Over the past few weeks as under-18 first-year scholars, we have been completing the expedition section of our Duke of Edinburgh Silver award. The Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award is a qualification that involves four sections: Physical, Volunteering, Skill and Expeditions.
Most of the first years have now passed the expedition section of the silver award, as we have completed both a practice expedition and an assessed expedition.
Both of the expeditions offered many challenges for us, as it took us completely out of our comfort zone for a few days. Our practice expedition took place in Ashdown Forest, and spanned over two nights with three days of walking on a pre-planned route with just a map and compass, and the assessed expedition was exactly the same, except it took place in the New Forest.
Prior to the first expedition, we had undergone training on afternoons leading up to the expedition, which included lessons in cooking on a stove, map reading and how to successfully put up a tent.
One of the main requirements for the award is that we had to be entirely self-sufficient for the whole three days, which meant we had to carry all of our food, clothes, tents and sleeping equipment.
This was a challenge in itself, as we were given one big expedition bag and told to fit all of the equipment and food we needed to survive over the three days in this one bag. The club supplied us with most of the equipment we needed; such as sleeping bags, walking boots, roll mats and tents.
Each of the expeditions offered different challenges, the biggest being the lack of phones and other electronics for three days straight. It became very apparent that a lot of us rely heavily on our phones on a day-to-day basis, and so to be without them for the expeditions was an eye-opening and rewarding experience.
The second biggest challenge was having to cook all our own food. Some of us planned and ate barely edible dried packet food, where others planned on cooking more gourmet meals, but after realising no one had bought oil or butter with them, they resigned to eating cereal bars for dinner.
Another main challenge on both expeditions was inevitably the fatigue and aches that occurred after walking for four hours a day with a heavy bag on our back, and the final day really tested our resilience and determination to keep going.
The way that we all dealt with these challenges and setbacks throughout the expedition really highlighted our attitudes and exposed our characters when we are tired, hungry, and out of our comfort zone. It was definitely a worthwhile experience for us all.