Into the Story



Episode 38: A Story About Doing What Scares You

Nivel: Intermedio
Acento: Inglés neutro con ligero acento alemán 

¿Alguna vez te has encontrado cara a cara con algo que te daba miedo, pero lo has acabado confrontando? No hay nada como la sensación de superar nuestros miedos y cumplir nuestros propósitos. When you finally take that step forward, ready for whatever happens, you’re growing as a person. Nuestra invitada de hoy conoce bien esa sensación. En el podcast de esta semana, Kerstin nos cuenta cómo superó su miedo a las alturas bajando en rápel el edificio más alto de su universidad. 

Today’s episode of Into The Story is about doing things that scare you. Mientras escuchas a Kerstin explicando su dificultoso descenso, aprenderás expresiones muy prácticas, como ‘TO BE BUZZING’ y ‘TO LOSE FACE’. If Kerstin’s enthusiastic voice sounds familiar, you might have recognised her from her podcast, The Fluent Show. ¡Aunque no lo parezca, su lengua materna es el alemán, no el inglés! Escucha este episodio hasta el final para descubrir cómo Kerstin consiguió ganar fluidez en inglés y muchas otras lenguas. 

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[00:00:00.430] – Bree 

Have you ever found something scary but you did it anyway? For some people that might be moving to a new country, learning a new language or jumping off a cliff into the sea. But for Kerstin, it was rappelling down a building.

[00:00:20.090] – Kerstin

I didn’t think of myself as somebody who’s particularly scared of heights until I was like at the top of this building and looking over and looking down. And then leaning backwards over the edge and sort of lowering yourself down on this, like very thin looking, really not particularly sturdy feeling rope.

[00:00:41.990] – Bree 

While working at Lancaster University and before starting her own business, Kerstin had a summer of daring. She had loved working at the University, but she felt her time there was coming to an end. She had started indoor rock climbing and found it meditative and calming. She felt ready to take on new challenges. One day, a charity event came up. Chris Bonington, a famous mountaineer, was going to visit the University and lead people as they repelled or abseiled down Bowland Tower, the tallest building on campus.

[00:01:28.290] – Bree Vocab

Before we listen to Kerstin, we’re going to look at five words and expressions that she uses in her story. First, ‘to be buzzing’. So buzzing is the sound that a bee makes, “bzzzz”. But if we talk about a place buzzing, it means that there’s an atmosphere of excitement and activity. You’ll hear Kerstin describe the University where she works as buzzing.

[00:01:56.490] – Bree Vocab

Then central to today’s story are the climbing terms ‘abseiling’ or ‘repelling’. So abseiling and repelling both describe lowering yourself with a rope down a vertical wall. If you’ve climbed or you’ve watched someone climb or you’ve seen the movie Mission Impossible, you’ve definitely seen someone lowering themselves on a rope. This is abseiling or repelling.

[00:02:52.560] – Bree Vocab

Next, ‘to lose face’. ‘To lose face’ is an expression which means to lose people’s respect or to be humiliated. For example, some people feel that if they admit to making a mistake, they will lose face, that other people will respect them less. To lose face.


[00:03:09.710] – Bree Vocab

And finally, to swear. To swear is a verb that means to say bad words. So swearing is using offensive language, and we usually swear when we’re angry. For example, even though I’m an adult, I do not swear in front of my mom. To swear. In addition to these words and expressions, you have an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a quiz on our website. acingles.com. You’ll see a link in the show notes. Okay, let’s get into the story.

[00:03:47.450] – Bree 

Kerstin has been working at Lancaster University in the northeast of England, and although her job is becoming very stressful, she loves where she works.

[00:03:56.010] – Kerstin

So it’s a University in the north of England, and you can imagine the campus is sort of concrete 1960s campus design. Mostly flat, lots and lots of different buildings. Sort or this little campus life and it really feels like buzzing and everything’s quite self contained. And there’s one big landmark that is the block of residences. It’s called Bowland Tower. And you just see this. I have seen this building for years and years and years on my way to work out of my window at work. I always used to be able to see it, so it sort of was part of my working landscape.

