Listening to boys choir made the pain worthwhile.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” as Edmund Hillary says which summarizes my journey at Montserrat. This past week we discussed mental health, and for me, Montserrat was physically challenging but mentally rewarding. It was not about climbing to get to the monastery, but about realization. Realizing my weakness and strengths to be self-aware to overcome mental obstacles. The first thing to come to  mind when I hear mountain is strong, confident and achievement.

The view of the mountain from where we started our hike.

The obstacles conquered through this excursion lead me to be confident, strong and achieve my goal.

I enjoyed the Costa Brava; It was less challenging and confidence due to the comfort of the surroundings. As a result, I did not expect Montserrat to be as challenging. I was mentally and physically confident since I love nature and my previous experience with hiking went well. Perception, which we learned about in class, builds our expectation for an upcoming first-time event. At first, I was walking quickly with the front group. I was climbing rocks confidently, paying attention to my surroundings and carrying conversation with others. I realized this is a new experience.

slowing down, catching some break halfway through the climb  Photocredit: Asha Rao


My expectation for climbing Montserrat was not the same. The confidence I had at first was shattered. At this point, all I could pay attention to was my heart beating fast, my lungs breathing heavily, and striking my heels with high force to the ground. I became self-aware. I learned to accept my fatigue, my feet not keeping up and not being in Costa Brava. I slowed down, taking more frequent water breaks. In that moment, I felt closer to knowing myself. I remember being asked “ Describe yourself in three words?” I never knew the answer because I never learned to self-reflect. Even if I came up with one answer, I hesitated to accept it.  Accepting my physiological response was the first step towards being strong.

Our Motivational group that kept encouraging each other.   Photocredit: Ellen Woodcock

I faced my next hardship not too long after learning to accept myself. The obstacle in my way of being strong and confident was an experience buried deep in my past. During this excursion, I had only known the group for a short amount of time. I rarely open myself up to others. Therefore, getting comfortable, being dependant, and having belief in someone I have only known shortly is very hard for me, but through this experience I have opened up.  As the physical challenge was increasing, I heard a voice within me “you won’t be able to do this, this is getting too hard.” I kept moving with classmates encouraging me and each other to move forward. At one point, I could not move and stopped for rest and water. At the right moment, two of my classmates passed.

Melyssa and I “doing it for the gelato” together!

 They saw me stopped, trying to catch my breath. Melyssa climbed the huge rock in front me, turning to ask “Do you need help?” ready to pull me up. If anyone offered me help before Montserrat, I would have said no. It’s rare I reach out to someone I barely know, but when Melyssa offered, I said yes and grabbed her hand. What had changed here, was comfort level around others. This was possible after realizing we are all in this together which empowered me to help others and to take help from others. The next time I saw Melyssa and I struggle, we chanted our motto, “Do it for the gelato” to keep us going.

A goal for this program was to learn something in Barcelona to take back to Chicago to use the knowledge gained in my personal and professional life. I have learned teamwork conquers mental obstacles. This is useful in clinical settings working with patients battling mental or physical challenges. In my personal life I will reach out to help others and ask for help.

Our excursion could not have ended without our treat ; Gelato