Monday, 14 May 2018

First Year

This time last  year I was excited. I had an interview for University, for the degree of my dreams. A degree that I knew would push my comfort zones and teach me everything I wanted to know at the same time. I had applied for university a few times, never getting in on the lack of grades from school, or getting in and hating the course. This degree sounded perfect; Outdoor Education and Learning. 

For anyone who doesn't know me, I'm an outdoor early education practitioner, with 6 years experience working with kids and wanting to find my own feet in the outdoor world. I have a passion for outdoor education, and could talk about the benefits of it for hours, but that will be in another blog post down the line, (probably.)  

Fast forward to now. My first year is pretty much done. I have completed almost all of my modules, and I'm feeling pretty positive. This year hasn't been without it's ups and downs, but at the end of this year I am much more of a confident "give everything a go" type person.

Semester One
Semester one was crazy, it came and went so fast. For this semester our modules were:
 "Personal Water Based Skills 1" (Kayaking and Canoeing)
"Personal Water Based Skills 2" (Canyoning/Gorge Walking/ Coasteering) 
"Professional outdoor practice." (Looking at the brain, how we learn and the history of outdoor ed) 

Our practical days at the beginning were canyoning/ gorge walking/ coasteering. This was particularly difficult for me. I had always wanted to try it, and was so excited to jump in. However when I was actually standing at the top of a jump, with water rushing beneath me... I just froze. Everything went silent in my head and my body wouldn't move. Anxiety bubbled up and poured out, in the form of tears (on my first practical day...) My lecturer said to me "Jade, you need to turn your brain off, you can do this!" and was super supportive, as was my entire class, and I kept shouting at myself to move and to jump, but nothing was happening, I just couldn't do it.
The second time was even harder having given  myself the fear of jumping, I couldn't even jump off of an even smaller jump. I can't say the fear is any better now, but I am DETERMINED to get over it! 

We had a couple residential days away in Oban, doing coasteering and gorge walking. I enjoyed these a lot more. There is something that feels safer about jumping in the sea than a gorge. (I still didn't do the big jumps, but that was to be expected.) 
When that module finished and the Kayaking and Canoeing started, I was so relieved. I had done kayaking once before and was so ready to get into it. The first time in a kayak I was a bit all over the place, not sure what direction I was going in, but it slowly came to me. We done some kayaking at Stanley, which was great. I didn't capsize at all until the last day (after the first snow fall, so it was BALTIC.)
At this point of the year I found out I was folic acid deficient (about a week before the end of the term.) I ended up being off a few times before this with exhaustion and missing a couple sessions of canoeing. Kayaking was awesome, and now when I look at a river I have to stop and imagine myself kayaking down it.
As for professional outdoor practice, the module was very interesting. everything that we learned I was able to take back to my work and see it in person in the children, and I think it has made me a better practitioner as a result. 

Semester one was hard going, but I got through it, and I am glad I pushed every limit I had. 

Semester 2
Semester two felt a lot more chilled out, but in all fairness I had to miss an entire module because I was in a wee car accident that involved me getting whiplash. This meant I couldn't partake in heavy sporting activities until it went away, and it took ages. The modules we had in this semester were:
"Personal Mountain Based Skills 1" (Rock climbing and summer mountaineering skills)
"Personal Mountain Based Skills 2" (Skiing and winter mountaineering skills)
"Safe Practice in the Outdoors" (Theory based, does what it says on the tin!) 

If I was going to say that one module stuck with me more than any this year, it would be the Mountain Based Skills 1. Rock climbing has really got me hooked. We didn't get many chances to go outdoor climbing, but the sessions I got where amazing, and in my spare time I have pursued it and asked friends to take me out and show me the ropes... (pun intended) and when I can't get outdoors I go to the local bouldering centre, to practice my movement techniques after watching video's and reading books. I have also been passing on the stuff I have learned from all the information I've soaked up to my brother, helping him with his climbing. But this module wasn't all climbing. Some of it was mountain skills too. Mostly navigation work. I learned how to take a bearing, which always baffled me before. I learned how to pace, and read contours. I was able to figure out where I was based on the landmarks around me. I can't say I am confident enough to go up a mountain, but I'm getting there. 
Personal based mountain skills 2, I had to miss most of due to the whiplash. I wasn't able to do skiing, in my doctors words "Oh, I thought you meant you where a competent skier, in which case that would be fine, but if you're still learning I wouldn't risk the falls." This was horrible, I had cabin fever. I was sitting at home wishing I was on the hills falling on my ass! I also struggled to carry a light rucksack, or drive without the pain, so couldn't join in on most of the mountain days either. I wasn't impressed to say the least. I did get a few days in where I was able to join in before it happened. We had a navigation day, which was teaching us the basics. We also had a day of learning how to do self arrests with ice axes and how to use crampons. I wasn't a fan of sliding down a steep hill and having to stop myself with an axe, but it was certainly interesting, and anything that could potentially save my life is pretty essential to learn. This module has been pushed back for me, so I have to keep getting in experiential days, through the summer. (Yeah, I know, winter mountaineering in summer is going to be .... interesting!) 
Safe practice in the Outdoors was a subject that is necessary, even when you are studying childcare safe practice is always something you need to know. This module was everything I had learned with six years in childcare, but aimed more at the outdoors. It was all about how to keep people safe, but also not so safe that they aren't allowed to take any risks and learn from it. It was about figuring out that balance, and finding out all the legalities and paperwork you need for everything. This was another thing I was able to take back to my practice as an outdoor practitioner, and use in my job. 

All in all, this year has been brilliant. It's really pushed me out of my comfort zone in every single way possible and without that I wouldn't have grown so much as a person. The degree is about a subject I am ridiculously passionate about, and that passion is getting me through whenever I feel it getting tough. It is my drive to make sure I complete the next three years to the best of my ability. I have also met some ace people through the degree, who have been supportive all the way. We are a very small bunch. Where other degree's have 200+ people in a lecture hall, we have about 11 of us in a classroom. It's been an ace first year! 
For more info about the course, have a wee look here.

Until next time
Jade- Your Introverted Adventurer. x