What I Never Would’ve Imagined Myself Doing

Briyete Garcia-Diaz was part of the first GALS trip in summer 2017. In this blog post, she describes her expectations for Duke GALS North Carolina, experiences during the trip, and advice for future participants.


I wanted to participate in GALS because I thought it would be a great experience and I wanted to enjoy nature in a new way. I was in shock when I got the acceptance letter, but I was also filled with joy.

Weeks went by, and then the night before I was SO nervous. I thought I was going to have to eat canned food for thirteen days! I also thought I was going to get eaten by a bear or some animal (one was at our campsite, but I sadly didn’t see it. Jackie did, though).

I did not expect to not shower for ONE week!! Let me tell you, when I say we all smelled bad, I MEAN it. But we usually couldn’t tell how bad we smelled until the night, when four of us were in a tent. That tent was HOT and stinky, but we soon forgot how bad we smelled because we forgot what it was like to smell good.

We hiked a few miles each day and even crossed some streams that were kind of deep and very slippery. We did all that with our heavy backpacks, but after the first few days, we carried those things like pros.

One of my favorites things was to go and sit by a stream on a rock and listen to the flow of the water. If you just close your eyes and listen, it’s great. I love nature—It is so beautiful. All the amazing views we had were more than amazing. You forget about everything while you are with nature.

My investigation was about trees—yes, you heard that right. I observed the trees that were along the streams vs. the ones a distance away from the streams. From the data I collected, I learned that rhododendron trees grow mostly near water sources because they need water to keep their leaves waxy and filled with nutrients. I never knew trees would be interesting, but they actually are.

I think the hardest part for me was when we were going up this huge steep part of our trail and I just felt like giving up. I honestly thought I was going to die. (Don’t be scared, though. It’s a good work out!) I was so sore that my body wouldn’t cooperate with me to make it up the steep parts. I didn’t give up, though, and you shouldn’t either.

GALS was truly one of the best things. I’m truly thankful that my four amazing leaders chose me as one of the participants. I met seven amazing and talented girls. We shared many laughs together and even a few tears (because we were sore and missed home).

One thing I’ll never forget is our last day in the backcountry when we had our inauguration *laughing emojis* That was SO FUN. Another thing I won’t forget is that I had the most embarrassing moment of my life when I encountered a person from civilization. Only two other girls and I know about this—what happens at GALS stays at GALS. This was truly the biggest L of my life! I think about it now and laugh.

If I could change one thing about myself during the trip, I would have talked more because I think I was sometimes too quiet. However, GALS did bring me out of my comfort zone to be more adventurous.

A piece of advice to future GALS participants: You should take every opportunity you get while with the GALS group. You only have one chance to do it, so why not do it? For example, I licked a slug because Jackie said it would make your tongue numb, which it did! I NEVER would have imagined myself doing that because I’m scared of those little creatures. Before I did it, I told myself, “You probably aren’t ever going to do it again, so just take your chance and do it.” And I licked it!

More advice: just have fun and relax. It’s going to be the best time ever—trust me. You’ll love it.

To anyone reading this: Live life to the fullest. Take all your chances. Be risky. We only have one life, so why not make it the best?

Summer 17’ was great. Thank you to everyone who made it possible!
Once an Ochana Hikana forever an Ochana Hikana.

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