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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Alums place sixth on “Expedition Impossible”

When The Aggie last spoke with UC Davis alumna Christina Chin in early June, her journey across the nation of Morocco with two of her best friends and fellow UC Davis alumni on the reality series “Expedition Impossible” had yet to air on ABC. Now, a month after the finale of the 10-week show, Chin – as well as her teammates Natalie Smith and Brittany Smith – are back, along with countless stories to tell and lessons learned of their experience.

Before the season aired, Chin could only tell The Aggie that she and her teammates had “beaten a lot of teams.” Since then, viewers watched the trio, who participated under the team name ‘California Girls,’ compete in eight of the 10 total episodes. They placed sixth out of 13 total teams and were the last all-female team to be eliminated from the competition.

In “Expedition Impossible,” the 13 teams of three raced across Morocco for a prize of $150,000 and three brand-new Ford Explorers. Over the span of 10 weeks, the series depicted 10 stages of the challenge, eliminating one three-person team each week until the final episode, where the remaining three teams competed for first place. The Gypsies, a team of three friends routinely earning first-place finishes throughout the race, placed first in the competition.

“I walked away from the show feeling like I could accomplish anything in life,” said Brittany in an e-mail interview, who graduated with degrees in psychology and communication in 2010. “And that is a great feeling!”

The 13 teams were each made up of three people who shared a connection outside of the show. Among them were teams such as the Football Players (former professional NFL players), the Cops and the New York Firemen. Chin and Brittany met each other on the golf circuit when they were in high school, and met Natalie through the campus Christian organization Athletes in Action (AIA).

“I loved going to UC Davis and playing golf for them. I had a great college experience through sports and organizations like AIA,” Brittany said. “It is a proud moment when you are able to represent your college in anything. I feel like Davis gave me the best four years of my life so far, so how could I not want to represent them?”

For the three teammates, filming “Expedition Impossible” was just as much about putting Davis on the map and acknowledging a university that provided some of the best years of their lives as it was about embarking on an expenses-paid travel adventure.

“I cannot rave enough about UC Davis,” said Natalie in an e-mail interview, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in human development. “Running track during my time at UC Davis gave me [a] sense of pride in representing my university. Going on national television to represent Davis continued my appreciation for the community there.”

But though the girls had the bond of sharing their unforgettable college experiences together, the other participating teams on the show put up some tough competition that they could not match.

“Even though we lost on a navigational challenge, ‘Expedition Impossible’ is purely physical,” said Chin in an e-mail interview. “We truly believed we could have made it to the final four, but after watching the finale we all laughed that there’s no way we would have beat the boys at rowing or riding horses.”

Still, Chin said if she could run the race again, she would have done a few things differently.

“[I would have trained] harder! I would have ran 10 miles a day with a 40-pound backpack,” Chin said.

“When we had to go through customs entering Morocco, I peeked at [the Gypsies’] passports, which were filled with stamps of all the places they had traveled,” Natalie said. “They are pure adventurers and are knowledgeable of the outdoor world, on top of being in peak physical shape and light on their feet.”

Even though not having the arm strength to match three men in a paddle race put them at a slight disadvantage, the California Girls’ perspective kept them motivated and working well together.

“Our team had a unique ability to look beyond our temporary circumstances,” Natalie said. “We were excited to even have the opportunity to go in this adventure together post-college; therefore, we appreciated the experience that much more.”

The California Girls took several life lessons away from the expedition experience, emphasized by the local Berber people who played a large role in the Moroccan adventure.

“We learned a saying during training for the show that ‘one is none,'” Brittany said. “It’s so much harder to do things on your own. But when you have the proper support system, you can accomplish twice as much.”

Today, Brittany has returned from her Moroccan adventure to play golf on the Cactus Tour in Arizona, Natalie has returned to her position as a fifth grade teacher at Woodland Christian High School and Chin is working at Intel with community engagement programs. Long after the expedition in April, they still enjoy sharing their stories with others and are occasionally recognized from the show within their own communities.

“It’s usually always at the most random times,” Brittany said. “It’s fun, though, and I never get tired of talking about my experience. It’s a story I will be sharing for the next 50 years of my life.”

LANI CHAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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