Gold Awardee, Xingyin (Susan) Zhang has only been living in Australia for three years since migrating from China. After taking on the Award shortly after her arrival she faced her biggest challenge yet, learning English as her second language. The Award offered her a chance to build these language skills and Susan embraced every opportunity from her leadership role as Duke of Ed Captain to teaching English at a school in Thailand. She proves that you really can achieve anything you put your mind to and overcome any barriers that stand in your way.

Here she shares her story:

I started my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in year 10 and my experience was absolutely amazing as I developed many passions through this program. It motivated me to step outside my comfort zone every day to try something new and exciting. The highlight was definitely the two horse riding camps and surfing camp that I participated in for the Adventurous Journey, where I not only learned the new skills but also built up a good relationship with other participants. My organisational skills have been improved as well because we needed to work together as a team to organise the entire trips.

Stepping up as a Leader

At the end of last year I decided to apply for the school’s leadership position for Duke of Edinburgh Captain and I was lucky enough to be elected. I enjoyed all of the progress meetings but most of all I loved being able to provide help and guidance to all Award Participants and act as the spokesperson for Duke of Ed during the school’s assembly’s. My communication skills have been improved a lot and those activities really encouraged me to have the determination to improve as a public speaker.

An Overseas Opportunity

Another highlight of my Award journey was volunteering in Northern Thailand for my Residential Project. One of my friends volunteered in a Primary School in Bali for her Residential Project which motivated me to look for an overseas volunteer opportunity. I searched online and came across a Thailand volunteer program with Global Volunteer Network. It was a hill tribe childcare project in the city of Chiang Rai. I like working with children and I hadn’t been to Thailand before so I thought that would be great for me.

I travelled there on my own, the journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai by the overnight bus was kind of scary but was it was also an amazing start. I spent 5 days at the village and each morning I would walk children to school. Most of the kids lived with their grandparents as their parents worked in the city so it was quite important to walk with the children to school to ensure their safety.

Teaching English

I also worked as a teaching assistant at the school and I would teach them simple English phrases such as ‘Good morning’ or ‘Thank you’. The children showed their enthusiasm in learning English and that made me very happy and satisfied. I often organised some physical activities after school and the children enjoyed those games too. I became really good friends with the children and taught them how to give a ‘high five’. After spending so much time together it made me feel very sad when I had to leave. I had so many unforgettable memories of those days.

From this journey I know I have grown as a leader and I became much more confident and independent. My personal journey with the Duke of Edinburgh Award has been a very fun and rewarding one. It was definitely the highlights of my high school journey. I will never forget those amazing experiences!

The Residential Project offers unique experiences that truly broaden your horizons and challenge your outlook. At the heart of the Residential Project is the undertaking of a purposeful experience with people who are not your usual companions, working towards a common goal. It is hoped that the Residential Project rewards Gold Award Participants with a sense of personal achievement, enhanced social connection with new and interesting people, and a truly life changing experience.

On behalf of the team at Duke of Ed Victoria, we would like to congratulate Susan on her fantastic achievements. Susan will be receiving her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at the Gold Award Gala in December this year. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to purchase a ticket to support more young people discovering their passions. More info here.

If you are unable to attend the night but would like to make a donation to help us reach, equip and mentor more young Victorians from diverse, disadvantaged and remote backgrounds you can find more info here.


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