How a mistaken application turned into the trip of a lifetime (Image Source: Young Endeavour Youth Scheme)
By Nahum Gale | @NahumGale
It is universally acknowledged that spontaneous experiences can often be the most fulfilling.
At least that’s what Francesca Covino, an 18-year-old student from UniSA, learnt when she accidentally applied for the trip of a lifetime on the Young Endeavour Voyage.
“I was looking at scholarships, which were eligible for anyone, and without reading further, I applied for the Cowen Young Endeavour Grant,” Ms Covino said.
The Cowen Young Endeavour grant is Australia’s national sail training ship offered to students aged 16-23, who are enrolled full-time in any program at the University of South Australia.
The voyage involves 11 days at sea, living and sailing with 23 other youth crew from all over Australia.
The sail training program has been run by the not-for-profit organisation Young Endeavour Voyage for over three decades.
The organisation is internationally recognised and has seen nearly 14,000 young Australians undertake an adventure upon the seas onboard the Young Endeavour.
However, this was all unbeknownst to Ms Covino, who didn’t read the details of the grant until a couple of days later.
As a young student dedicated to neuropsychology, the prospect of sailing was not exactly the what Ms Covino had in mind for the future, and she initially tried to back out.
“I emailed UniSA scholarships to let them know that I no longer wanted to proceed with my application as it was a misunderstanding,” Ms Covino said.
“Yet, they stated that I sounded like a perfect fit for the role.”
It was here Ms Covino found herself at a crossroads.
She could either say no to a trip she had little to no knowledge or experience on or proceed with what may be the most spontaneous adventure of a lifetime.
It was then, in her moments of curiosity and doubt, Ms Covino found the answer.
“I remembered how, a couple of weeks prior to this opportunity, I had thought to myself that one day I wanted to go sailing,” she said.
“This opportunity was kind of fate!”
Although apprehensive at first, Ms Covino slowly began to warm to the idea after doing some research on sailing.
“I had never been sailing before and was somewhat anxious as we would be travelling over the sea during winter,” she said.
“Yet, the more I thought about it and watched videos, the more excited I got for it.
“I followed their handbook on what to bring and then just winged it.
“The university had planned my flights and accommodation, so it was quite easy for me to just go with it.”
Ms Covino and the other selected students set sail from Airlie Beach in Brisbane on 26 June this year, heading for Whitsundays.
While the journey was an amazing opportunity to learn some new skills and see some pretty amazing sights, the 11-day trip came with some notable challenges.
Sea sickness consumed the crew from time to time, while the hours of labour drew into the perilous night and exhausting all on board.
However, those were the moments where the crew would stop and stare out at all the natural beauty that surrounded them and appreciate, in unison, the world they belonged to.
Ms Covino also cherished hours of swimming at the beaches of Great Keppel and rope swinging from the ship into the ocean, amassed for an experience of unique proportions.
“We did not spend the whole 11-days on the ship, as we hiked the Whitsundays peak and discovered a forest filled with butterflies,” Ms Covino said.
“While it was the simplest experience, it was the rawest, and helped me to truly appreciate and be grateful of what life has to offer.”
Even though the Young Endeavour ended its voyage in Gladstone on 6 July, it would appear the adventure was not over for Ms Covino.
“Whilst on the trip we had to write our life goals in a letter to ourselves, which we will receive in 6 months,” she said.
“This has made me determined to stick to my goals and change my lifestyles.”
And so, as she awaits the message in the bottle, Ms Covino has returned to South Australia with time to reflect on the experience and on her life as a whole.
“Each challenge has helped shape the person I am today,” Ms Covino said.
“They helped me see the world through different eyes.
“I have now become more independent, more spontaneous and adventurous.
“This experience will always have a spot in my heart, and someday, I hope to sail again.”