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  • Anna McDonald

Finding Your Own Way 5,895 Metres Up

Updated: Mar 7

Every new student faces uncertainty when leaving for university. Rizzy Burrow imagined university as only offering “union nights and parties and I thought that's what university is’. But I was like, I don't want that to be what university is for me”. Rizzy knew that drinking wasn’t for her, but she was unsure how else to find her place in University.

Rizzy headed to the Freshers Fair to seek out experiences that appealed to her. Once she saw a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro advertised, she knew this was the way to make university her own. Although the trek itself consisted of six days over the following summer, preparing for the trip was a full year’s commitment. “I was so excited the entire year. I was walking everywhere”.

After a year’s worth of preparation, Rizzy expressed an indescribable sense of anticipation. “We stepped foot off the plane from the airport and we were already so excited to actually get onto this expedition”. The exhilaration culminated as “we saw the mountain just sort of rise above all of the buildings because of how tall it was”. Seeing the mountain beforehand allowed Rizzy to persevere through the arduous journey ahead. “It gave us another sort of motivation to keep us going because we could see where we wanted to go”. 

Mount Kilimanjaro stands 5,895 metres above sea level. With the massive height, the body needs time to adjust to the change in oxygen. To prevent altitude sickness their journey was drawn out over 4 ½ days as they slowly traversed the mountain.

Each person received daily checks to detect any altitude sickness. During the first day, Rizzy’s readings were lower than they should have been. This meant she might have had to turn back early at any time and out of safety she needed to keep to the back. Despite this, she was able to complete the journey. Upon reaching the summit, she knew “if the rest of my years at university get really, really tough, then I have this to look back on and I could be like, ‘look, if I can do this, I can do my degree’”.

Rizzy is proof that it’s never too late to find a new passion, even if it’s something you never expected. In secondary school she hesitantly signed up for the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh, but not out of the sense of adventure she has now. “At school, your teachers are like, ‘oh, do it. It's great for your CV’…I was just like, I really don't want to do it. I'd rather just stay home and watch TV or eat really comforting foods. But then I thought you know what, I'll do it for the CV. Why not?” After only two days, she was hooked.

Even after doubling the days of her expedition during the Gold DofE from two to four, she still aspired for greater heights. “I'd never climbed a mountain before and every time we'd walk alongside Pen y Fan I'd be like ‘I really, really want to climb it’ and I would joke in my lunch break when we stopped for lunch ‘I'm going to go quickly, scoot up Pen y Fan’”.

Of course, Rizzy never planned to abandon the trip, but the thought of climbing Pen y Fan stuck in her head even after the trip. As soon as she returned home, Rizzy asked her mum to undergo the journey with her. “So the next weekend she and I climbed it and I loved it. I just loved it so much”.

Ever since completing DofE, she’s taken any chance she can to broaden her horizons. “I'm happy to go anywhere as long as the opportunity comes up really. So I just want to take all the opportunities possible”. Along with hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, she spent her second-year fundraising to build a playground for a Ugandan Community School. Then, during her third year, she moved abroad to study at the University of Oklahoma. “It's about overcoming another challenge and it just helps build your independence and build your sense of character”.

You don’t have to go out to reach 5,895 metres to carve out your own path, but if clubbing and drinking aren’t for you, know that you’re not alone. “There's so many opportunities out there that kind of can suit everyone really…It's always just looking for ways to find new perspectives about life”. University is full of exciting prospects. If you want to try something new, Rizzy urged to “just do it, you know, don't question it 'cause life is for living. It's for having all these different experiences. And yeah, if you want to go for it, please just go for it”. 


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