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Student Blog: The First Bronze IA Hike

30 September 2018

With a record number of Surval girls participating in the globally recognised qualification of the International Award this year, we began with a one day hike on Sunday 30th September. Not only did this allow the girls to see some spectacular views of the local area, but also learn map reading skills, teamwork, leadership and of course, get used to their hiking boots. You can explore the day hike from several perspectives below...

This Year’s First International Award Hike – A Day of Leadership, Teamwork and Noodles!

The Surval I.A. leaders, Ms O’Donnell and Mrs Sisson; our Gold Award IA student, Lucia, G12, Spain; and an I.A. “first-timer”, Raquel, FY, Mexico, describe their experience of Surval’s biggest Bronze Award hike so far…

Ms O’Donnell, I.A. Co-Leader:

We had a fantastic day out navigating around some tricky terrain in the Sonloup area, with students developing their map reading skills, taking leadership roles, being self-reliant and cooking their own lunches. It was also great that we were able to unite our expedition with nearby St George’s International School, which gave our girls the opportunity to work as a team with not only Surval students, but students from St George’s. 

With twelve girls representing Surval, it is the biggest group of girls participating in the Bronze Award in Surval’s history. We were very proud with how well the Surval girls represented our school: the St George’s teacher was impressed with Violeta’s maths, leadership and organisation (she even remembered to print out some spare maps for the group in case any got ruined!); Raquel, the youngest member of the group, not only took her turn at leading the navigation, but even had the energy to run part of the way up the hill; Sandra took a lead on cooking at lunchtime; Nastya and Gimena displayed particularly strong leadership and orientation skills; and Liza F showed real leadership potential, looking for opportunities to be proactive in the group’s navigation. All twelve girls on the expedition made a great effort to push themselves out of their comfort zone and rise to the challenges of the journey.

A special thanks goes to Lucia, who came along to assist staff with the groups, sharing the skills she has learnt on the course of achieving her Bronze Award and working towards her Gold Award. 

We also managed to miss the late afternoon rain, a successful day all round! 

Mrs Sisson, I.A. Co-Leader: 

We set off from Surval in the bright morning sun to drive to our local hiking area, Les Avants. The girls chatted throughout the bus journey, excitedly anticipating the events throughout the day. Firstly, they had to meet the St George’s Bronze Award students, who, like Surval, had also been split into three groups so that a group from St George’s could be paired with a group from Surval. 

At first, the groups were expected to locate themselves on the map using the physical features around us – such as roads, buildings and hills. Once they had located where we were on the map, they had to find the first checkpoint and, using the gridlines, calculate how long it would take us to walk there, using the average of three kilometre-per-hour walking speed. The distance was one-kilometre. "A twenty-minute walk!" our in-house mathematician, Violeta, immediately announced. A very surprised Mr McKay from St George’s concurred, expressing his admiration at her speedy mental arithmetic skills, and we were ready to go!

After a few more checkpoints, and a hard climb up the steep Swiss Alps, the girls were ready for lunch – the next test. Out of their bags, they pulled their camping stoves, pasta, water, plates, cutlery (not quite sure how it all fitted in!) and they cooked their eagerly awaited lunch.

Once all finished and full, the groups were ready for the final test: navigating their way independently back to the buses. This was their first unsupervised time on the expedition (to be on the safe side, the staff split into groups to bring up the rear a little distance behind, and to wait further ahead up the route) and the groups did not disappoint! Lucia and I stationed ourselves at a turning that we thought our group might miss and were soon happy to be proved wrong in our fears; after a minute spent consulting their map, down the right path the girls trooped, and completed the rest of the several kilometre journey back to the buses without any help needed from the staff. The words 'proud and impressed' don’t quite capture how happy we felt at their success!

It was such a great pleasure to see our Surval girls integrate so effectively with another school, showing impressive team work, quickly learning survival navigation skills, and showing real interest in the natural environment around them. Both myself and Miss O'Donnell cannot wait for the practice and qualifying expeditions!

Lucia, G12, Spain:

The Duke of Edinburgh International Award is a unique and valuable adventure that we are lucky to experience here at Surval. It gives us the opportunity to meet many new people, and to learn and develop multiple skills. 

I remember my first Bronze Award expedition back in 2016-17. I was fifteen years old and I did my Bronze Award along with a couple of my friends. It was a relatively hard physical activity but we had so much fun and I enjoyed it a lot. 

This year, 2018-19, I am currently working towards achieving my Gold Award and I have had the wonderful opportunity of assisting the staff as they lead the group of girls that hope to gain their Bronze Award this year.

I joined their first practice hike as part of my training and to offer my support. It was very interesting to see a different perspective of the Award and to be able to use my own experience to help. All the girls on the expedition were very enthusiastic and committed. It reminded me of the good memories of when I started mine, but this time I got the chance of experiencing the hike from the teachers’ side, with our central focus on the girls’ safety as they navigated independently. 
It is so rewarding to be able to transfer my knowledge and skills to the girls; I am looking forward to continuing to contribute to the International Award club as I work towards achieving my Gold by the end of this year.

Raquel, FY, Mexico: 

I had a lot of fun on the hike! When we first arrived, we were divided into groups and given maps to try and figure out where we were. We then had to lead the way up the mountain path to the checkpoint where we would be having lunch. Along the journey, I had fun bonding with the St. George’s students that were in my group. 

During lunch, Violeta, Rhizland, Rubí and I prepared some noodles and chips. Our first batch of noodles was awful since we forgot to add the flavouring; our second try was even worse because we added the flavouring after the noodles were boiling; but on our third try, the noodles were amazingly delicious! Phew…

On our way down the mountain, we mixed with another group and decided to merge the two groups together. As we walked, we made jokes, and were so busy laughing that we nearly got lost! However, everything turned out great in the end. The St. George’s students were really friendly and helpful, especially the ones on my team.

I had a great time and I can't wait to go on our next hike and to team up with my friends at Surval and the St. George’s students again.