We've all been tested to the limits

Published on: 25 Aug 2017

'DUKE of Edinburgh Award’ is a phrase rarely uttered around me or my friends without accompaniment of feelings of regret, despair and physical and mental exhaustion. While we have successfully completed both Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, I can confidently declare said walks have had a dramatic impact on us - for better or worse - as they have tested the limits to our patience, determination, and finesse.

In September 2015, I was introduced by my school to the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, which was advertised as an exciting, adventurous journey. The presentation attracted a large number of students from the year group, including myself.

After establishing my team, Team Panda, as well as participating in a series of training sessions, it was time to engage in our most daunting task yet: a two-day expedition involving sleeping overnight at a campsite. While the presentation had highlighted the social, boisterous aspect of the DofE Bronze Award, it failed to mention the arduous, straining nature of the expedition; something we later discovered for ourselves when experiencing it first-hand.

Despite both the practice and assessed walks testing our ability to function as a group through torrential rain, lofty hills and one particular ‘scenic route’ that resulted in us arriving at the objective two hours late, we persevered, and Team Panda conquered the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Expedition with no intention to participate in any of the following awards.

And yet, we did.

Due predominantly to peer pressure, we decided to continue Team Panda’s quest through the DofE Awards; the next step being its Silver component. And so, throughout the last year we have been preparing for our new adventure, while also tackling our GCSE exams and the topic of our futures. Recently, we have completed the Duke of Edinburgh Silver practice and assessed expeditions, passing both despite our talent for getting lost, as well as the additional day of walking. The Silver challenge proved to be harder than our previous outing in every single conceivable way, ranging from our rapidly increasing intolerance for one another due to the physical exhaustion caused by three days of walking in both the Forest of Dean and the Quantock Hills. By the end of the expedition, we were drained.

 Once again, Team Panda have declared that our participation in the DofE Awards has come to its end and that we will not be doing the final, Gold award. However, this might not be the case; as history has proven, we have a record of declaring that we are done with DofE, only to come crawling back to it. While both Bronze and Silver Awards have proven to be abusive and exhausting, there is clearly some appeal to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards for us to keep returning to them; whether that’s the thrill from engaging in an adventure with friends in the wilderness, or it’s the feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.

The DofE Awards have tested our limits and drained us mentally and physically, and yet we would not be the same without them; I would not be the same without them. And for that reason, I do not regret my decision to participate in either Award, and perhaps this September I will find myself preparing for my Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition.

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