Zoe Smith

"I’ve had a great time completing this Award and would definitely recommend anyone gives it a go. My highlights were the tramps - they were always a good laugh with some great people - and the Residential Project for Gold - Hands on Science 2015 was a blast."

We caught up with Zoe Smith who received her Gold Award this year. And asked her about her experience and to find out a bit more about her Residential Project - Hands on Science 2015 with Otago University.

You can find out more about Hands on Science here, and maybe consider applying yourself.

Why did you choose Hands-on-Science as your residential project?
I was already looking into doing Hands-on-Science before thinking about what to do for my Residential Project. It sounded like a really interesting opportunity. I had been keen to go to Otago to do something science-based for ages before then, so I thought it'd be an awesome way to experience the University (and in a way also hostel life as we stayed at Arana College - which I was am also keen to stay in for my first year). When I found out I could use it as my Residential Project for Gold I was set on going and was really excited when I got a place in the Anatomy project. I'm really glad I did it! It was a fantastic experience and I made some great friends from it! I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering going. They're extending it to "Hands on at Otago" this year I think, so they can include other subjects like Arts and Law. So whether students are interested in science or something else, it's now open to everyone.

How did the skills and experience from doing the Award impact on your time at Hands-on-Science?
I feel like through all the activities in the Award I've learnt to put myself out of my comfort zone and take advantage of every opportunity I can. Because of this, when I got there, I wasn't as nervous about meeting a whole bunch of new people and getting involved in all the side activities they offered like morning fitness sessions, ice skating, swimming, bowling, sports nights, halls of residence tours and everything else. I was obviously nervous about living with 200 people I didn't know, but I feel like through learning to just "go with it" I was better at introducing myself to people and making conversation easily, so after the first day it was all good.

What is a great short story from your time at Hands-on-Science?
I can't think of a specific great short story that sums up the Award. My project focused on the knee, so we learnt all about the anatomy of the knee and dissected a deer knee and watched the dissection of a human knee which - I won't deny - was scary but also interesting to look at what was inside my knee and to see how joint replacements worked. I'm looking at becoming a doctor so this was a really interesting insight into that aspect of medicine. My favourite part about Hand-on-Science though is the way that everyone is still in contact! All the people there were so lovely and we all made some great new friends from all over New Zealand. The Facebook page is still used all the time to keep everyone in touch and it was made by us rather than a staff member. I recently travelled back down to Dunedin to go tramping with a really good friend who lives there that I met at Hands-on-Science. I'm really excited to see a lot of them down in Dunedin next year too. Quite a few are staying in Arana too which is awesome!

And a great short story which sums up the Gold Award for you?
A story to sum up the Award... On my Gold Practice tramp the weather was terrible. The wind was pummelling us, it was freezing and pouring with rain. Grace, Tim and I distracted each other with "if you could have any meal right now what would you have?" type of questions and when we finally made it to a shelter we busted out the cookers and had hot chocolate to warm ourselves up. The instructor decided we should turn back instead of carrying on, but when we got half way down the weather cleared up and got pretty nice so it was a really good walk down! Then we got in the vans and drove to maccas for a feed and then drove to the hut where we set up for the night and played cards till after dark. I guess that sums up the Award because although it was pretty tough at the some points, but we adapted and carried on and in the end it turned out to be really worth while and I had a great time with great people! A lot of people give up the Award at Bronze or Silver because they think it's too much effort or too time consuming. Both of those are true, it does take effort and time but looking back now, after completing all levels of the Award, I'm really happy I made the effort and took the time. I'm proud of myself for achieving this Award and I've come away from it having learnt a lot about myself and what I can achieve. I also had heaps of fun doing it, I've loved completing all the sections! 

Can you summarise some of the other great things you did for your Award like the Yoga?
Other activities I've done for my Gold Award have been Yoga, volunteering at Wharenui Primary School's homework club, being a reader-writer and a peer tutor at school, Orchestra, Concert Band and Tramps. I do Iyengar Yoga once a week with my mum down at St Andrew's College. I'd never done yoga before, but mum has done it for years so she suggested I join her. I really really enjoy it and wouldn't give it up now. It's good exercise and is actually really relaxing, you always leave feeling stretched and calm. I'm definitely more flexible now too which is a bonus! Volunteering at the primary school was such a good experience. The kids were awesome to hang out with and I learnt a lot about how to communicate with children with limited English. It was an absolute pleasure volunteering there. Reader-writer and peer tutoring are voluntary roles run through school. I help girls with difficulties reading and writing for themselves to complete tests and tutor younger girls who need academic help. I was a first flute in the concert band until it finished last term and continue to play first flute in the school orchestra. The tramps were my favourite part of Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. They were always such a good time with great people. I'd never been tramping before the  Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. and now I really enjoy it. It was after finishing Gold that I was inspired to organise a tramp with my mate from Dunedin. It was the first time I'd been tramping without a supervisor and the map reading skills I'd learnt came in handy when we took the wrong track and had to work out where to go.

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