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Sophie’s story

I’m a student at Durham University and achieved my Gold DofE Award in 2016 as a student at Doha College, Qatar.

Since signing up to do the Bronze level back in 2013, the DofE has had a positive impact on my life. I grew up in Surrey, England until the age of 12 when I then moved to Doha, Qatar. This was a big change for our family, and it took me a long time to adjust to a new culture, language and environment. But my Bronze DofE helped me settle into our new home – giving me the perfect opportunity to make new friends and boost my confidence.

As I enjoyed doing the Bronze expedition so much, a group of friends and I decided that we wanted to repeat the experience. However, this time as a sponsored walk to raise money for a school we would be visiting during our Silver expedition in Nepal. Our fundraising became so successful that we ended up setting up a committee in our school, with the focus on raising money for schools in countries that were visited by other Silver DofE participants.

Over a period of three years, we managed to raise over £30,000 – allowing us to help fund towards the building of a new school in Nepal, Hillside Academy, as well as support existing schools in both Nepal and Sri Lanka. This committee still runs in Doha College today and is led my new Gold DofE participants each year, with over £10,000 being raised so far in 2018.

My DofE allowed me to experience setting up a committee and making a difference to children who come from less fortunate backgrounds. This has improved my leadership and teamworking skills, as well as teaching me the importance of distributing tasks and working proactively to reach a goal. It has also led me to consider a career in the charity sector – the incredible feeling of walking into the school we’d built and meeting all of the children is one that I will never forget.

Aside from this, doing my DofE taught me many other skills that have helped me get accepted into my first-choice university, Durham, along with many other aspects of university life. When I started to write my personal statement, the first thing I did was look back through my DofE experience as every aspect gives you lots of new attributes – helping you stand out from the rest. Learning leadership and problem-solving skills by doing my DofE expeditions has helped me in group projects at university and be selected as an executive member of the Durham University Charity Committee.

My Gold expedition, where I climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro, taught me the importance of having determination. Catching hypothermia and fainting from altitude sickness multiple times on the final push to the summit showed me that I can push myself further than I ever thought I could to achieve a goal. This mentality has supported me through the many challenges I've experienced since going to university.

Through my Volunteering and Skills sections, I learned about taking responsibility and being organised. As an undergraduate studying Natural Sciences, my deadlines are often clustered together for different assignments. So, it’s important that I manage my time effectively.

I look back on my DofE journey as the best part of school life – the benefits from taking part are still having a positive effect on my everyday life today.

To find out how achieving a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award can make you #WorldReady go to worldready.org

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