The third British woman to ski to the South Pole was at Nescot today (Thursday), talking to students about the lessons she’s learnt on her expeditions and how they can be applied to daily life.
Paula Reid is an adventurer and psychologist, who has travelled 250,000 miles, visited 66 counties and taken part in challenges including sailing the ‘wrong way’ round the world in a yacht.
Students packed out the college’s Adrian Mann Theatre three times over, as she spoke about mental health, mindset and attitude, and took questions about skiing to the South Pole.
Nescot’s CEO and Principal Frances Rutter thanked Paula for giving up her time to visit the college, and praised the quality of her talks.
She added: “The students were transfixed by Paula’s account of being in Antarctica, and I hope they will take away a sense of courage and self-belief for their own careers.”
Paula talked to the students about her trip to the South Pole, a physically demanding trek in which she skied 1,000km uphill and into the wind while pulling an 80-kilo sledge with her equipment.
She also spoke about the impact of getting polar thigh, a cold-related abrasion injury, which got steadily worse and for which she was advised to be medically evacuated from Antarctica.
Paula told the students she had to wait a day and a half before she could be rescued, and during that time she ‘just wanted to give up’.
“I was upset, tearful, fed up, in significant pain, I lost my energy and my motivation, and I was just totally gutted that the expedition I’d been working towards for so long was over,” she said.
“I had literally no choice but to keep moving, because it was the only way I could reach the point where I was being evacuated from, so I just kept putting one ski in front of the other. To my huge surprise, I found that after about a day and a half my mindset changed, and I realised that I was mentally strong enough to carry on, and that therefore I could move past the pain.”
Paula managed to carry on for another 40 days, becoming the third British woman and the 14th international woman to ski to the South Pole, even posing in a Union Jack dress at minus 40C.
After the talk, students asked questions ranging from wildlife to the impact of climate change, as well as discussing mental health, mindfulness and mindset in general.
Health and Social Care tutor Catherine Whitby accompanied her second-year Level 3 students to the second talk, which was aimed at students who identify as female and which focussed on resilience.
“The talk was incredible and really motivating,” Catherine said. “Her experiences were fascinating, but most importantly it showed the students what they can achieve if they believe in themselves.”
Paula’s other expeditions include the Global Challenge, in which a crew of people spent ten months sailing around the world against the prevailing winds and currents.
She has also paddled for 300 miles down rivers in Cambodia in a dugout canoe, kayaked down the Thames from source to sea, climbed the Mount Bromo volcano and written four books. Her current mission is called 50 Good Turns, and involves cycling across all 50 European countries and doing a good deed in each.