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Tom McFadden

Tom McFadden has set his sights on Africa’s highest mountain in order to raise awareness and more than £2,000 for World Wildlife Fund UK and to try and help others living with anxiety and depression.

The 22-year-old, who is originally from Exeter, but who lived in Spain for most of his childhood, studied Spanish and Psychology at the University. He is currently training for the nine-day trip in January which he hopes will have an impact on himself and the world around him.

Tom explained: “The aim of this trip was to have something to look forward to and be proud of. I have a great outlook on life now, however I feel after the trip it will just show me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Tom began to get the travel ‘bug’ – and a desire to work in conservation - during a placement in Costa Rica as part of his degree, as he explains: “Costa Rica was the best five weeks of my life so far. I went on the trip not knowing any of my now peers, and a foreign culture. However, from attending a language academy, working with sea turtle conservation and taking part in many activities, including beach visits, waterfalls, and nature excursions, it really just reassured me what I need to be doing in life. As well as that trip confirming how much I love working with conservation, it again showed me what’s possible if you put yourself out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to just take these opportunities whilst you can, and if they are not offered to you on a plate, work hard for them and make your own!”

Unfortunately, Tom began to struggle with anxiety and depression in his final year of studies, which is when he decided he needed not only to get some help, but to set himself a positive challenge.

He explained: “I didn’t begin to experience these issues until my final year. My family all live at least six hours away, and my parents live in Spain. Although they were there every step of the way with me, it was incredibly hard dealing with something like that where I felt completely alone.

“I sort of got to a point where I felt like I couldn’t take care of myself anymore.”

Fortunately, Tom referred himself to the University’s Student Futures team and local hospital for help, which proved to be a turning point for him.

He said: “I learned I couldn’t give up. I had good people around me, and I knew that. I also worked with the University’s counselling department which was helpful as they provided Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Sessions for me.”

While Tom believes studies can be hard for students, he is keen for them to ask for help as soon as possible.

He added: “I fully believe that students need to be aware of these issues before they arise. Maybe this way, people can foresee and adjust their outlook accordingly.”

Dr Delyth Hughes, Deputy Director of Student Futures at the University of Chester, said: “I can only echo Tom’s words – we urge all students to ask for help as soon as they need it. There is so much support available at the University and we aim to help students overcome any barriers they are experiencing to enable them to reach their potential. We are delighted to hear that Tom is taking on such an awe-inspiring challenge and wish him lots of luck!”

Tom is now focussing on getting himself ready for the challenge ahead. He attends the gym five times a week for Stairmaster and weight training hypertrophy to ensure his cardiovascular strength for summiting.

He said: “The hardest part about the challenge is now. I’ve worked hard to get here, and the anticipation is quite daunting. In terms of physically, altitude sickness is real, and not pleasant, and only the climb will be able to decide whether it affects me or not.

“I’m determined to do this not only for myself but also to raise awareness of the conservation issues we face – after all, there is no Planet B.”

You can support Tom by sponsoring him at


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