The 2023 Southern Cross Course kicked off in February when thirteen students travelled from all across New Zealand, meeting as strangers in Anakiwa for the first time. They met their instructors, handed over their phones and digital devices and started getting to know their new watchmates, who would be their biggest sources of strength and support for the next 21 days.
For Juan, meeting his new watchmates was a bit strange but it didn’t take them long to form a quick bond. “I’m part of Huria Watch and in the beginning, it was a bit awkward, we didn’t know each other so the first few days were just doing the mahi, trying to get it done. But after a week, we bonded more and started performing more as a team. If you compare the first day to the last day, it’s a whole complete team, more united, and stronger. It’s going to be a bit sad when we go home at the end.”
The Southern Cross course is designed to connect and empower students of diversity or who are fostering diversity in their communities and is fully funded by Outward Bound’s generous supporters, making it accessible to students who may not have the financial means to attend.
All of the students came to Outward Bound for different reasons. Some wanted an opportunity to challenge themselves, others wanted to take a step away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While they all lead vastly different lives, they quickly found common ground with their watchmates.
Paw, who lives in Auckland, appreciated the diversity among her group.
“My watch was pretty diverse. We all came from different backgrounds and we all come with a different story. At the same time, we all brought something on our backs with us and we brought that to the table. It was special because, during the course, we realized we’re carrying the same baggage and it was eye-opening that we’re from different parts of the world but we’ve got something similar in us. It helped relieve some of the challenges and baggage. We are carrying similar hardships and even though we are from all over the world, we were able to connect on that hardship and over the 21 days, we were able to overcome things together."
For 21 days, Huria Watch navigated their way through the waterways and bush of Tōtaranui Marlborough Sounds. For most in the group, each activity was a brand-new experience which challenged them in new ways. Khadija, a 21-year-old refugee from Syria who moved to New Zealand in 2021, came to appreciate the challenge of the course. “Every scheme we do, we struggle so much but after we’ve done it, we experience the type 2 fun. We become so happy and proud of ourselves. I don’t have many friends but I’ve made great friends here. They are very supportive.”
“It was a bit challenging physically and emotionally but as a team, we overcame that and every night was so special. We shared food, we cook, we put up our tents and we had a laugh about the worst and happiest moments of the day. Those were the best moments I had at Outward Bound,” added Juan.
While on course, the students also partake in resilience exercises, team-building activities and diversity sessions. One of the highlights of the program for Paw was the Cultural Night in Anakiwa. All Southern Cross participants were invited to bring a recipe from their country of origin and host a dinner celebrating diversity for the school.
“I loved seeing after dinner people coming over and saying thank you and how much they appreciated it. When we were making it in the kitchen, we put all of our hearts and everything into the plate and for the rest of the school to enjoy it and afterwards come to us and say 'That was so good! I appreciated it so much. I could taste the love in the food.' Through food, you can feel so much love and compassion and openness.”
A big focus for all Outward Bound courses is to help foster a connection to the land, to other people and to yourself. For Paw, it was a chance to slow down and ground herself.
“At outward bound, one of the main themes that we have is sustainability and how we spiritually connect to the land, the people and how we appreciate the things we have. I feel like we get a chance to stop the clock and take a breath in, appreciate our surroundings and as a result of that, you feel more connected to the land. You appreciate New Zealand and its origin more and you think 'Wow, I’m here.' You feel connected to the place and the land and also yourself because you’re more aware of everything.”
As the three weeks came to a close, the students took time to think about the things they accomplished while on course and one word kept popping up: pride.
Ali, a student from Palmerston North said,
“Sitting here 21 days later, I’m really proud. I could have easily packed my bag and said no this is way too hard, it would have been a way easier option but to be here 21 days later, I’m really proud of myself. I came here and wanted to give everything a go. I can put my hand on my heart and say I gave everything 100%. On the ferry tomorrow, I’ll feel a lot of pride in myself that I gave everything a go, even when things were out of my comfort zone.”
Khadija added “I’m proud of being here, I’m proud of everything I’ve done here. I thought I would drop off a lot of times in the beginning but the watchmates and instructors were very supportive and encouraged me to stay. Outward Bound is out of my comfort zone, physically and mentally. Everything I did here was out of my comfort zone. I would say that you might find it hard but in the end you’ll be so proud and happy for yourself after you do it. Especially if you do it with good company. I feel like I’ve gained confidence. I’m more confident in sharing myself and my thoughts.
On the last day, the students gave their final hugs and bid farewell to the place they had called home for 21 days. They head home equipped with fresh confidence, a bunch of new friends, and a newfound grounding that will guide them as they navigate their way through the world. It’s their turn to pass the batten and help other students experience their own life-changing course and while they didn’t want to give away too much to future Southern Cross students, they did have a few words of wisdom to impart.
“If you want to come to outward bound, come and discover yourself, come and take that mask off, come and be your true self. Come with the intention that this is a place where you want to find yourself, better yourself, and develop yourself. If this sounds like what you want for yourself, definitely come to Outward Bound,” said Paw.
“And make sure you bring extra batteries for your head torch!” added Juan.
Get in touch:
If you know someone who might be interested in our Southern Cross course, we’d love to hear from them. You can read more about the programme and FAQs here or, send us an email at email@example.com if you’d like to discuss the course with our team.