Leader-in-Training Spotlight: Chelsea Dresen

Leader-in-Training Spotlight

Chelsea Dresen

Program location and year: La Push, Washington, January 2020

Chelsea lives in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the Educational Sustainability program. Her research interests involve transformative cross-cultural service programs, sustainable travel, and ethical and sustainable community change.

In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys traveling, hiking at state parks, volunteering, writing, and spending time with her husband and three kitties. She has traveled around West Africa, Tanzania, New Zealand, and many areas in the US, including her most recent trip to La Push with Xperitas.

Why do you want to become a Team Leader? 

I want to become a team leader because I truly and wholeheartedly believe in the power of cross-cultural experiences. I have seen time and time again how cross-cultural connections can change perspectives and transform lives. In fact, the entire trajectory of my own life was changed when I first traveled to Ghana in high school, and now my passion is to provide others with the same transformative experiences. I am also extremely passionate about ethical and sustainable community change, and Xperitas is certainly a leader in this field with the way they develop and maintain long-standing community partnerships. Being a part of an organization that facilitates these experiences in a way that is ethical and truly has the communities at the center is nothing short of an honor.

What aspect of the program do you feel resonated most with your team?

Our group had an extremely busy week, but I really believe that all of the opportunities where our group interacted one-on-one with community members and built relationships while learning about Quileute culture were the most impactful activities. Some of our group members really took it upon themselves to build deep relationships during the week by asking questions and getting to know our Quileute friends on a very personal level. Whether it was shared conversations over a family dinner with local community members, dancing at the healing drum circle, having coffee at the senior center, carving at the woodshed, or just walking around La Push and striking up a conversation, I really saw the members of our group transform through these one-on-one interactions with members from the Quileute community. During our group discussions, many noted that the relationships they built with community members are ones they won't ever forget, and I think that is really what is so important about these trips and what will stick with our group forever.

What was your most fulfilling moment as a Leader-In-Training?

Though there are so many moments from the trip that I consider personally fulfilling, I will definitely never forget the evening that our group was invited to attend the healing drum circle. I am always in awe when I enter such a warm and welcoming community, and the Quileute community was no exception. During the entire ceremony, everyone went out of their way to make us feel like we were a part of their family. The community even invited our group to dance, and I can't explain how it felt to be so fully welcomed into another culture as well as how it felt to watch my team members experience this as well. Just knowing that I was playing a small part in facilitating this life-changing experience for others was definitely one of the most fulfilling aspects of my experience. It reminded me of why I believe so strongly in cross-cultural interaction, and it also reminded me of the warm and welcoming spirit I want to embody everywhere I go, including as a team leader in future trips.  

What advice would you give someone in order to prepare for their Leader-In-Training experience?

First of all, I would say to expect challenges and be prepared to be flexible. Our group ran into a multitude of weather issues, which made it tricky to do some of the things that had been previously planned. That being said, the ability of the team leader on my trip to stay calm and continually problem-solve throughout the uncertainty had an extremely positive impact on everyone's experience (thanks Siri Dusek)! My other piece of advice would be to embrace every moment and take every opportunity you can during the trip. While you're there to learn how to be a team leader, you're also going to find that you experience personal transformation as well - so take advantage of that! Lastly, I would say be bold. You might be nervous (I know I was!), but Xperitas and your team leader are there to support you in your successful journey to becoming a team leader. Plan activities, take initiative, lead discussions, ask questions, learn everything you can, and be brave! Being an LIT is a great personal and professional development experience that you will never forget, so dive in headfirst. You can do it!