“Have you ever cross country skied?” asked Elaina Alzaibak, a concentrator in Biology from Tiveron, RI. “I went for the first time like two weekends ago and I realized it’s the best thing ever. You’re not moving too quickly, so you can still take in the environment and you’re also moving at a pace where you could be with someone and talk to them, or you could do it by yourself, and it’s totally fine.”
Before coming to Colgate, Alzaibak hadn’t spent much time outdoors, but her experience on Wilderness Adventure pushed her to train as a leader with Outdoor Education (OE).
Over the course of her training year, Alzaibak learned to balance her natural introversion with her interest in leadership and her appreciation for sharing the outdoors with others.
“At the end of the day, it’s ok if you’re just walking quietly for 20 minutes and enjoying the sounds and the sights,” she said. “Helping other people embrace that, alleviating the pressure people feel to talk all the time, creates a quiet space for myself but also teaches people that, hey, if you take a moment and appreciate what’s going on, we don’t need to be talking all the time. Recognizing that helped me come into my own.”
Alzaibak’s experiences with OE, along with her biology coursework, led her to become passionate about sustainability.
“When you learn about something like climate change, you can’t not act,” she said. “You have to do something. We have this privilege to learn about the ways we can fix this problem, which means we actually have to fix this problem.”
Although she had long planned on becoming a large-animal veterinarian to promote sustainable agricultural practices and initiatives, Alzaibak took a course on Medical Anthropology tha caused her to consider becoming a doctor.
“I’m very passionate about a lot of issues,” Alzaibak said. “I don’t know how people can exist without that. You have to be passionate about something, you have to share those beliefs. Thinking about my obligation as someone who has the opportunity to go to this school, to get a good education, to be able to pursue a professional degree if I want to—if you have this privilege, you have to be helping someone, you can’t try to succeed for your own sake.”
Alzaibak perfectly embodies the traits of great leadership, although she resists recognition for her abilities as a student and a citizen of the world. She knows that meaningful change can only be wrought in the absence of ego, and strives to do good in small but significant ways.
In her 2012 book Quiet, Susan Cain writes about people like Alzaibak, explaining that introverts, often miscast as shy, are simply people who need time alone to recharge before wading back into the fray. She says, “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers—of persistence, concentration, and insight—to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.”
Alzaibak rounds out her own life with a comprehensive study between play and growth, and encourages others to do the same. She takes the natural powers that Cain alludes to and uses them to their fullest, and serves as an example that anyone, regardless of their personality or shyness, can be a campus leader and a true friend.