I attended Stewart’s Melville College from 1991 to 1997 and was fortunate to receive the Outward Bound Scholarship, while head boy in my final year of school. Following school, I studied at Newcastle University and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, spending time travelling around the world for 20 months in between. Since 2004, I have worked in international development, travelling to Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The three-week Outward Bound course was an amazing experience and one I look back on fondly. As the youngest of three boys, I spent a lot of time outdoors in my youth – we did a lot of hillwalking, kayaking, camping and rock climbing as a family. The Outward Bound course was an opportunity to do more of this, which was great, but it was also much more than that. There was a focus on building self-reliance and self-awareness, as well as teamwork and connecting with a diverse group of people from backgrounds very different to mine. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me.

My course included expeditions, initially as a one of a group (two and then three-day expeditions) finishing with a solo expedition. I have fond memories of each expedition – swimming in the sea on an isolated peninsula on the west coast, camping on the ridge of Stob Ban having walked part of the West Highland way and walking to the top in the setting sun. The solo expedition was unique – 12 hours on your own, with very few basic food stuffs and time to sit and reflect on who you are and where you are going. 

The course helped me to be humble, to realise how privileged I was (and am still). It strengthened my ability to build rapport and relationships with people from different backgrounds. It challenged me to be more self-aware and to be comfortable spending time in my own company, which is something I have done a lot in my career as I have travelled extensively. It was a truly life-challenging experience and I would recommend it to anyone fortunate enough to be offered the chance.

One thought on “The C. Neil Sharp Award 1996 Recipient – Paul Gunstensen

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