Leadership Expedition to Patagonia
Maya Mandel '13
Friday, February 1, 2013 - 10:15am

What’s up! My name is Maya and I’m a second-year student from Israel. You can read the boring stuff about me in my bio; what you should really know is that I’m absolutely honored to be given the opportunity to share with you some insights into my Columbia Business School experience. I really hope that those of you who feel passionately about any of the things I write about here will have the courage to apply to Columbia and become an active member of this incredible community.


When I decided to attend Columbia Business School, I wasn’t looking to change my career – I actually loved the job I had before school. I also wasn’t expecting to learn textbook solutions to real-life challenges.

I was eager to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to create meaningful relationships with new colleagues from the diverse Columbia student-body. And, I hoped to be inspired and to do things I never would have done otherwise.

The inaugural CBS Leadership Expedition to Patagonia together with NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School) was (quite literally) the pinnacle of my business school experience thus far.

We spent 10 days in the deserted Northern Patagonia Mountains. We carried 60-lb backpacks, crossed rivers, climbed mountain passes, drank Maté, devoured the dulce de leche treat, handled fatigue and injuries, enjoyed 2-3 sunny mornings, survived the last day of the world (at least according to the Mayan Calendar), and witnessed first-hand how in such a short time period we learn new skills, adapt, grow, and lead (and become really good at it!).

We had three outstanding NOLS instructors who introduced leadership principles, decision-making styles, and encouraged us to conduct an open and honest feedback session at the end of every day. We learned first-hand about self leadership, designated leadership, and most importantly about how to be an effective active follower. We lived by the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and practiced good Expedition Behavior (EB) day in and day out. 

  We had a blast. 


While each one of us had his/her own personal goals in participating in this expedition, there are so many lessons one can take from this unique experience:

We had the opportunity to focus on the simple things in life, to receive (and give) sincere feedback from my teammates, to face and overcome obstacles I’ve never faced before, to practice all kinds of leadership, to laugh, to explore, to reflect, to challenge, to conquer, to support.

The inaugural CBS Leadership Expedition to Patagonia was everything I was hoping my MBA experience would be. And I still have an entire semester left to make it even better.



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