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Senior Spotlight: Erin Harrison explores her boulder self at Rice

Katherinen Hui / Thresher

By Yuki Wang     11/15/22 10:25pm

As a self-professed guide through the outdoors, Erin Harrison is no stranger to a bit of nature. From placing in national rock climbing competitions to leading trips for Rice Outdoor Programs and Education, Harrison’s love for climbing — which sparked nearly a decade ago — has remained constant throughout the years.

“I started climbing when I was very young. I think it’s been almost 10 years,” Harrison, a Baker College senior, said. “I feel like [rock climbing] really does foster team bonding. There have been times when my friends have held my life in their hands, and they have caught me. I feel like there is someone who has my back that’s gonna make sure that even if [I] fall [I’m] still okay.”

Harrison said she prefers outdoor rock climbing, which provides her with a chance to connect with nature.

“I just enjoy being outside,” Harrison said. “I think outdoor climbing combines two things that I really enjoy, which is that style of climbing movement and getting to move my body in a way that feels natural and freeing, [while] also getting to be outside and connect back to nature. I feel like that’s something we don’t get to do that often.”

Coming to college, Harrison said that she transitioned to doing rock climbing more recreationally, in an attempt to return to the joy of the sport.

“I’ve even taken a step back from doing competitions,” Harrison said. “And I think [my love for rock climbing is] getting back there. Especially lately, I feel that I love outdoor climbing. I love just spending time with my friends in a climbing setting and doing it for fun.”

Although Harrison did not rock climb at a professional level, rock climbing has remained an essential part of her life at Rice. As a ROPE trip leader, Harrison enjoys sharing her knowledge of rock climbing to others. 

“I find it gratifying being able to show people something that’s brought me so much joy,” Harrison said. “Being able to introduce that to people and [watch] them develop that spark is a very cool thing.” 

Besides rock climbing, ROPE also organizes kayaking, beach trips, paddle boarding, backpacking and day hiking. Harrison said that participating in these outdoor activities not only teaches students professional skills but also gives them precious opportunities to connect with nature. 

“I did an outdoor program when I was in middle school. The program guide showed us how to be peaceful in the outdoors,” Harrison said. “I realized how much spending time outdoors helped me develop as a person, helped me develop the ability to overcome challenges, helped me with my mental health … So I wanted to share that with people from Rice and serve as a guide for people through the outdoors.”

After transferring her focus away from professional rock climbing, Harrison put her competitive energy into school work. As a neuroscience major and pre-med student, she found passion in her research and academic life.

“I chose a neuroscience major because I really liked how interdisciplinary it was,” Harrison said. “I loved the brain. I loved understanding how it works and I really liked how I was able to approach the study of the brain and the mind, which is the central organ that generates our experience, from so many different perspectives.” 

In line with her appreciation for different perspectives, Harrison encourages more people to try out new activities and participate in outdoor recreation. 

“If you’re interested in rope climbing, feel free to reach out,” Harrison said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’ve just had many positive experiences with it …. I love getting to be athletic with a group of people and bond with them. I’m so glad that I’ve done it.” 

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