The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award: a Slovene winner

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, founded in 1956 by the late Prince Philip, is credited as one of his greatest achievements. When he died last week, many Britons remembered how the scheme empowered them as youngsters to build skills, confidence and resilience. But who knows that the Awards are also hugely popular abroad – not least in Slovenia?

Živa Alif is a Slovene who entered when she was still at high school in Ljubljana. She completed her Silver and Golden Awards just before gaining admission to the University of Oxford, where she graduated in Biology. She always liked hiking and camping, so she eagerly tackled tests of physical endurance which took her on arduous camping expeditions – three in Slovenia (picture below) and one in Finland.

“Walking 20 km and climbing 1,000 m in altitude for four days in a row carrying a 20 kg backpack is never an easy task. But the feeling when you reach the end is absolutely fantastic, as there is a true feeling of victory. In addition, you become more grateful for small things. Like a shower. After four days of hiking at 30C with no option to clean yourself whatsoever, a shower feels more refreshing than ever. Besides that, the expeditions are where countless new memories and friendships are formed.”

Music and gymnastics gained her further qualifications, but her other favourite part of the Award programme was the Residential project, for which she went to a camp for nature conservation volunteers in Austria.

“Spending 10 days with a group of 12 people from all across Europe was a memorable experience, as we became like a family in this time. It was a cultural eye-opener for me, as you learn so much about other people’s countries in a friendly and open environment. Being forced to communicate only in English also greatly boosted my confidence in my language skills. And lastly, that’s where I met my best friend, who has been standing by my side every day for the last five years despite being hundreds of kilometres away.”

Her conclusion:

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is an excellent programme, as it makes young people leave their comfort zone to meet new people, get new experiences and ultimately expand their horizons in real life.”

Živa (second right in picture below) with other Slovene participants: