Profile: Christophe Patterson

Exam season is here, and most of us are spending 99.9% of our time sat revising in the library. But even though it feels like we have no time whatsoever, taking a few hours out to go for a walk could have some seriously positive benefits for your productivity and your mental health. May is National Walking Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, and this week, we had a chat with second year Evolutionary Biology student and president of the Expedition Society, Christophe Patterson, about hiking, mental health, and how the two go together.

To start with, tell us a bit about yourself. What made you want to study in Cornwall?

I’m not really a city person, and I’ve always wanted to live by the coast. I’m from Leeds, just at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and the landscape is basically the same as it is here but without the sea. Coming here, even though it was so far away, didn’t really feel that different from home.

How did you get involved with the Expedition Society?

I come from a pretty outdoor-focused family. My dad runs outdoor activities at the University of Leeds, so I had access to all of the uni’s outdoor equipment growing up. I was pretty lucky, in that we could just pick up a couple of kayaks and go out whenever we wanted.

I think I like hiking the most. It’s less technical, there’s no equipment, and there’s more freedom to do it wherever you like. There’s not really any competition to it, beyond the targets that you set for yourself. Plus, you can always end up in a pub, which is always good.

Can you tell us a bit about what you get up to with the society? What’s been your favourite part of being involved with it?

We try to do as many things as possible. A lot of students don’t have cars, so loads of people will come to uni here and spend their whole time never leaving Falmouth, which is really sad. Every other week, we hire a big coach and drive to Bodmin, or Dartmoor, or the Lizard, and then we do a circular route, usually with a pub. We also do half day hikes, and short walks from campus every week which are totally free.

May is National Walking Month, promoting the benefits of walking and encouraging people to walk more. What do you think the benefits are of hiking and being involved with the Expedition Society while at uni?

Getting away from everything is definitely the best part of it. A lot of the places we go don’t have any phone signal, and you don’t realise until a few hours in that your phone hasn’t been buzzing the whole time.

Also, exercise is always good, especially after exams and being locked in my room revising all the time. Just walking five minutes to the shops, just getting a little bit of exercise, is so much better for my productivity.

May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and walking is often cited as one of the best ways to improve mental wellbeing. How do you think students, and those suffering with mental illness, can benefit from hiking?

Apparently, the link between mental health and walking is pretty difficult to assess; you can’t tell if people who go on lots of walks have better mental health, or if people who have better mental health are more likely to walk a lot. 

I’m definitely apprehensive to say that hiking will improve everything about your mental health. It’s definitely not a cure for everyone, and it isn’t going to do the same work that medication will. However, it does improve your physical health, which can have positive benefits for your mental health, and the Expedition Society is a really good place to mingle. Speaking to new people was one of my favourite parts of the society when I first started, and it’s one of the things we try to promote in freshers.

How can people who are worried about their fitness levels get involved with the society/hiking?

Every single walk, we have students messaging us asking how hard it’s going to be. But our goal is to accommodate every level of ability. All of the walks from campus, almost everyone would be able to do; unfortunately, not all the places we go are wheelchair accessible, but this is something we’re working to improve on.

If a walk is expressly harder than your average walk, we’ll let people know. But generally, we go as fast as the slowest person.

Check out the FXU Expedition Society Facebook page to find out how you can get involved, and you can find out more about National Walking Month by clicking here!