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Age: 18

Hometown: Cockermouth

Cockermouth is a long way from Kendal – how are you able to study here?
After leaving 6th form I found this ideal course, but the issue was how to get here as I lived over 50 miles away. The distance was the biggest drawback and I felt quite disheartened. I started commuting on a motorbike. It was extremely time consuming and tiring and affected my learning. I then spoke to Student Services and found out about the Residential Support Scheme. I’m genuinely thankful to them as I was able to get a bursary to rent my own place in Kendal which was a life saver. Living independently in Kendal has been stress-free and has enabled me to grow and find my own way. The support has been fantastic; I would recommend it to anyone. People in West/North Cumbria don’t think Kendal College is an option but it is.

Why did you choose this course?
It’s something that’s always being key in my life, not just the sport but also the essence of being outdoors. The course gives me lots of practical opportunities for individual leadership and an academic qualification to enable me to go onto university.

Why did you choose Kendal College?
It’s university standard, the professionalism of the tutors and staff, and the attitudes towards learning. I spent a year in sixth form and it’s so much more mature here. You’re made to feel like an adult and you are in control of your own learning, which is so valuable. Sixth form could be quite demeaning in its outlook, the way students are treated here and practical opportunities on offer is unparalleled.

Is College like you had expected. If not, why?
I was expecting it to be quite lax and indifferent. On the contrary, it’s professional and informal – but informal in the sense that you are trusted to take charge of your own learning and make your own decisions. You’re not handed things on a silver platter. You need to do assignments out of college time and organise your independent learning. It prepares you for the future, for university and work.

What opportunities have you had as a student at the College?
Earlier this year we went to Scotland for a week kayaking. We climbed Ben Nevis, and paddled on the river Edif. We’re currently fundraising for a trip to Morocco next year. The tutor has left it in our hands to raise the funds needed. It’s a big responsibility, but you feel like you’ve earned it if you do it yourselves, rather than an adult doing it for you. It will cost £600 each and we’re hoping to raise half through fundraising. One of my ideas is to ascend the height of Toubkal on the Kendal climbing wall and gain sponsorship. On the trip, we hope to climb Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa, and stay in Marrakesh - see the markets, experience the culture and incorporate the spirit of exploration and development into the trip. We have the option to do the Duke of Edinburgh and I’m hoping to complete the gold in our 2nd year.

Josh is not only a tutor he’s immensely competent in outdoor sport. He’s completed all the qualifications in outdoor sports like kayaking and caving, so he’s not someone who is just following the syllabus, he has the practical experience to teach you to a high standard. As Josh is a qualified assessor in outdoor sports, we’ve been able to gain qualifications through him for free. For example, this year I’ve got my 2-star kayaking award. It makes you a lot more employable in the industry if you have specific sport qualifications.

There is also an opportunity to do the Mountain Leadership (ML) qualification next year. I’ve also been on a one-week work placement to High Borrans Outdoor Education Centre near Windermere. I was a trainee instructor, leading activities for primary school groups like canoeing and rock. I took an active part in the day-to-day workings of the centre, which gave me a real insight into how it all works.

What is the teaching style like on your course?
The teaching is interactive, it’s on the ball learning and you’re kept busy through presentations, discussions and group work. You’re always encouraged to share your ideas and thoughts with the others in your class.

We do 3-4 units at a time and there are about 4 assignments/ tasks per unit. It’s not overwhelming, it’s achievable and enjoyable. Being able to do your own research is really interesting and great for preparing you for university. Recently, for our Principles of Outdoor Adventure module, we had to research prominent figures in the outdoor industry – e.g. Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Scouts. It became a personal project as well as a College one. Finding out how the lives of people shaped the industry we know today, reading their biographies and quotations online… it didn’t feel like work, it was fun and inspired me to look at leadership further, become an entrepreneur and push myself.

Can you describe a typical day at College?
We have lessons over 3 days a week, 2 days are theory and one day is practical. Students travel from all over so it’s better to have the lessons condensed into 3 long days, so we can work at home on our assignments and do other things on the other 2 days.

We have one full day practical every week. We all meet in the morning, have a quick discussion, head to the equipment store to load up the equipment and by 9.30 we’re on our way. You are responsible for your own kit and people work together to do everything on time. People would pay over £100 for a day’s outdoor activity – we do it every week and it’s free! I’m able to obtain a qualification doing something I really love.

Each term we focus on a different activity. It was kayaking in the first term, fell walking & hiking in the second looking at mountain leadership skills, and now we’ve moved onto rock climbing.

The theory sessions are perfectly complementary to the practical ones. My favourite unit is Anatomy & Physiology as I would like to go into Sports Science or Physiotherapy. This course gives you the practical experience in outdoor sport but you also get an academic qualification that covers things like Biology. We are currently learning about sports nutrition, and previously we’ve looked at legislation and Health & Safety – all things you need to know to progress in that industry and that you can apply to your day-to-day work.

At sixth form we were in school for 5 days a week but more isn’t always better. Teenagers can feel overloaded and may have other things in life they want to do e.g. doing part-time work, taking other courses and qualifications, starting up a business. This course gives you more leeway for other experiences in life. Sixth forms base their total emphasis on just the qualification and one style of learning. This course gives you the time to absorb the information correctly and in your own time, so you remember it.

There is an over-dependence on controlled learning at sixth form, but at university, you are expected to think for yourself and go away and complete assignments on your own. University and College have the same principles - self-learning and independence.

What are you hoping to do after College?
University is my current plan – something along the lines of Physiotherapy. I love the outdoors and may come back to this later in life. At sixth form, you do one subject and then are expected to do the same at university, whereas this course keeps my options open and enables me to go into a whole variety of things. There is the flexibility to make my own informed decision.

It’s an entire misconception that taking one course would limit your options as it’s the opposite! You’re learning about working in industry and can apply the skills you learn to any walks of life. We have developed our communication skills in a workplace environment and leadership skills e.g. how to effectively guide and help people to meet their objectives. I currently work at Go Ape. I got the job in March and the experience on the course definitely helped in my one-to-one interview. I talked about being an outdoor leader and was able to demonstrate what I’d learnt on the course.

The course leaves you open to all options. For example, after this course I could go onto conversation & environment work, sports science, become a personal trainer, or work in an outdoor adventure centre. And these are just a few examples, there are a lot more.

What facilities do you use regularly at the College?
We use Office 365, WordPress blogs and the library resources. The kit store is amazing. We have kayaks and canoes, and a full trailer set up. There is spare equipment so there is no pressure to buy things yourself, everything you need for practical activities is available.

If you could give one piece of advice to people considering College, what would it be?
Just give it a go, it’s not something you’d ever regret!