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Study Abroad Blog

El Montanya

Posted on September 26th, 2007 by Matt Brattin

I’m posting bit later than I had expected, but hey, I’ve been a little busy. As of right now I’ve been in Barcelona for just over a month, so bear in mind as I discuss the El Montanya retreat that this happened three weeks ago.

Day three of introduction week felt a lot like my senior trip during high school when our whole class (and many, many other senior classes from all around) boarded a bus toward Disneyland for our last hurrah together. Only difference this time was the older and wiser (I hope) company, the destination, and the purpose. Yeah, so this trip was exactly the same…only completely different!

The El Montanya retreat is the big leadership/teambuilding trip up into some nearby mountains about an hour and a half outside of Barcelona. No one knew exactly what to expect upon our arrival, and about half the class (not my bus) got lost and had to wait even longer to figure out just where we were heading. When we reached our destination I think everyone was pretty pleased with the setting.
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High atop this mountain we were situated in a respectable hotel and had all expenses paid *cough*tuition*cough*. After overcoming the obstacle of checking in, which took forever as the hotel surely wasn’t prepare to handle 118 eager MBA students at once, we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch with everything from smoked salmon to…I don’t know, just lots of great food! We needed to enjoy ourselves because shortly after lunch we were headed downstairs to be introduced to the folks who will be working with us over the next 18 months to help us learn more about ourselves and eachother.

The classroom stuff was fine. We had to fill out surveys in advance that were intended to show you about your specific learning style and explain a lot about your character. It was interesting, but I always take these things with a grain of salt because they often include gross generalizations while in reality no one fits perfectly into any of the nicely titled boxes we were placed in.

After all this we were grouped into a few teams of about twelve and herded outdoors to take on a very challenging group task. It will be hard to explain, but basically half the group was blindfolded, half was not. The blindfolded folks had no idea what was going on other than our attempts to describe the situation to them. No one was allowed to touch anyone and we all had very specific rules about who could communicate with whom.

Now for our task: There was a bucket, turned upside down, with three weighted balls sitting on top. At the top of the bucket’s rim (by the ground, since it was upside down) were drilled six holes where three very thin ropes were strung through and extended out about five feet or so. The task was to have our blindfolded friends hold these ropes and transport, together, this bucket without dropping any balls across a soccer field while overcoming obstacles – all while us non-blindfolded folks were desperately trying to make this happen without touching anyone or anything. Our group didn’t even make it half way, while other groups completed the entire task. It was a frustrating and humbling exercise and looking back I already see that I’ve learned a few things about teamwork from it.

The next day was more exciting and action packed as new teams were formed and we had to build makeshift “cars” that we would race around a track. The engineers really had a chance to shine here, but I like to think my car skills learnt from my father also helped me rise to the occasion. Everyone essentially made wagons of sorts and two team members had to pull or push their contraptions around the track while one other team member rode the “car.” Here’s a picture of my team’s creation and yours truly making the round.

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While we didn’t win, it was a fun exercise and a great way to finish up the teambuilding shenanigans.

We returned to Barcelona (and reality) in the afternoon after the car building exercise and time has definitely not slowed down!

Introduction week as a whole was a blast – Lots of good food and great company mixed with high spirits created a wonderful atmosphere to kick off the program. This is not to say anyone’s spirits have been dashed ever since the onslaught of work began, but yeah, I think we have all been knocked down a few notches back into the realm of reality…which is probably a good thing.

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