When Head of School Mike Farrer joined Nobel International School Algarve last year, he promised to take the students out of their comfort zone. In March, a group of 22 Year 10 students will find out what he meant by that as they embark on Nobel Algarve’s inaugural Journey of Discovery.

“The Journey of Discovery is a concept that Mr Farrer brought with him from South Africa,” said Matthew Harris, Geography teacher and Year 10 tutor. “It’s essentially a rite of passage for young people.”

During the eight-day expedition, the students will trek through difficult terrain, kayak on a reservoir, work together to set up and take down campsites, and take part in team-building games and problem-solving activities. The Journey is designed to be physically, emotionally and intellectually challenging. Students will have to assess and develop skills including teamwork, communication, planning and reviewing.

“Modern day society provides very little assistance to young people as they make the emotional and often confusing transition between being a child and becoming an adult,” said Mr Harris. “The Journey of Discovery offers an opportunity for students to step away from their everyday lives, look back on where they have come from and make decisions about where they are going and the type of adult they want to become.”

The students will keep journals throughout the trek, and will be given themes to reflect on in their writing. They will have choices as to how they record their solitude experience, and they will make group presentations to share what they have learned.

“This a powerful journey of self-discovery, during which the students will stretch themselves, look within themselves,” said Mr Farrer. “There are no cellphones, laptops, no pizza delivery. There is just the great outdoors and opportunities to overcome difficulties, deeply reflect on where they are in life, and think about their future. This is why we are doing the journey.”

Mr. Harris, who planned the itinerary and will lead the Journey, has deep experience taking young people on adventure treks. Before becoming a teacher, he led wilderness and adventure activities in Scotland, training vulnerable young people to develop their personal and social skills. He is trained in Mountain First Aid, is a Level 3 Kayak Coach, and holds a canoe lifeguard certificate. He specifically designed the trek to be beautiful, rigorous and memorable.

“While the students will take part in the physical discovery of the surrounding wild places,” said Mr Harris, “the main Discovery will be about themselves.”