Image of Samantha Reisman climbing on a rock wall in a gym.
Reisman is a PhD student in cognitive linguistics and psychology.Photo: David DelPoio
First Person

Climbing the Walls
Five minutes with Samantha Reisman ’28 PhD

By Stella Rozenbroek ’23 AM / January–March 2024
January 29th, 2024

Rock climbing really takes you out of your day-to-day. You’re in a random space where you’re climbing up walls, which is not a skill you necessarily need—although you never know—but there’s something very fun about having that escape. Especially when you’re doing a PhD and so submerged in stress and work. You’re like, “I’m gonna climb these walls and it doesn’t matter if I’m good at this tomorrow, and it doesn’t matter if I’m ever good at this. It’s still gonna feel fun.”

I might be able to survive with my rock climbing skills, if it was a low-grade mountainous landscape. I definitely feel like more of a pro by having all the gear. When new people ask me to go rock climbing with them, I’m like “Oh, yeah. I got shoes, I’ve got a chalk bag, I’ve got my little thing that holds all my gear.” I think my ultimate street cred moment was not only having the gear, but rocking up to the top rope gym with all my new crew buddies, whipping out this crazy knot, and throwing it up on the wall and being like: “All right guys, everyone needs to learn how to do this.”

Especially when you start, one of the scariest things is just being so high up and thinking I could die, I could fall, I could hurt myself. You have to be confident in yourself and feel strong, you have to know when to stop. I have moments—this sounds kind of cheesy—where I’m like, if you can do XYZ at the rock gym, you can do this. I think that’s a really important mental practice that can go beyond rock climbing: knowing when to stop and knowing when it’s okay to push.

There’s this stereotype of crunchiness, but I think anyone who’s afraid of that stereotype should push it away. For me, it’s something physical and social that I can add into my routine for an hour and a half or less and be like, I did something social, I worked out, and I’m in bed by ten—and there’s nothing crunchy about being in bed by ten.

Rock Talk

For me, it’s mostly about the social component and getting to hang out. There are a lot of activities I like to do solo, but climbing gives me and my labmates space to actually talk about how we’re feeling and be honest with each other, have real-person conversations. I think it’s extremely fun to watch my friends solving the problem they’ve been challenged by. It enhances how I look at them and it pushes me to face harder problems and challenge myself. 


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Related Issue
January–March 2024