Alumni Services

Graduates take to the Danube

While many of us are currently thinking about taking a holiday, Edinburgh alumni Jonathan Cowie and Mark Hughes have decided to use the summer months in a novel way by setting off on a challenge that will see them row from the Black Forest to Istanbul.

Jonathan Cowie on a previous challenge

Jonathan (pictured, right, during a previous challenge), who graduated with a Law degree in 2004 and now works as a chartered accountant, will join team-mate Mark (currently completing a PhD in neurosurgery at Edinburgh) in the Fight & Spirit boat to cover the 3200km journey. The 35-day row will take them through ten countries, navigating the busy ports and traffic that clutter the Danube. Once at the Black Sea, ocean conditions will test the pair’s endurance as they row their way to Turkey.

The row, which commenced on 6th June, is in aid of two charities, Cardiac Risk in the Young and Friends of Navajeevana - the latter having been founded by fellow Edinburgh alumni, Olof Williamson and Leonora Merry. Jonathan says:


I chose to support Friends of Navajeevana as it’s a small charity where even the smallest donation makes a huge difference. Also, it was founded by Edinburgh alumni to support a health centre in southern Sri Lanka.

River Danube at Ulm

Mark chose Cardiac Risk in the Young, which raises awareness of conditions that can lead to young sudden cardiac death, as his chosen chairty because his very young cousin died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Donations and support have already been impressive, with an extensive collection of sponsors and even an official whisky for the tour. A daily blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page have also been set up to encourage engagement with supporters throughout the duration of the row.

It might seem a far cry from the pair's time as Edinburgh students, but Jonathan credits his time at the University of Edinburgh and the relationships he developed here with helping him prepare for his present challenge:

I spent a lot of my time rowing at Edinburgh University Boat Club, and was even President in 2003. Some of my favourite memories are of spending time with my rowing friends. I wouldn't have met Mark, who persuaded me to do the Danube row, if we had not met at EUBC. Being part of the Boat Club was a great lesson in collective responsibility and showed me that with hard work you can achieve things you didn't think were possible. I definitely found my time at the University inspired me to always set myself high goals, and try to do new and challenging things.

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