Last year we set on our first experiential journey with the design students of NICC. It was a carefully planned five day journey imbued with immersive experiences. These experiences were of various natures, we stayed in the lap of nature, were inspired by ancient architecture, tasted spirituality up-close, and even understood design from the perspective of a local handicraft community. Since, the students also had to complete a project based on this journey, they had to reflect upon these experiences and deliver.
A lot changed over this journey, apart from all things design, we connected, we shed our inhibitions and we got inspired. We definitely saw all the benefits we were expecting to see through experiential learning, but we realised that what we expected was just the tip of the iceberg, a lot of what happens through these experiences and journeys is much like the larger concealed part of the iceberg.
After a complete year from the time we returned from our experimental endeavour, having let the experience permeate and brew well, we talked to students regarding their side of the story. While everyone had a lot to say, one story that encapsulates the essence of the journey is Inder’s. While we have already talked at length about the academic and professional advantages of experiential learning, Inder’s story talks about the impact such a journey can have on an individual, personally.
When we set out from Bangalore, Inder was nervous and unsure about the whole journey. His nervousness stemmed from his introversion. He plain admits how before the journey, he disliked the company of people in general. Being brought up in a highly protected environment he liked the company of his solitude and often times found the company of people rather annoying. That translated even in his attitude around the college itself. He had limited interactions even with his peers and liked to dwell in his own little bubble. He confessed that he almost considered just ditching the plan and getting off the bus. He had never travelled with friends before and he wasn’t very thrilled about it either.
With such uncertainties and reluctance going on within Inder, we reached our first stay that was in Chikmagalur. Here we had a beautiful stay, with a swimming pool that the students thoroughly enjoyed, meditative sessions that opened up our minds for the experience awaiting us and at night we all bundled up in bunk-bed dormitories, students and teachers alike. But in the midst of all this, Inder found his solace.
When we reached the stay, Inder was immediately drawn to the stable. He revealed how he had had a pony since he was young whom he had grown very attached to and whose unfortunate demise he deeply grieved. So when he saw a horse stable, his excitement overshadowed his inhibitions. He went up to the stable and immediately connected with the horse there, it reminded him of his own little pony and he still emphasizes how riding the horse was the highlight of the journey for him. It was during this ride that Inder came out of his bubble. He felt so connected with the horse that everything else going over his head just vanished. In his excitement, he went over to talk with the stable-boy and had the longest conversation with a stranger, ever. It was then that he realised people aren’t that bad afterall. He was surprised by how much he actually enjoyed talking to a stranger and with this new found spirit Inder was not so unsure about the journey anymore.
Inder opened up and talked to everyone possible throughout the journey and he admits that he actually liked all of it. This experience made him understand the importance of socialising and human interactions.
Everyone noticed this change in Inder and it warmed many hearts. As of today, Inder is no more a shy boy hiding in his bubble, instead he is confident and social. Some of his peers still find it amusing to see this change in him overnight, and it wouldn’t have been possible without this journey.
Yes, these journeys will teach you a lot about design and design thinking, give you an on-field experience and inspire you, but these journeys will also touch pristine corners of your heart and help you grow as an individual. We now understand that the scope of these experiential journeys go beyond academic interests.
Just imagine if one single close-packed experiential journey could accomplish so much, what will a complete course designed with many extensively immersive journeys achieve? That is what we are excited about!