7 years ago, I had the opportunity to join the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme at my university. I had heard about it once before when I was in HS but was afraid it was too late for me. I was therefore glad to learn at the info session that it was for youths 14-25. There would be plenty of time to complete any level – all three, if I really wanted to (at age 18).
I started in silver, hoping to eventually work up to gold. Yet when I found how difficult it was to organise camping trips for the Adventure section, year after year, I decided that I’d best start with the gold level. Sadly, I was running out of time. Last August, I was delighted to find that the Ridge Wilderness Adventures offers -approved adventure trips (kayaking or canoeing) for youth up to age 25. The latter is especially important as most of these adventure trips are generally offered to youth up to age 19, if not 18. This was my last section to be completed before I turn 25 (NOTE: All activities must be completed before your 25th birthday! Signatures and adventure report have no deadline but participants are advised to turn in their logbook as soon as possible, preferably within 1-2 months).
The next trying task was to add up all the hours of the physical recreation and service activities I’d done in the last 7 years. I regret not having collected some signatures when I had the chance as the hours for those activities are now disqualified. With only 2 pages for each section to record, it is important that you prepare some extra pages (i.e. create an Excel template) and have them printed as soon as possible so that each activity may be recorded and signed by an assessor.
As my 25th birthday approaches (in 2 days), I look back at the last 7 years with great memories but also with some ‘regrets’:
I wish I’d printed out my extra pages and collected signatures when I had the chance. Though I do not regret the activities I could try out, there is no ‘proof’ that I’d ever participated in some of these activities. Not to mention the number of qualifying hours I’ve lost.
I wish I’d told myself that I have 7 years to learn and improve on a/one skill – consistently. Instead, I picked up several skills along the way (which I do not regret). I chose writing as my main skill, switching between creative writing, journaling, to blogging. Yet I also picked up sewing, hat making (millinery), candle making, soap making, and plenty of other activities… all of which were trial skills. At the same time, I know that it maintaining some of these skills required quite a bit of money, whereas writing would always be free.
I wish I’d saved lots of money for these activities, instead of having to take breaks in between for lack of money. I wish I’d emphasised to my parents how important this award is for me so that I could participate in one of the exciting residential projects out there. I am glad, however, that my year abroad in Germany as an exchange student counts though I’d often dreamt that I would be volunteering in a remote part of Canada or somewhere in Kenya, for instance. Nevertheless, my exchange year was one of the best years of my life. I really grew and became a person I wanted to be. I learned far more in one year than I’d ever learned in a classroom.
The last regret is part of life: we age. Though my camping peers may have thought that I was their age (16-17), I am in fact 7 years older and finding that the world offers fewer and fewer programmes for young adults 24-30. I wish I could time travel to my earlier years. I wish I’d known about this Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme while I was in HS. I would have done so much more. Perhaps?
When I submit my logbook and report this summer/autumn, both the Divisional and National Offices will review what I have done. It could take 4-6 weeks or longer before I know if I’m even approved to receive an award. Yet whether or not I shall be able to be approved to receive a Gold Award, I want YOU to live this life I wish I’d lived or relive the life I had (and will continue to have).
I want you to know about this wonderful programme for us younglings to help us explore our talents and interests. This programme may at times force you out of your comfort zone: meeting strangers, learning how to deal with them, learning how they think, learning to be humble, learning to be brave, and learning to take charge. At the end, it will have trained you to be a leader, however you want to define a leader.
So if you are still under 25 and have at least 6 months, one year or a year-and-a-half until then, seize the opportunity now to participate in this programme:
- SERVE the community (service)
- Learn a new SKILL
- Stay PHYSICALLY active (physical recreation)
- Have an ADVENTURE with others
- Spend time away from home on a RESIDENTIAL PROJECT
When you are done with the award, don’t stop. Continue to do all of the above so that you will never be bored and always learn something and meet someone new. 🙂
I would like to thank HRH The Duke of Edinburgh for setting up this programme and for opening it to the Commonwealth and outside the Commonwealth. I would also like to thank everyone who has helped answer my [billions of redundant and possibly annoying] questions along the way and who have helped me improve myself. 🙂