[00:04:30.630] – Bree 

Very randomly, Kerstin gets into or starts rock climbing. She finds it very calming when you’re hanging onto a wall. You can only really focus on where your hands are and where they’re going to go next. It’s almost meditative. Then she discovers that the famous British mountaineer and climber Chris Bonington is going to do a charity event leading people down the highest building on campus.

[00:05:02.830] – Kerstin

And Chris Bonington was going to come to the University that day and he was going to lead people in up abseiling, rappelling down Bowland Tower. And I thought, that just looks so fun. That just looks so exciting. And it was only £50, £50 for charity. And I thought, oh, £50. I’m going to go down this building with this world renowned mountaineer. It’s going to be so amazing. I’ll be so proud of myself. And I still didn’t realize until I was at the top of the tower. So they give you some stuff and they give you this little safety briefing and you’re in a safety briefing with other people. And I’m just there going, yes, sounds good, sounds good. Harness, et cetera. I’ve done indoor climbing. I know how to put a harness on. This is all going to be quite similar. You get in the lift, you go to the top of the tower. And then I thought, oh, where is Chris Bonington? Is he going to come and talk to is he going to say, Hi, Kristen? Yes. You’re the next person to go down the building with me. And I’m looking up and there’s people going down a building already and he’s nowhere to be seen. And that’s when I realized I’m not going to do this with supervision from a world expert. I was going to have to do it on my own. Because I didn’t have a friend with me. Nobody else was crazy enough to sign up for this with me.

[00:06:20.630] – Bree 

Kerstin is a super enthusiastic person. You can totally hear it in her voice, right? She is someone who gets excited about things. She even sometimes gets excited about things before she has the chance to really think it through and understand what she’s getting involved in.

[00:06:38.170] – Kerstin

So there I am at the top. That’s when I sort of first panicked and I realized what I had signed up for and what I was about to do. And I stopped seeing it as fun because I realized I’m on top of 100 meters tower. I didn’t think of myself as somebody who’s particularly scared of heights until I was like, at the top of this building, I was on my knees. I was on my knees on top of this thing. Everybody else is around me. And they were so lovely. They were like, do you want to do it? And I kept thinking, well, I don’t want to not do it, but I kept letting other people go first. Lots of students, and sort of PhD students, people my age, and everybody’s just managing and going down. And I’m there. And I kept thinking, I cannot in my own mind, I can’t lose face. They’re all doing it. They can do it. Why on Earth couldn’t? Like, what would stop me? Why can’t I do it? I just kept thinking, oh, my gosh. Okay. So I just kind of pushed and pushed and pushed myself did it. And I kept asking this person like, is this secure? Do you have to rope? Do you have to rope? And they just kept telling you, yes, yes, you’re safe. My hands are sweating talking about it now. It was so scary. It was so scary. The next thing that I had never, ever realized was that you have to lean backwards to get down to start going down. There’s no platform that you step onto. Nothing feel safe. It is absolutely terrifying because you have to literally lean backwards over this tower.

[00:08:09.270] – Bree 

So Kerstin is standing on the top of this really tall building. She slowly leans down and looks. She sees a crowd of people waiting at the bottom. Then she turns around and begins to lean back over the edge of the building.

[00:08:30.590] – Kerstin

You lean until you’re sort of horizontal, and then they give you a little bit of rope. But you have got this device that holds the rope, so you only have this much and you are actually in charge. You’re in control of giving it more space so that you can go down. So you’re actually the one who has to do it. And I think there is the moment where you realize the thing is actually supporting you, but there’s also the other you in that moment who says, okay, and if you fall down, you’re dead. So it was somewhere in between. And it’s windier than you think it’s going to be. So it’s a little bit cold. You don’t get blown about like it’s safe. But again, it’s something I hadn’t expected at all. And you’re just there with your legs against the little bit of wall between the window. You just kind of have to hold your legs relatively straight. And every now and then you give yourself a little bit of rope, and then you sort of do a little hop and you come down a little bit further and then you do it again. It’s not a hard thing to do. It’s all in your head.

[00:09:28.230] – Bree 

She’s doing it. Kerstin is slowly rappelling down Bowland Tower all on her own.

