|Written By: Jennica Toussaint|
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
My adventure whitewater rafting in Middle Ocoee River has greatly contributed to my life-changing experience in Tennessee. Middle Ocoee River is America’s most popular whitewater river. It is well-known for 5 miles of continuous class III and IV rapids, which took us approximately 1 ½ hour to complete our kayak competition. It was the first time I faced one of my biggest fears, the fear of water. As everyone was getting on their boat, I contemplated the jewel-blue stream in the forest as the water hopped over the rocks happily. I was excited and scared at the same time, my excitement was the fact that I was getting ready to experience something new, but my fear was linked to my aquaphobia. Thence, I felt challenged to compete with nine boats, but I decided to go on the race. During the competition, my team and I were motivated to win the race and we worked hard to reach the finish line. We undertook many difficulties that stimulated in us a passion to win; we had a few knockouts, and several laps during the downriver, but we won 1st place. In the process of winning this competition, I experienced personal growth and I discovered the power of having a desire to win in unfamiliar situations.
Growth does not happen in our comfort zone because in this zone we are left unchallenged. So often people only view challenges as obstacles, but challenges are also tools that help us to discover ourselves and our true potential. One of the valuable lessons I learned from my whitewater rafting experience was the importance of living life outside of my zone of comfort and the obligation of living up to my full potential. I left Tennessee motivated to live an intentional life and to make a difference in the world. Participating in the kayak competition also taught me that doing anything outside of the security of what I know will always be a challenge, but my response to the challenge will determine the outcome, good, or bad. Rafting and competing in a foreign river was challenging, but despite the difficulties we encountered along the way, I chose to overcome my fear and embraced a winning spirit.
Because of my experience at Ocoee River, I was motivated to change my career path by pursuing a career in International Affairs to achieve my goal, which is to work for the United Nations as a conflict resolution specialist. Getting the internship position at the World Affairs Council of Atlanta was the result of stepping out of my zone of comfort. My involvement at the council was a unique experience that triggered a lot more curiosity to study international laws and global economics. As I pursue a dual master’s degree in the science of Foreign Service and International laws, I will continue to apply the valuable lessons that I learned from my trip to Tennessee by pushing myself to overcome fear, and to respond to life challenges with the optimism.