Rotterdam school of management

Erasmus University.


Coming Home

Posted by in Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro 2014

Returning from Kilimanjaro I am facing a lot of mixed emotions. Yes – I went to Kilimanjaro and was incredibly lucky to be there and have the chance to climb the mountain. But now that it’s over, my experience was very anti-climactic and I was not given the chance to achieve the goals I had set for myself on this trip.

When I first arrived in Africa I was a huge bundle of nerves. I was super excited to be there and very proud of myself for getting myself from Rotterdam to Tanzania (in the two weeks leading up to my departure I had 4 assignments, 2 internships, and a final to complete!). I, along with the other ladies in the group, were all excited and nervous. While we were in the hotel getting ready to go, we were given the advice by the head guide to not worry about the hike, but to simply take one day at a time. I took that advice to heart and set my first goal – enter Kilimanjaro National Park and step foot on the trail. The next day I achieved that goal and was super excited to start the journey.

Each day on the trip I set daily goals of pushing myself, enjoying the nature, and soaking in the experiences around me. Interestingly, the hardest part of the first 5 days was actually not hiking, but sleeping. Every night the temperature would drop to around freezing and I would huddle inside my sleeping bag trying to get warm and wondering when the sun would rise in the morning. The nights were very long since the sun would set around 6 or 7pm and with no electricity, there wasn’t much to do but to lay down in your tent and try to go to sleep. After a few days of this, I got the suggestions from some of the other ladies to try to pass time with reading books, sewing, or really doing whatever you could in your tent with your head light. I started to do this and I can say that with this bit of advice, the journey to the top was really a wonderful experience.

However, I wasn’t allowed to summit Kilimanjaro and this is why I am leaving the experience with mixed emotions. Although there were several factors, the short story is that I had a medical condition (asthma) that the guides were not trained in and the one person who could vouch for my health, the doctor, was not able to climb on summit day. So in the middle of night, in full gear and high spirits to give my best and reach as close as I could to Uhuru Peak, I was told that I couldn’t climb and would have to spend the day at base camp waiting for everyone else to come back. For me, the journey to Kilimanjaro ended with those fateful words and the opportunity of a lifetime was cut short.

Part of me wants to go back with a different group of people since it was the circumstances that stopped me from summiting, part of me wants to move on from this experience and try other adventures that are new and undiscovered. I feel more confident now and have a better understanding of my needs and expectations for future teams and projects although it was a painful and unexpected lesson I learned. Overall, my journey was rich and fulfilling, but my goal for this journey will have to be achieved later on through new adventures.


About Sammi Vanderstok

I am a 27 year old full-time MBA student from the USA and have dreamed of joining the RSM Kilimanjaro Project for the past 3 years. When I started thinking about getting my MBA, I heard about RSM's Kilimanjaro Project and was amazed that the school was actively finding ways to practice what they were teaching. I want to climb Kilimanjaro because when someone asks me what I learned in my MBA, I can say that I left the classroom and experienced growth, challenge, and leadership with an amazing group of women.

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