles, we were yet to know each other better. 

The journey to Brathay was unexpectedly quiet. I suppose all of us borrowed some time for ourselves, to watch the beautiful landscapes and celebrate the journey in itself. Pictures were clicked and sent to families back home. Two hours later, huge trees and a calm lake marked our arrival; Brathay- so serene (and so cold).

We were warmly welcomed by the team, allocated group numbers and batches, and escorted to our rooms. My NFP project partner Saori and I, were to share a room. Who would have thought, a Japanese and an Indian in one room? That was the beginning of Brathay for us-breaking our barriers. The minute we dropped our bags, both of us sighed and sat near the window, together we soaked the view. 

The next morning, our Group (No. 7) met our trainer- Jill. A tall woman with short, white hair politely asked us to gather in a room. We sat in a circle, introduced ourselves and proceeded towards the first team activity: to effectively stretch a tube and accommodate as many team members inside it as possible. 

After the activity, Jill walked us back to our room and asked us to reflect. She made it easier by asking questions: How did you contribute to the task? Was there any conflict at any point? How was it resolved? How did you react in that situation? How could we make it better? And then we knew, these reflections would take us a long long way.

The Spider’s Web taught us, if we observe and focus on individual powers- group work becomes easy. The rowing taught us- coordinated we move faster (as Jason would say, ‘Back, Water, Pull’). The block assembly taught us, (I hear Professor Mike) ‘Read the brief’. The Charity project taught us, diversity is strength. And the late night parties taught us, this is just the beginning.

While we thought we were confident individuals (read adults) who could work effectively in teams, the reflections spoke otherwise. Each had some work to be done inside. Brathay said to us, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’

My fondest memory of Brathay would be our evening trek to the summit. Around the silence and the lights, we sat on the mountain top and talked about different cities, different people and different cultures. The irony was, nevertheless, we were all looking at the same stars. Jill asked us to share a piece of feedback that had had the most powerful impact in our lives. We introspected and shared our personal stories. Brathay taught us that feedback was not only to be given wisely, but also to be embraced gracefully.

On the last day, an hour before we were about to leave, Jill made us write a letter to ourselves. She said, ‘I want you to read that letter whenever you’re in a difficult situation or in a moment of self-doubt. Write about all those things you take from here and things you would like to remind yourself in future’.

I wrote, ‘I don’t feel intimidated by nationalities anymore...I respect myself and it’s okay to be who you are. After all, we are all the same, just people’

While climbing the bus back to Manchester, none had second thoughts.

Brathay taught us- we were one.

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Written by Shubham Kapur, Full-time MBA Class of 2021 

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