[00:09:36.610] – Kerstin

And I remember coming down to about the 10th floor. I kept looking up and counting because I was like, I’m not going to look down. But I kept looking up and counting windows so that I know how far I have left to go. When I’m really focusing, I talk to myself. I kind of talk myself through what I’m doing. And I think I was swearing an awful lot. So I’m not going to repeat on your show, on their podcast all the words I was saying. But trust me, every F word and S word, I was using it for sure. I didn’t realize because I was so high up, I thought, this is fine. Nobody can hear me. When I got to the bottom, there were people there. You get past this little roof, and then you finally get all the way to the ground, and there’s all these people shouting all this encouragement at me. Like, last three floors. I’m just like, “ahh f***” I want this to stop.” And they’re all just like, “come on Kerstin you can do it”. And I got to the bottom, and I don’t remember. All I remember is crying. I was so emotional.It was so intense. It was so scary. I was just like, on my knees going, oh, my God, it’s the ground. It’s the ground. It’s the ground. It’s the ground. Yay. Just, like, completely shaking and crying. All the emotion just leaving me. And my husband was just there hugging me and holding me. And just being like, “are you ok”? And everyone’s applauding and saying, oh, well done, well done.

[00:11:06.090] – Bree 

Until now, her focus has been entirely on herself and counting down the floors on Bowland Tower as she repelled. But now she begins to notice the crowd has been there with her all along.

[00:11:19.950] – Kerstin

And people kept coming up to me and saying, you were really scared, weren’t you? You were really scared. And the thing that I didn’t know that my husband told me later is everybody heard me swearing. So even though I was, like, 10 meters above them, there’s me going, and they could hear everything in this courtyard where everybody else was that I hadn’t realized. So it was just such an intense experience. I think something that this has taught me is that my enthusiasm is a strong power. Excitement about something. It can really take you places. It can really help you overcome fear. It also puts things in perspective. It gives you a comparison. So the scariest business thing I’ve ever done that’s nowhere near backwards, leaning over the top of a tower, like, nowhere near. And especially for the few years after, it really helped me put those things in perspective. So I’m glad I did it. In the end, I’m glad I did something really, really terrifying, because I found that it allowed me to remember that I can do scarier than this.

[00:12:40.610] – Bree 

Kirsten started her own business right around the time of this experience, rappelling down Bowland Tower. Now Kirsten helps people work on their own language learning skills using unconventional strategies like finding motivation and joy in learning a new language. And we couldn’t talk to her about the importance of doing things that scare you without asking her about her own experience of learning and speaking several languages.

[00:13:08.810] – Kerstin

So my native language is not English, it’s German. I have learned English, French, Latin, Spanish, Italian. Now I learned Welsh, of course. I love Welsh and then I’ve done a bit of Russian, bit of Chinese so I’ve done lots and lots of languages. I realized that one of the biggest tips that I have for people is to just keep saying this is the same as with my story actually. One of the biggest tips I have for people is to just say yes. Just keep saying yes to a new language. Don’t think too much about all the problems you have it within you you’ve totally got all the tools and capacity to deal with all of the problems later but just say yes because if you say no then you’ve got nowhere left to go. There’s nothing to fix there because you’ve not taken the risk. Whereas if you say yes that’s where the growth is and that’s where the learning is and that’s how there’s so much joy to be had there and so much adventure.

[00:14:05.350] – Bree 

If you want to hear Kerstin’s story of learning all these new languages we’ve left you a link to that episode of her podcast and to her page where you can find her courses on our website. And that’s all for today’s episode. To stream our entire archive of Into the Story. Subscribe now on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Okay, everyone, until next time, we hope you have a good time or at least a good story to share.

Quote of the episode

“Just say ‘YES’. That’s where the growth is. There’s so much joy to be had there, and so much adventure.”
– Kerstin

Wonderful Words

 Lowering yourself with a rope down a vertical wall.

To say offensive and rude words.

(Of a person or action) adventurous or audaciously bold.

Very strange or unusual.

Excellent Expressions

An atmosphere of excitement and activity.

To lose other people’s respect, to be humiliated.

It’s in one’s imagination, it’s not real

To compare something with other things to give a clearer, more accurate idea.

We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Into The StorySi quieres saber más sobre Kerstin, visita su web Fluentlanguage. Y si quieres seguir avanzando con tu inglés y formar parte de la AC family, apúntate a la newsletter rellenando el formulario de aquí abajoWe can’t wait to see you there!  

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