“It’s amazing for him to have something where he can push himself, see himself being challenged and be better than some people,” she said.
“He was able to shine, and that was an amazing feeling for him”.
“When we got back home and we were unpacking his clothes he said to me: ‘Can I go on the advanced expedition next year?’ He was so excited about the experience he had.”
Hugh’s transformation is not uncommon. David Wall, who runs Nord Anglia Education’s (NAE) global expeditions programme said the Personal Challenge expedition in Les Martinets, Switzerland went well beyond learning about the physical rigours of trekking through the iconic Alps.
Students who choose the expedition were faced with a variety of challenges that grow them physically, mentally and emotionally.
“Some of them have never done their own personal admin,” Mr Wall said.
“Often the bigger challenge is can you get the equipment that you’ve been asked to pack into your bag and turn up at 9am ready to depart for the next two days – with your boots on.”
For other students, organising themselves is one of several challenges they will have to face during the trip. Mr Wall recalls a trek he ran for students who on top of being physically unfit, had grown up with domestic helpers, therefore they did not know how to cook or clean. Looking at the tasks ahead of them, Mr Wall said he was doubtful whether the students would complete the trek due to its demands. He realised, the plan had to change.
“We got them to redesign the route and tell us what they thought would be a better option,” Mr Wall said.
That decision became a turning point, enabling them to successfully complete their new route and gain a positive physical outdoor experience.
“It’s one of the best treks I’ve led,” Mr Wall said.
“Many of them hardly exercised and they didn’t like PE because they struggled with it and they didn’t like the competition element because they found it intimidating. Here they learned how to engage in exercise without being competitive. Also, they were a socially strong group and supported each other to do something they had never done before.”
For other students, the physical and organisational challenges of the expedition are secondary to what they want to achieve. For example, students from China gain a powerful learning experience with the sheer natural environment that Switzerland offers.