Emily Smith, 19, from Aylesham, completed her Duke of Edinburgh bronze and silver awards as a personal challenge while studying for an NVQ in Sport and Recreation at Army Cadets. The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a youth development programme that provides people aged 14 to 25 with the chance to develop skills for work and life.
To achieve the final gold award, Emily was required to complete planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey. While most UK students complete the expedition in the UK, Emily and five friends decided to up the ante by completing theirs in France.
“We wanted to challenge ourselves even further by doing it in a foreign country,” she said.
Emily was aware of the Nancy Ovens Bursary, which provides individuals with up to £2000 to improve their skills through an innovative training programme outside the scope of regular training.
She successfully applied for £250 towards expedition costs and in July 2011 she travelled to the French Pyrenees after first completing a practice trek in the Lake District. Emily says the group, who were trailed by an assessor, trekked up to 19km a day for four days - relying on their map reading skills to navigate them through the notoriously difficult terrain. And if that wasn’t challenging enough – it rained non stop the whole time.
“We had heard it was really sunny that time of year but we packed for all weather so we were okay,” she says. “The only problem we encountered was when we went off track for a few hours on a particularly misty day.”
Emily, who is now a Duke of Edinburgh assessor, says she developed key life skills on the expedition, including planning, team building, navigation and courage.
“It was an amazing opportunity I’ll never forget. I now use lots of the skills in my role as a sports assistant at Dover College Independent School. The experience also helped me secure a place at Canterbury Christchurch University, where I plan to study physical education and sports exercise science, later this year.”