Why the Duke of Edinburgh Award is important for international students
“The DofE has progressed to become more than an outdoors leadership challenge… it now reflects a much more diverse and interconnected world”
In today’s highly competitive world, young people are under enormous pressure to succeed. However, success is rarely achieved without a helping hand or a positive, life-changing experience, writes Clare Lane, head of sport at Bellerbys College.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was set up in 1956 to help young people from all walks of life navigate the challenging path to adulthood; broadening their life skills and preparing them for their future work or studies.
While individual institutions around the world may offer similar programmes, as far as I’m aware there isn’t a program on a national level comparable to the DofE Award. Agents may not be aware of the benefits the program presents tor international students in particular, which is why we should be talking about it today.
Over the past two years over 133,000 young people have completed all four sections of the award: volunteering, physical, skill and expedition. Not only did they push their personal boundaries, have fun, and develop new skills, they also enhanced their CVs and university applications significantly.
“We make sure that students have the support they would typically receive from parents or guardians”
An extra feather in the international student’s cap
The DofE Award is popular among the UK students. However, young people from other countries and cultures, who come to study in Britain, are mostly unaware of the DofE. These international students miss out on an invaluable extracurricular experience that could give their UK university application a winning edge.
Since its inception, the DofE has progressed to become more than an outdoors leadership challenge. While still very challenging, it now reflects a much more diverse and interconnected world.
For international students, the award program tests groups of various languages and cultures to work as a team. Activities include charity work and fundraising. This has helped develop our students’ leadership skills and expose them to a wider community of volunteers.
Sport is another element of the program and for many it’s the first time they’ve tried kick boxing, jujitsu or dance.
“For international students, the award program tests groups of various languages and cultures to work as a team”
The final part of our DofE program involves students taking part in an expedition. Recently we had our first training walk, and when we asked the students what they found difficult, a young girl replied ‘Walking!’. On another training walk, students found cows particularly intimidating, so they opted for the longer route around!
Bellerbys Brighton became a licensed DofE centre in 2016. Students can register from the age of 14 and have until the age of 25 to complete the award. Typically, international students take a year to complete it, and with the freedom to start and finish when they want, it can fit around their studies.
The challenge for international students
Participating in the DofE can be more of a challenge for international students compared to domestic students. They are far from home, far from family and friends, and may lack the contacts they need to complete the volunteering section. They are also suddenly faced with the great British outdoors – which for many international students can be overwhelming. Not to mention cold.
At Bellerbys Brighton, we make sure that our students have the support they would typically receive from parents or guardians. We also help them prepare for their expedition, allowing them to discover the countryside in all its terrains.
“On another training walk, students found cows particularly intimidating, so they opted for the longer route around”
The training walks begin in September, each one focuses on a different skill, like map reading and route planning, and emergency procedures. So far, the biggest challenge for the students is learning not to use their phones to navigate!
The DofE Award is a positive, life-changing experience for young people.
It helps international students adjust to their new surroundings far faster and gives them something truly interesting and inspiring to talk about in their UK university interviews.