Year 13 Student Andy Shang (second from left) completes his Duke of Edinburgh International Award programme in just over 12 months
After being encouraged by Shrewsbury’s Director of Co-Curricular, Mr. Rozario, to give the Gold level of Duke of Edinburgh International Award programme a shot, Shrewsbury student Andy Shang threw himself into the challenge, ultimately completing all the required elements in record time. However, as we talked to Andy, it became clear that the qualification itself may not the biggest reward, but the experiences gained along the way.
The Duke of Edinburgh International Award (DoEIA) is an internationally recognised programme that encompasses four separate areas of attainment (five at gold level), and which together demonstrate a rounded journey of learning, service and resilience. It is a story of personal growth, not of competition against others, and which presents a significant challenge to each and every participant.
Shrewsbury International School Bangkok Riverside is a certified test centre for the DoEIA scheme, with every Year 10 student participating in the Bronze level programme, and many going on to pursue Silver level in Year 11, and Gold in the Sixth Form.
Central to the Gold level Award is the requirement for participants to commit to 12 months of voluntary service. In Andy’s case, he chose to work at a local deaf school, and even took on an additional marketing project to help raise the profile of Shrewsbury’s own school charities. The experience of working in a deaf school was a real eye-opener, and despite having finished the Award, Andy continues to volunteer there as often as his schedule will allow.
The second element of the award is “Skill”, with participants being required to build on or learn a skill that is entirely new to them. Andy, who is of Chinese Origin despite living in Thailand all his life, chose to broaden his understanding of the Mandarin language; something he says has allowed him to feel closer than ever to his family’s heritage and culture.
“I really wanted to deepen my understanding of Chinese culture and explore my background through language. It can be strange living in a country in which your origins are not fully represented. Thailand is home, but there is a big part of me that is connected to China, and I feel great to have committed time and effort to learning more.”
This connection was solidified when Andy traveled to his family’s homeland to complete the residential component; an aspect unique to the Gold level of the DoEIA programme. During his summer break, Andy visited a rural village in the interior of the country, near the city of Jinan. His self-appointed task was to aid the villagers during their harvest season, and he quickly realised his effort would be well appreciated.
“I saw first-hand the impact that the ‘one-child policy’ has had on rural China, with a single child often ultimately becoming responsible for the welfare of two parents and possibly four grandparents. It is generally impossible for one person to do this without leaving for the city. Therefore, the average age of those remaining in the villages increases, and agricultural production slides”.
Andy really got stuck in and didn’t shy away from hard work. He ploughed fields, harvested crops, collected firewood and participated in household chores.
“This trip gave me a whole new perspective on the lives of the people who in these rural areas, and it made me appreciate the privileges that I have myself.”
The Duke of Edinburgh International Award puts physical improvement and excellence front and centre, espousing the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ mantra. Andy, already a keen sportsman decided to take up badminton for the “physical” component – a sport that requires athletes to think on their feet and maintain a high level of cardiovascular fitness. Over 12 months, Andy trained regularly and has seen an enormous improvement in his game, winning MVP for the varsity team this year.
This physical prowess really came in handy when completing the fifth and final component of the award; the adventurous journey. Andy and his teammates took on the pristine but challenging terrain of the Oze National Park in Japan, three hours north of Tokyo. During the trek, Andy and his companions experienced everything from exploding water bladders, driving rain and unforgiving inclines.
“It was pretty amazing. The flora, fauna and scenic beauty was breath-taking. We really had to work for it though. It was the challenge to end all challenges and certainly sets the ‘Gold’ Duke of Edinburgh award apart from anything else I have done.”
For any student to complete DoEIA Gold programme is a fantastic achievement, but to do it in just a shade over 12 months is remarkable. No Shrewsbury student has done it faster. Given the amount of time and commitment the award requires, Andy has proven himself to be a master at time management and application.
“At first, my parents had some concerns that it would affect my school work. I have a pretty difficult timetable of Maths, Further Maths, Economics and Geography, and understandably Mum and Dad did not want the award to interfere with my success at A levels.”
In the end, Andy’s parents came to realise that the DoEIA programme, when managed appropriately, can be complimentary to academic aspirations, whilst also giving Andy valuable perspective and added drive to be successful.
“Universities take note when students have committed to completing the Duke of Edinburgh International Award. It shows a candidate who has interests outside of academics, a candidate who has a comprehensive world view.”
Andy has applied for London School of Economics, UCL, King’s College, Warwick, SOAS London (to which he has now been accepted) and is hoping to have the ability to choose between a few options.
“If I am accepted to these universities, much of my success will be owed to the challenges posed by the International Award and the encouragement from Shrewsbury teachers such as Mr. Rozario to give it my all”.