• Camille Thierry, Rei Tangkijngamwong, and Andy Dorn

Adventurous Journeys & The International Award

NIST students learning to SUP on the River Kwai

At NIST, students in the upper secondary school are offered the opportunity to undertake the International Award. The International Award was founded in England by the Duke of Edinburgh. The award aims to grow important skills and attributes in youth by engaging them in challenging activities that help them grow through the process. The four sections that the students have to engage in are Service, Skills, Physical Recreation, and the Adventurous Journey.

The adventurous journey expected outcomes.

The Award is about individual challenge 
and developing a sense of commitment.
 The adventurous journey is the section of the award that normally challenges the students the most. It aims to develop the outcomes as shown above. Students have to engage in two journeys within a small group to complete the award. The first is a practice journey, where they learn the skills required for that mode of travel and train for the next journey. The second journey is a qualifying journey, on this journey students must lead all parts of the journey, including route planning and navigation. They also have to be independent and do their own shopping for supplies, cook their own meals, and carry all of the gear they require including the tents they will sleep in.

A briefing on the forthcoming journey, also attended by some curious local water buffalo

As well as offering students a challenge and adventure, the adventurous journey trips also offer students a great opportunity to connect with nature in a beautiful setting.

For the silver practice journey this year, a group of 30 students and staff went on an SUP (stand up paddle board) journey on the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi. Although it is relatively close to Bangkok, Kanchanaburi offers an amazing nature experience. The river Kwai where we paddled is bounded on one side by a national park, and the riverbanks are lined with lush, green trees. The river water is fresh and clear as the water source is nearby. Students learn the basic skills on slow-moving water the first day, but by the second day, they paddle down fast-flowing rapids.

The River Kwai campsite, home for the night

The campsite is set on the banks of the river, nestled between forested mountain ridges. As often happens in nature, the elements decided to give us more of an adventure than we anticipated. A huge thunderstorm rolled in just as the students finished cooking, and we had to temporarily abandon the campsite to shelter at a nearby restaurant. But sometimes these unexpected challenges end up being the most memorable! The 2 hours we spent sheltering became a great bonding experience for the students who took advantage of the time to play games and get to know each other better.

A fabulous day on the river

The Bronze award is offered to NIST students, who use hiking as the mode of travel for their adventurous journeys. Rei Tangkijngamwong has written the following on his experience on the practice adventurous journey in Chiang Mai.

In December of 2019, year 10 students had the chance to go to an action week trip to Chiang Mai. The trip was different from what we were used to though, as it qualified as an International Award trip. This meant that we were tasked with the challenge of long hikes and cooking for ourselves. But these challenges turned out to be some of the best parts of the trip. We hiked for two day, andthe route connected two campsites together.

The journey traversed the picturesque Huai Lan reservoir.

The first days hike went around a reservoir called Huai Lan (ห้วยลาน), this trek had a very good view and a nice atmosphere. An artificial barrier was made on the reservoir, which also acted as a road, which added a human element to the otherwise natural surroundings. This hike was also the easiest and acted as great preparation and practice for the next day’s hike.

On the second day we departed on the second day’s hike, we were warned that it was much more arduous than the previous day. We were given maps and a compass per group to navigate. This was part of qualifying as an International Award practice journey and allowed us to develop new adventure skills. This hike had much more uphill and was quite challenging overall. After climbing up for quite some time, we finally reached the peak, exhausted of course. From the peak, we saw the view of the lush, green areas underneath, and the hike was worth the exhaustion. We sat on flat ground, and all ate lunch together, which we had made ourselves earlier in the morning. As lunches were to be prepared in groups of three, my group made penne pasta out of canned sauces. The pasta energized me and also motivated me to continue the hike. While we ate, all of us also bonded quite well with each other, and the shared experience of the hike allowed us to be much closer. But then we had another challenge, which was the way down. The path back was very steep, similar to the way there, and was challenging to follow along. As the ground was quite slippery as well, we had to be cautious of our standings. Most of us, including me, slipped and fell on our backs, which became a joke by the end of the hike, but in the moment, everyone concentrated on trying to maintain balance while walking down.

After completing these hikes, I realized that these were the best parts of the trip, and though it was challenging, we also developed new skills such as outdoor cooking and manual navigating. The hiking was also entertaining and team-building, I became much closer with people who I was not familiar with, and it has become something we talk about often.

Camille Thierry participated on the Bronze qualifying hike to Khao Yai in March 2020. This is his account of the trip:

The Khao Yai Hike was a memorable experience for me. It was the qualifying journey trip with the international award so we had to be independent on the journey. This meant we had to buy our own food, navigate the route ourselves during the hike, and we had to cook all of our food and set up our own campsite. The hike was really fun, walking in the beautiful nature of Thailand with a bunch of friends made the experience memorable and with the challenges of the terrain made everything much better. From this experience, I learned more about myself and how I can overcome challenges in these situations. Working with new people taught me more about how to adapt to people you are with because everyone works differently and at a different pace.

In conclusion, this experience was just really fun because you get to go on an adventurous journey in a nice place with a bunch of your mates and during this, you need to overcome challenges. At the end, when you finish, get to look back saying to yourself that although it can be tough at times, you had a great time and have grown from the experience.