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Life outside of university: challenging travels and meeting inspiring people

Swimming with sharks, breaking Guinness World Records and pilgrimages are just some of the weird and wonderful experiences three KU students had during their once-in-a-life-time trips. 

Amy Wilson, 29, an adult nursing student, travelled for four months, halfway around the world. Overcoming challenges successfully gave her the strength to apply for a degree at Kingston University.

She visited Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Her trip made her realise that she could overcome anything she put her mind to.

Amy says: “I had planned for years to go travelling but kept waiting for people to join me as did not want to go on my own. I decided to bite the bullet and just do it.”

Amy had to give up her studies of veterinary nursing due to her animal allergies but it did not stop her from volunteering for two weeks in an elephant reserve in Thailand.

Amy also travelled to Koh Tao, an island situated on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand to go diving.

Diving with sharks

“The first two days before jumping in the water I would cry, panicking about the equipment failing,” she says, describing it as the first real challenge of her trip.

“The instructor even said: ‘why are you doing this if it is scaring you this much?’ I was determined to get over it though.”

There, she also went swimming with sharks and ended up on national TV after bumping into an on-board film crew. She also tried skydiving for the first and last time of her life.

Amy says: “I went skydiving and I hated it. I am glad I did it though as it was on my bucket list but it is not something I will ever do again.

“I bought the video of myself, which was hilarious. I did not open my eyes for the first five seconds. I remember thinking: ‘when is this damn shoot going to open’.”

Amy just about to start her first sky-diving experience

Through the people she met travelling, Amy found the courage to apply for University something she had been worrying about before she left.

“I do not think I would have applied to University if I had not been away because I never thought I would get accepted and degree sounds scary. It gave me confidence to push myself for things that could prove challenging,” she says.

Alessia Martino, 20, a psychology and English language and communication student has always been the adventurous type.

Just after graduating from college she went to Australia on her own to work as an au pair.

On the way she met some wonderful people, including her best friend. Together they travelled and even participated in a Guinness World record: The Havaianas thong challenge.

“There were over 2000 people with inflatable flip flops in the ocean. It was one of the best moments,” Alessia says.

Havaianas thong challenge

During her trip she lived on a boat for four days and went on a road trip to South West Australia with a tent on top of a Jurassic Park themed car. But most of all she had to learn everyday-life skills and how to take care of young children.

Benjamin Read, 23, a marketing communications and advertising student, decided to escape from all the social pressures and parties he had experienced during first year and walked the European pilgrim route: El Camino de Santiago.

During his trip, Benjamin embarked on a spiritual journey alone: questioning God, himself and his past memories.

Benjamin says: “Getting rid of normal distractions like the internet, TV and my phone left me alone in the middle of Spain with just myself. I thoroughly recommend it.”

Benjamin walked for 22 days straight and covered 500 kilometres of the entire pilgrimage.

“I walked into Santiago with a group of seven people, I would have been sad to have turned the corner to see the cathedral with nobody to share the moment with,” he says.

On the road: El Camino

Benjamin walked with people that he would not have spoken to in other circumstances.

He met an American woman called Pam Richards who was carrying the ashes of her late husband Jack.

She opened up to him along the way, as if they had known each other for a long time.

Benjamin says: “It was sad. It was even more poignant to have met her that day because it had been that very day when her husband had planned to meet up with her on the Camino and finish the rest of it with her.”

Their unusual trips gave these three KU students insight that could not have been gained from any other experience and definitely changed them into stronger and more confident adults.

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