In Scotland, we have been in lockdown for around 3 months. Despite widespread acknowledgment of lockdown’s necessity, of which I also agree, I can’t help but feel that the whole situation is a bit rubbish. As a form of escapism, most nights I find myself looking back on the many international experiences I’ve had, and messaging my friends from around the globe. International experiences are brilliant for your employability and self-improvement, but this wasn’t the material I was reminiscing about. It was the amusing, powerful, and sometimes bizarre moments I have shared with my international friends which spiked my memory.
Over the course of my teenage years, I represented the Scottish junior fencing team. With the team, I was lucky enough to travel all over the world for competitions, and in the process make some amazing connections. When you are in a new country for the first time, with new people, you often find yourself in situations that wouldn’t arise in your home country. One such situation was at the Junior Commonwealth Games in South Africa.
After the competition, we had a chance to do some sightseeing with the local South African team. One day we were on the road to see the Cape of Good Hope when we stopped at a scenic spot for sandwiches. Some friends and I were sitting next to some shrubbery when out of nowhere a small hand popped out from the bushes and stole my sandwich from right under my nose! My friends were in pools of laughter, as they just witnessed a wild baboon pinch my lunch. I also saw the hilarity of the situation, until I had to explain to the trip leader why I needed another sandwich, which of course he didn’t believe (I don’t blame him).
Another such situation was after my first international competition in Poland. A bunch of Polish fencers were showing us a local waterpark. They had devised a game where we would throw a tube-shaped flume down a slide and 6 people would go down after it, the winner being whoever was on the flume at the end. This seemed a wonderful idea, but halfway down, the person on the flume started spinning and roundhouse kicked me in the face. Everyone was rather shocked at the bottom with the new shape of my nose and insisted on taking me to the hospital. While at the hospital I had the interesting experience of trying to explain in a mixture of broken polish and English what had happened to my nose. My communication skills had never been tested like this, and unsurprisingly I had never been taught about the protocol of such a situation in school. Despite this, my nose was fixed, and it has become a favourite story among my Polish friends. I even picked up the nickname Rocky Balboa.
The most moving of these situations was when I was part of a global academy in Chengdu, China. On a Saturday some Chinese students said they were hiking up a local mountain to see a medieval Buddhist temple, and this was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. With my new friends, we spent 3 hours hiking up said mountain. I didn’t appreciate how humid this climb would be, which added to the challenge. We finally reached the top and gazed upon the most serene view: the temple in a shroud of flowers and trees, overlooking a huge valley. We sat there, drinking water out of a refreshingly cold fountain, and talked about our families. The bond we fostered on top of that mountain will never diminish, despite the fact it was the sweatiest I have ever been in my life. This will forever remain one of my most powerful and emotive memories.
My international experience has been invaluable when it comes to employment: it has showcased my linguistic and communication skills, my cultural understanding, and is the primary factor in getting my current internship at momentum world. However, what sticks with me most, in difficult times such as these, are the experiences and friends I have fostered over the years. I hope you will also be able to travel as I have, and have unique experiences of your own to cherish.