Lesson to freshmen: ‘fear is ok’
Published: Monday, August 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 01:08
Even though she’s climbed mountains on every continent, world famous climber Alison Levine can now call herself a Mountaineer. Levine came to West Virginia University’s Coliseum on Sunday to give a special presentation at the University Welcome for the WVU Class of 2016.
Despite having a neurological disease and three heart surgeries, Levine has overcome hardship to become an adventurer, explorer and mountain climber.
She has climbed the highest peaks on every continent and has attempted to climb Mount Everest twice, succeeding in May 2010. For the first time, the entire freshman class gathered in the Coliseum as Levine shared how her adventures on Mount Everest have taught her about life.
"I learned a very important lesson on Everest: Fear is okay," she said. "It’s just a human emotion, and it keeps you awake.
Complacency – that’s what will kill you." On her first attempt climbing Everest, Levine and her team encountered treacherous, ever-changing conditions, requiring her to constantly adapt and persevere to survive – two behaviors she considers valuable to college life.
"Everything is always changing," she said. "If you’re not able to adapt to the world around you, that’s what will do you in."
Levine stressed to the students the importance of understanding consequences of decisions, good and bad. "You have to be able to make decisions, even when the environment isn’t perfect," she said.
On Levine’s second trip to Everest, storms threatened to prevent her from reaching the summit. Getting caught in a storm on the mountain could be fatal, and Levine learned firsthand the power of cause and effect.
"Everest is just a pile of rock and ice, and it’ll always be there," she said.
"But if you do something dumb, you might not have the opportunity to go back." Continuing to the summit during a storm threatened her life and her teammates’ – making her decision to continue a difficult one.
"You always have to be thinking about how your decisions affect the people around you," she said. "Nobody gets to the top alone. That’s a part of climbing, a part of college and a part of life." According to Levine, the most important part about reaching the summit was the preparation for years before it. Levine believes the same is true for college experiences. "It’s not about graduation, it’s about what you do in the 4 years leading up to it. Things might not go according to plan, but as long as you come back stronger from it, failure is an important tool," she said.
Levine was also made an honorary member of the class of 2016 and led the crowd in singing John Denver’s "Country Roads" at the end of the ceremony. This event marked the beginning of Welcome Week at WVU. For more information about upcoming events, visit http://welcomeweek.wvu.edu.