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Duke of Edinburgh Journal: The Practice Expedition Preparation

Hi all, this is Mercedes with the second entry in my blog “A World Outside BISB’s Classrooms: My Journey to The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.” As a Year 10 student, I’m in the process of completing my Bronze Award. During Year 11, I plan to finish the Silver Award and finally, the Gold Award in Year 12. I will give you an insight of all the steps involved in order to achieve them. Join me on my adventure, as I talk about my learning experiences, all the fun anecdotes during the exciting expeditions and much more.

Choosing your DofE team

DofE gives you the opportunity to work in teams with your schoolmates and this is very interesting because you have the chance to get to know them better outside BISB classrooms.

One of the reasons I love BISB is because it is an international school and the students come from more than 70 countries. This diversity will play an important role in the team work.

The maximum number of students per group is 7, the minimum 4. In my group we are 3 girls and 4 boys. We chose a name that includes all of us, we are “The Eurasians”. Why? Because we are from China, England, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain and USA.

It is really cool to be in a group with so many nationalities. We will be able to learn from each other’s cultures without leaving Boston!

Preparation: Planning ahead - aka “We should have practiced/thought about that before” 

We had lots of meetings, and we also thought we had so much time, but time flies! Suddenly, the time crunch was there and we still had to do a lot of planning ... frantic exchanges of messages were the result, with frequency increasing as we got closer to the trip. But it isn’t completely our fault. Each of us is extremely busy every day, with school and afterschool activities, and therefore we really don’t have time to work things out.

Trust me when I say this is though. If you participate in the Duke of Edinburgh, you have to make time for your tasks, and take initiative. If not, it is not going to work.

 Important requirements: The Route Card definition

The route card provides a basic idea of the route we will take during the hike, with checkpoints, grid references, snack breaks, etc. It has to be completed before the actual hike.

My group was given maps of the Pawtuckaway Park in New Hampshire (the state park were our practice expedition took place) and we started off by making a clear outline of what our route would look like. We literally highlighted the trails that we would take on the map.

A little advice: one should always keep at least one blank map of the park without any annotations. If there is ever a mistake on one of the maps, you always have a spare.

Remember you have to submit everything you do. It has to be neat, because it must be approved!

 Once we highlighted the trail, we needed to mark at least six different checkpoints along the hike. In our team, we decided to mark any intersection of two or more trails as a checkpoint. We then discussed that we could take short breaks at intersections, in order to log how long it took us as a group to hike from one checkpoint to the next, and then compare the time to the predicted time we wrote down on our route cards.

We ended up having a roughly 8 mile hike with checkpoints!

And how about those cute “contour lines” that get nicely close together in some spots … don’t ever underestimate them! I will tell you about those later ;-)

Distributing Tasks: Food & Equipment

After fully completing our Route Card, my squad discussed for a couple of weeks who will take what, and who will buy what. It was exhausting! We never came to an agreement!

To make things more complicated, we do not have our driving licenses yet! We couldn’t just go quickly last minute to buy some missing piece. So here go our parents ... what can I say, they are saints - at least occasionally :-). They had to drive us to the outdoor stores and supermarkets so many times!  Thank you for your understanding and patience ;-)

In the end, after some persuasion here and there, we finally agreed on what food to take to the trip, and who will buy the 3-person tent and who the two 2-person tents. Backpacks, camping equipment, sleeping bag, and so many other things ... DO NOT forget the sleeping mattress and WATERPROOF hiking boots!

We packed it all at home and when my father helped me put on my backpack, he literally had to stabilize me to not fall over on the floor!  I would’ve been like a bug on its back, not able to get up again ... it was so heavy  = (

As a group, we decided to bring Ramen for dinner. My friend Yueyi came up with the idea, and I suggested we could buy different kinds with different flavors, and together with another brilliant idea from my other teammate, Massimo, we ended up having some delicious Ramen with Italian sausages to add proteins and flavor. You see, teamwork!

Contributing with new and fresh ideas is essential in DofE. Instant oatmeal for all. Brooks and his Cliff bars, Cathal and his cooking equipment, Alice, Massimo, and Bruno’s tents. Bruno and his water and fuel tank, Yueyi’s 24 packages of Ramen, my chocolate cookies ... (it turned out they disappeared within seconds - next time I will bring two big boxes J). So many little details that made a big impact in the end.

I also wanted to try some lightweight and vacuum-sealed hiking food the experts in an outdoor store recommended for this type of trips. The most recommended: the chicken dumplings and the breakfast with scrambled eggs, potatoes and some other yummy things. It all sounded mouthwatering and the packages were so light and they looked so good… Well, I have to say, if you ever want to try that, follow the instructions exactly! Otherwise it may end up as an interesting “culinary experiment” that doesn’t go down too well ...

We MUST make a photo of all of us with our backpacks for the next trip! It looked so funny how we all had these enormous backpacks on our backs. And I’m still amazed at how we managed to carry them for 8 miles!!! Next time, before/after pictures would be cool.

Preparation: The most valuable lesson learnt: TEAMWORK!!!

It is a great idea to have that practice expedition before the actual one. Many things have to be sorted out, and so many things we have to get used to ... Our instructors, Mr. Ng, Ms. Staniland and Mr. Higgins were super, but on purpose didn’t help too much. It’s really about you thinking responsibly and as a team about what is needed. That starts with the planning phase and goes all the way through the actual expedition. One of the most important things I learnt on the way is that without teamwork, nothing works. And if things don’t work, it’s no fun.

I am so proud of my team. We helped each other, everyone was engaged, and we distributed tasks evenly across the seven members. It is crucial for a team to hear each other out, and to not have just a few do all the work. If a team does not work together, the team will collapse. GO EURASIANS!


That’s all Folks!

I hope you liked my second entry and come aboard with me on the DofE adventure.

The practice expedition was a survival trip… and WE SURVIVED!

So many things I want to share with you.

Do not miss it! ;)

Mercedes