Life: the Next Big Adventure
By Simon Capstick-Dale
Each year, World Challenge helps teams of high school students lead their own expeditions into Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. And from what these youngsters have to say about the experience, it’s life-changing, for sure.
Students from across the globe are introduced to unfamiliar environments where they engage with different cultures as part of a holistic outside-the-classroom learning programme. World Challenge provides education through exploration, a real-life experience for young people, and the opportunity to develop skills and qualities to last a lifetime: leadership, teamwork, problem solving, perseverance, cultural acceptance and empathy.
“World Challenge is very different from what many students might experience when they go overseas with their parents, staying in comfy hotels and being transported from A to B. The [World Challenge] expeditions allow them autonomy and freedom to help them build the self-confidence to travel on their own,” says Tamin-Lee Connolly, head of operations for World Challenge South Africa.
The World Challenge expeditions aren’t about snapping selfies with friends in front of tourist attractions; they provide a safe environment for young people to test the limits of their comfort zones in a far-off place while encouraging tenacity and resourcefulness. Students overcome the day-to-day trials faced on World Challenge by putting into practice the skills they’ve learnt with their fellow team members in preparation for the expedition—and continue to hone throughout the trip.
A group of students were put under physical and emotional pressure during their trip in 2015 to Malaysia where they faced intense humidity, as well as bees and leeches: “The heat on our three-day trek through the rainforest was indescribable, which made it really tough to stay motivated and carry on. Being in isolation with 11 other girls also put my emotions to the test, but it’s amazing how much you learn about people in these situations,” says 18-year-old Leila Diesel.
Just as for older and more experienced explorers who have their heart set on circumnavigating Africa on a bicycle or paddling across the icy Atlantic, research, fundraising, in-depth planning and physical training are all part of getting the students ready for World Challenge, which makes these expeditions tremendously character-building. Preparations for World Challenge expeditions begin 12 to 18 months prior to the students’ departure. Under the guidance of World Challenge staff and selected teachers, students get to grips with their expedition through a series of meetings and tasks related to team building, fitness training and fundraising.
Upon arrival in their host country, students draw on their physical ability, intuition, teamwork as well as communication and organisational skills to get around their World Challenge destination. They are put in charge of their itinerary and lead the expedition in their teams after arriving in the country: communicating with foreigners, taking public transport and managing their own finances.
“As a team, we had to make sure of exactly what we were doing and where we would stay each night. At first I felt completely overwhelmed and part of me wanted to go straight back home. But by the end of the trip, I had learnt so much and was a completely different person from the one who arrived in Kuala Lumpur,” says Leila.
Though most students opt for assistance, for the most diehard explorers World Challenge also offers unsupported treks that require students to carry all their own gear and make provision for meals.
Community work forms an equal component alongside adventure on expeditions. World Challenge promotes global citizenship by encouraging students to engage with cultures different from their own as a means of broadening their perspective and developing a more mature worldview.
Working in foreign communities also helps students to understand first-hand the development challenges of the third world, with many going on to become active members of their communities after returning home. “I appreciated World Challenge more than past travel experiences, because I had far more interaction with local people and learnt about diverse cultures,” says Nokukhanya Zondi, another Rustenburg World Challenger who went to Malaysia.
Whether it’s undertaking conservation work at a turtle sanctuary on the Perhentian Islands of Malaysia or assisting communities to build facilities for rural schools in India, students on World Challenge live and work alongside the locals, which offers the opportunity for close learning and cultural exchange. “Helping students become aware of their Western mindset puts the world in a completely different light for them,” comments Connolly. “World Challenge provides the kind of global awareness that can’t be learnt from books. Often students return home after the experience more culturally aware, empathetic and determined to make a difference.”
World Challenge offers enormous opportunity for the personal growth and development of students, helping to lay the foundations for their future—not only in terms of skills and their careers but by opening their minds to new possibilities and endorsing a life full of adventure. “I’ve honestly never had a child come back from World Challenge who didn’t say it was the best experience of their life. When these students step outside of their comfort zones in a physical, emotional and cultural sense, they achieve more than they’ve ever dreamt possible,” says Connolly.
“World Challenge has given me a taste of what it's like to travel freely, be enriched by other cultures, and discover qualities within myself that I didn't know I possessed,” says Angela Mibey, also from Rustenburg.
Inspired to broaden her horizons in a foreign country, Leila has used the life-changing experience of World Challenge as a platform for the future: “Going to Malaysia helped me make the decision to travel on my own and work in 2018—and I cannot wait!”
How it works
All expeditions are based around adventure and community activities in four phases:
• Acclimatisation—Students get their heads around their new environment, with an introductory trek or practical task.
• Trekking—Challengers must use their physical strength and work as a team to reach a beautiful and remote location.
• Project—Students get involved in community and/or conservation work with World Challenge partners on the ground.
• Rest & Relaxation—Challengers have the opportunity to unwind and enjoy activities such as visiting ancient temples, zip-lining or white-water rafting.
Source: The intrepid Explorer