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Abercrombie & Kent Safari Scholarship

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I was recently enduring yet another Speech day, surrounded by proud parents and their smiling children clutching awards and it reminded me of my school days....what appeared to be a lifetime at a hugely academic school with one under-achiever, ME! I never won a thing, was seldom recognised for my efforts and was often ignored in favour of one of my fellow ‘A’ student contemporaries, suffice to say, I hated school and couldn’t wait to leave. Thankfully these days are different and even the students who struggle can achieve trophies in the name of Effort, Handwriting, Speech – whatever, it’s not that important, the valuable point here is they are encouraged and their sense of pride was evident to see. Which is why, when asked to submit a piece on the Abercrombie & Kent Safari Scholarship, I jumped at the chance.

This is a scholarship with a difference. Now in its second year and run in conjunction with Tatler Magazine it is open to anyone in lower sixth, from any school countrywide, the only criteria is the successful applicant must consider taking a gap period between July 2011 to September 2012 and would welcome the opportunity of working in one of Abercrombie & Kent’s safari camps, either in Kenya; Uganda or Zambia. Wow!

What really appeals to me about this unique and wonderful Scholarship is the applicant is not judged on academic achievements – the only thing they have to do is submit a 500 word essay on ‘Why I am the perfect candidate for Abercrombie & Kent’s Safari Scholarship’ Experience’. It’s that easy. However, in order to be eligible, the school must apply to enter the scholarship process, rather than the individual student. Each school is asked to choose up to three entries to send on to Abercrombie & Kent in Cheltenham.

Once all entries have been submitted, an external, unbiased panel will judge the entries. This panel will include one of Abercrombie & Kent’s renowned safari guides. The essays will then be forwarded to Abercromie & Kent where they will liaise with Patricia Stevenson, Publishing Director of Tatler, to evaluate all entries and identify a shortlist of candidates. Those candidates will be invited to attend an interview to ensure the judges select the right applicants, those who are prepared for the vigour and demands of camp life. Up to two candidates will be offered the scholarship, with the winning candidate(s) to be announced at the beginning of the Autumn term.

So what happens next I hear you ask? It’s simple really, and all rather lovely. Firstly, the winners will be invited to attend an evening award ceremony, held at the Tatler Schools Guide Party in London in the autumn of 2010 and then, the successful candidates are flown out to Africa, all expenses paid. The placements will be where situated is busiest at the particular time(peak safari seasons vary by region) and could be in Olonana Camp, Kenya, Gorilla Forest Camp, Uganda or Swala Camp in Tanzania – or a combination of more than one.

It is obvious that this is not going to be a walk in the park for anyone – and why should it. To be given an opportunity to work for a luxury tour operator with almost 50 years experience at the top of their industry is a privilege in itself. To have that work experience in a five star African camp is really a dream come true.

The successful scholar will work in all departments of the camp and, this is what I feel will be the most wonderful opportunity, they are encouraged to interact with the local community e.g. dancing, making houses, milking, visiting local primary schools etc. As a traveller of old, this interaction is worth its weight in gold and will never be forgotten but rather will live with the lucky so and so for the rest of their lives. That said, they will be worked hard to get the maximum out of the venture. They will be given valuable experience in room maintenance; Food & Beverage; Food Production; Laundry; Guest Relations; Game Drives; Nature Walks; Storekeeping and Office Work (taking reservations etc); Maintenance of Road and Airstrips.

The successful scholar will have all expenses covered, flights, transfers, board and lodgings. A typical day would start at 06:00hrs and finish at 16:00hrs with an afternoon break. Some night shifts will be required where the student will not retire until 22:00hrs. However, during time off, the camp will arrange exciting and interesting safari-related activities away from work.

Abercrombie & Kent ask that the winner keeps an on-line blog about their experience and speak at the Tatler Schools’ event in London the following September. I’m just waiting, with baited breath, for a forty-something scholarship...I’ll be first in line!
Further information about this initiative can be found at:

http://www.abercrombiekent.co.uk/scholarship/index.cfm .

To apply, call 01242 547 700 or email safarischolarship@abercrombiekent.co.uk