Ulemj “Lenny” Enkhbold: Always a Reason to Smile
“The OC has taught me so much about wilderness survival, how to use gear, what gear to use, how to lead, how to communicate, and all of that good stuff. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to smile.”
When I was a wee little freshman, I walked into the Pavilion on my first day being here. It was lit. It was amazing. It was everything I had ever dreamed of. Not really, but kind of. It was Appalachian Adventure. Watching all of the zany yee-whos who were our trip leaders interact was the most amazing feeling – I had never felt more comfortable before. Finally! People who get it!
Luckily a week or so before this, I had gotten an email alerting me that James Dick was my work study supervisor. Our first conversation went so:
Me: “Uhm.. hello Mr. Di—“
James: “You can call me James.”
Me, coming from a very strict Mongolian background: (Wow, how could I possibly call this man by his first name? That’s so disrespectful.) “Oh, okay, Mr. Jam—“
James: “Just James is fine.”
I was hooked. Whatever this mythical beast called the Outing Club (OC) was, I wanted to do with every part of it. People who get together to go hiking, kayaking, underground, moongazing?? And they would be willing to wake up at 2 a.m. to drive an hour to hike for three hours to catch a sunrise? From the same sun that we would have seen had we just watched it out of our window? Everything about the OC just felt natural. There is no effort involved. Just be yourself – and smile.
I am lucky to have been randomly placed to work under James in the OC barn, this role has led to me understand how the club works from every angle: participants, equipment, food rations, leaders, and coordination between the club and the location of the trip. Having this inside position, I pretty much laughed myself into the Trip Leader and Key Staff roles. Little did the OC know that every move I’ve made was precisely calculated so that I could drive the OC van around. I mean, come on. Have you ever seen that sweet piece of van? It wasn’t so much about taking people outside as it was about driving that van. That I have probably spent weeks of my total life in. (James, if you are reading this, I miss the old dually *cough*).
All joking aside, the opportunities the Outing Club has provided for me are tremendous. Last year, I worked as an ambassador for Merrell and got to promote their brand in exchange for a direct connection into the outdoor industry. This led to a position this year as an ambassador for the National Park Service. Both of these positions are, of course, impossible without Outdoor Nation, which is a non-profit that works to reconnect millennials with nature. My job, quite literally, was to make people enjoy the outdoors. What an amazing gig!
The OC has taught me so much about wilderness survival, how to use gear, what gear to use, how to lead, how to communicate, and all of that good stuff. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to smile. As wise philosopher Anderson .Paak once said, “We all want the best of life, so let’s celebrate – while we still can.” My only hope is that I’ve been able to pass the buck forward and have inspired people the same way the OC has inspired me.
I mean, as long as we can smile, we should smile. And if we are smiling, then it cannot be all that bad. And if it is all that bad, try smiling. It works. I guarantee it.
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A little more about Lenny
German and Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy
OC Key Staff, App Adventure trip leader, Fiji (treasurer junior year, rush chair sophomore year), Radio show, Crux Climbing, Minks Rugby, German Club (co-president junior year), Slow Foods, Library Committee, Digital Humanities Committee
Outdoor Nation, Merrell, National Park Service, UNRH (a digital humanities conference for undergraduates that I started with Lizzy Stanton ’17 along with 5 other undergraduates across America).
Why did you choose your major?
When I was in high school, I attended the VA Governor’s German Academy at W&L – it seemed only fitting to continue on with what first introduced me to this university. Communication with people, particularly through speech, has always fascinated me. What is a world where you cannot communicate? The next step, then, was to study computer languages. My major/minor essentially is a study of how we think, how we communicate, and how computers communicate.
What professor has inspired you?
Herr Doktor Professor Paul Youngman has taught me that people often take themselves too seriously. No matter what position I happen to find myself in life, Dr. Youngman has inspired me to always be thinking of the next step. What do I want from my life next? How do I prepare myself for this goal? What is the initial step I need to take? But most importantly, how do I enjoy my time while doing so?
What’s your personal motto?
Self-pity is for suckers. If you are able to laugh, then laugh. If you are able to make someone else laugh along with you, then even better.
What’s your favorite song right now?
“Dang!” by Mac Miller featuring Anderson .Paak.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Napa Thai – always get the beef pad Thai!
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
I had no idea that I would be able to learn so much out of the classroom.
Long term goal: fly an airplane.
Short term plan: explore natural formations.
Favorite W&L Memory:
To be quite honest, it has got to be Trip Leader Training week for Appalachian Adventure. It is almost impossible to duplicate 50 people coming together to camp for a week – waking up while laughing in the Blue Ridge Mountains only to rest your head at night on a nice hard rock with a smile on your face. It isn’t a single explicit memory, but it is the lifestyle. Simply living the dream on a mountainside.
Philosophy 310: Philosophy of Kant with Dr. Goldberg.
Favorite W&L Event:
Homecoming and Alumni Weekend. There is nothing that quite matches the atmosphere of old friends coming together.
Favorite Campus Landmark:
The Outing Club Barn! That big red barn on Route 60 is an oft-forgotten landmark of our school.
What’s your passion?
When I was sea kayaking in the Everglades, James Dick told me to look up on our final day of paddling. There were these three birds, the swallow-tailed kite, that were flying in the most majestic manner I had seen any being in. At that precise moment, I felt so much weight lift off of my shoulders and I grinned from ear to ear. I couldn’t stop grinning! My passion is to create experiences like this for other people.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I am terrified of heights.
Why did you choose W&L?
Because the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. (To be specific, if it were not the mitochondria powering each cell of my existence, then I could not have even had the possibility of choosing W&L.)