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Courage in Connection: A Q&A with Open Sky Alum Isabelle

Open Sky Alumni Student

Before Open Sky, Isabelle struggled with her communication skills and didn’t share her emotions with anyone. She bottled up her feelings and frustrations and turned to unhealthy activities to cope. Isabelle’s time at Open Sky helped her learn to express herself, form meaningful connections with others, and practice the intrapersonal skills she needed to lead a happier and more fulfilling life. In this Q&A, Isabelle shares more about her experience and offers words of encouragement for anyone who is considering treatment at Open Sky. 

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy graduate Isabelle learned how to communicate and form meaningful connections with others.

How did the staff and your fellow students at Open Sky impact your experience?

My therapist Melia impacted my experience at Open Sky by creating a strong team culture where everyone felt safe to open up and express their feelings. She also impacted my experience by leading me to realize that vulnerability and assertive communication improves every relationship and is beneficial to resolving conflicts.  

The field guides impacted my experience by consistently pushing me to do things outside of my comfort zone. Whether it was through challenging hikes, encouraging me to speak up, or leading powerful groups, I always felt supported and challenged by the field guides. I learned so much from the guides at Open Sky. They offered great feedback because they were with us 24/7, and we were able to form very close relationships. 

My team was so supportive and patient. The team culture we had on team Firefly was really beneficial to my overall experience at Open Sky because everyone was so supportive of each other even though we were all struggling with our individual challenges. I was able to receive a lot of helpful feedback from my team as well, and I learned a lot of skills through my relationships with my teammates. I also benefited from student mentors and mentoring other students. It was nice to have someone I knew was looking out for me when I first got to the team, and it was rewarding once I became a senior student and got to be a mentor for another student. 


Have you strengthened your family relationships?

My family’s involvement in the process definitely helped strengthen our connection. There are still hard days, but I think the skills we learned from Open Sky help us resolve conflict in a more productive way and foster more meaningful relationships. 

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy graduate Isabelle learned to express herself and form meaningful connections.

What did you value most about your time at Open Sky?

This is a hard question because there are so many things I value about my time at Open Sky! It is hard to pick just a few things. I’d say that I definitely value the memories I created with my teammates. I felt closer to my friends at Open Sky than I have ever been with anyone else, which was honestly a life-changing experience. I learned from those relationships that deep connection is fostered through vulnerability and meaningful conversation, which I have been able to integrate into my relationships back home. Another aspect I value about my time at Open Sky was just slowing down and learning to be present. Having no distractions out in the wilderness really allowed me to focus on the moment and on myself and allowed me to do plenty of important reflection and grow from the daily lessons and experiences. 


What has your life been like since graduating?

My life since graduating from Open Sky has been a lot more fulfilling. Although life is still full of challenges, utilizing the skills I learned from Open Sky have helped me immensely. It has been over a year since I graduated and I am in my senior year of high school now. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to this point before Open Sky and am so grateful that my time in the wilderness allowed me to pull my life together. I know myself a lot better and now know how to cope with challenging situations. I feel so much happier and I feel like myself again. I am so grateful for the connections I have made with others since graduation by using the important interpersonal skills I learned from Open Sky. 

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy graduate Isabelle stands and smiles with her family on a beach.

What would you say to a new Open Sky student or someone considering enrolling?

Seeking help when you are struggling is not a weakness. Everyone is struggling with their own issues in one way or another, and just because what someone else is going through may seem subjectively “worse,” it doesn’t change or invalidate your experience and challenges. By going to Open Sky, I accepted help and learned dozens of coping skills that I needed to be happier and live a more fulfilling life. Open Sky truly changed my mind that asking for support when you are struggling doesn’t make you weak. It is a sign of courage and strength and it shows that you care about your life and understand the impact you have on your loved ones if you continue to struggle.  

 Please know that you are never alone, even when it seems like you’re the only one struggling. There is no shame in asking for support and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the support of my friends, family, and the guides at Open Sky, who helped me realize my potential and get through the tough times. I am so beyond grateful for the experience I had and connections I made at Open Sky. Those three months in the wilderness truly were somehow the best and most challenging of my entire life. I got so much out of Open Sky, and it completely turned my life around for the better. 

March 1st, 2022

Open Sky Alumni Student