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Japanese adventure follows Travel Award win


Lower Sixth student Ben Finlay-McDougall is in for the experience of a lifetime as he heads to Japan after winning this year’s Albert Johnston Travel Award.

There were seven strong applications for the Award this year but Ben thoroughly impressed the judging panel, and picked up the £1,500 prize, with his detailed and engaging presentation entitled ‘Japan – to understand the cultural differences throughout Japan through the use of theme parks, immersive attractions, culture and food‘.

Ben is planning on studying Mechanical Engineering at university and would like to enter the theme park industry as a Rollercoaster Engineer or a Themed Attractions Engineer.

He notes that theme parks have been pushing the boundaries of technology for years and he hopes to see the ways that Japan are making their creative developments different to match the cultural differences and to utilise new technologies.

During his travels, Ben will take advantage of the numerous opportunities to connect with the country’s unique traditional culture and he will be learning as much of the language as he can in the upcoming months so that he can be prepared for the cultural differences.

Ben says: “Japan is a country of biodiversity, value and respect” and he has been completing voluntary work at Cancer Research and The Wellspring which has taught him the importance of valuing what he already has and of having people around him.

This year’s judging panel was made up of Head of Psychology and Award organiser Hannah Larkin, Bursar Chris Watson, Governor Chris Muscutt, Archivist Stuart Helm and Old Stopfordians – and former winners – Hayley Shepherd (OS 2007) and Oliver Hopwood (OS 2003).

Mrs Hannah Larkin said: “The applications for this year’s Award were extremely high and it certainly made it a very difficult decision for the panel. Ben’s proposal was outstanding and very unique – his passion for rollercoasters and his desire to be a Rollercoaster Engineer or a Themed Attractions engineer shone through.”

Speaking about his victory, Ben said: “I was in disbelief when I found out that I was the winner of this year’s Albert Johnston Travel Award. It felt very rewarding to think that the time and effort I put into planning and preparing a presentation, along with trying to speak to as many people who had experience in both the industry and the country, has paid off.

“I am keen to note that this is an experience, not a holiday! This experience will be invaluable when looking forward to university and the world of work and it enables me to experience first-hand the cultural differences throughout Japan with the use of theme parks, immersive attractions and food.”

“I am very grateful to everybody who had offered me advice and would seriously advise anyone who has an interest in a chosen field or country to follow their interests and to apply for future versions of the award.”