By Health Change Lab alumna Stephanie Lam
It has hardly been one month since the Fall 2017 semester has started, and being enrolled in Health Change Lab has already inspired professional, academic, and personal development for my classmates and I. Initially, I felt anxious about my ability to be in an interdisciplinary and self-directed program. Nevertheless, I approached the term with excitement and hope to see what the semester would contribute to my learning journey. When the Health Change Lab cohort attended our first team retreat at Camp Alexandra, my nerves were immediately eased.
Following an early morning drive to White Rock, I arrived feeling calmed by the serene environment of Crescent Beach. From the start, it was clear that the retreat was designed to provide opportunities for peers to bond through a series of activities and workshops while providing a safe space to learn about ourselves.
At the beginning of the retreat, we all gathered around a fire pit. Upon the request of our instructors, each student brought an object that represents our motivation behind why we are interested in social change and community health. One by one, we presented our objects and dug deep to share the emotional and inspirational stories behind our current goals and future ambitions. As we sat around in a circle, it was amazing to see where all of my fellow classmates came from. As an interdisciplinary group of 21 individuals with varying backgrounds, it was amazing to see and feel that we were all connected as students who aspire to create positive change for the people around us.
Alongside sharing our personal objects and motivations, another challenging but illuminating activity was called the Super Social Vision Portal, which took place on Crescent Beach itself. As we walked along the sandy beach and took in vast views of the sea, we engaged in an activity that helped us practice deep listening, idea flow, and envisioning of our futures. Our instructor asked us to situate ourselves one year from now, as if we could time travel to September 2018. We spoke to 3 different partners about how and what we wanted our year to look like. The only catch was that we had to talk to each partner for 5 minutes, and they weren’t allowed to say or acknowledge anything that we said. Not only was it difficult for a group of young students to speak for 5 minutes straight about their futures, but talking to someone who couldn’t respond to us or offer feedback was interesting to say the least. This activity allowed me to fully engage and listen to my partner’s words. I couldn’t interrupt, share my thoughts, or lead the discussion towards a different trajectory. Instead, I discovered how important it is to let people be in flow with their thoughts and ideas to engage in genuine and authentic conversations. The activity taught me a valuable lesson in improving my listening skills with my colleagues, friends, and family.
I look forward to the upcoming months, where I will collaborate with my fellow student changemakers to explore and propose interventions to improve community health within the City of Surrey!