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Gold D of E student experiences

Genevieve Norris (Gold Expedition July 2015)

The Duke of Edinburgh award has exposed me to experiences, places, people and opportunities that I otherwise would never have been faced with. I say exposed because that was the overriding sensation that encompassed me on my walks in the Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor.

Wales threw us into a landscape of stunning scenery, waterfalls and pleasurable weather. Dartmoor was similar, except you could only appreciate the views once the cloud had lifted. Before then, you had the lure of a campsite and flip-flops to keep you going. On both expeditions, we had to remain completely self-sufficient for four days and nights. This meant that tents, food, clothing and everything in-between had to travel with you. Over hills, rivers and down rock faces we carried our own supplies. The temptation to eat every pack of ‘supernoodles’ on night one was great and suddenly clean clothing became a necessity we were willing to swap for a lighter load.

Aside from the expeditions, a requirement to achieve the award is to complete voluntary work, physical activity, a skill and a residential. I can confidently say that without having these requirements as part of the award, I would not have experienced the utterly amazing time I spent volunteering at Vitalise (Netley, Southampton). I worked with disabled individuals for one week, assisting them with days out, games and day to day activities such as meal times along with other volunteers. I made friends for life and would happily go back to do it again. Without the prompt of the award, I would not have taken the initiative to take part in it. 

The Duke of Edinburgh Award has taught me that trying something new can lead you into unanticipated adventures. The memories that I will take with me are almost entirely happy ones and I truly believe that the process has given me a more positive outlook on challenges, both physical and mental. I would recommend it to anyone who is up for an adventure and willing to give something new ago.

Lee Moyo (Gold Expedition July 2014)

“Before our expedition began, I think we all went through a range of emotions. We were excited due to the fact that we were facing a new challenge, and the thought of completing our Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award was motivating enough to help us get over our feelings of anxiety, self-doubt and of course, the terrible weather that was ahead.

When we signed up at the beginning of the year, we knew it would be a difficult process; even those that had not taken part in the previous awards showed willingness and that they thrived on such challenges. However, I think at the end of the day we can all agree that our expedition was one of the most rewarding, valuable and worthwhile experiences, that we will remember as we all learnt a great deal from it.

The opportunity to complete the Gold award taught us a lot about ourselves and other people. We gained life-long skills, such as working as a team, organisational skills and time management. In my personal opinion, I learnt to appreciate the things and people around me; the support I received and gave back to my group was what kept me going, (actually the KFC did), and the same probably applies to you too.

Despite all the downsides of the expedition, like getting lost (a lot), thinking that your last breath would be in the middle of the valleys and the last thing you would see was a sheep with a tail (!), the overall expedition was incredible. Each day got better, we saw the most stunning views. Even though everyone was happy it was over, I secretly think that everyone would do it all again just to say that they put in time and dedication to complete their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and that it was one of the most challenging but satisfying things they will probably ever do.

So…Congratulations!!! We set ourselves a goal, and exceeded the standards set. Thank you to Mrs Briggs for all that she has done and all the staff that helped us throughout the process. I wish you all the best of luck in the future and that you carry on to devote yourselves in all that you do, just as you did for this Award!”

Laura Macfarlane (Gold Expedition July 2013)

 “When my group of six girls arrived in the Brecon Beacons for our D of E expedition, on a Wednesday afternoon, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect. Despite our excitement, the prospect of walking four days in the mid-summer heat was more than a little daunting. Yet we were still keen to begin. At 5am on Thursday morning we set off from our campsite. With us came Phillip a rubber duck whose journey we documented for our presentation. The other groups chose different ways to present their expeditions.

The first day was a very positive one. We had no blisters or injuries and the only difficulty came from the huge back packs in which we carried our tents, clothes, food, and everything else we needed. Even on day one we saw beautiful scenery and felt happy about the rest of the walk by the end of the first day. It is true to say that it got harder over time. The more we walked, our feet became tired and our backs ached. However, incredible experiences kept us going; we all agreed the highlight was the day we spent walking by waterfalls. We had a chance to cool off beneath a gorgeous waterfall. It was an experience I will never forget, and we have many wonderful photos of a small rubber duck floating in the middle of the most incredible scenes of nature. Even the hardest times- climbing a large hill on rough ground- seemed easier when we looked out over the ground and saw the beauty of nature as we never had before.

In the end it was more than worth the pain when our assessor asked us how we felt at the end, we all gave our expedition a 10/10. I personally already have plans to return next year, the things we saw, the friendships we built and the sense of achievement we felt was greater than any low points we experienced, and of course, it will look good on our personal statements! I cannot recommend it enough!” 

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