Being driven from the airport on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Hearing a foreign language spoken all around you. Seeing fish and chips advertised…
I came to England having only been here for a quick visit to London once before, joining a central Cambridge day school, to study I.B. age 16 years, from Germany. I quickly grew very close to people within the first few weeks of school because, whilst not being particularly extrovert, others were in the same position of wanting to make friends fast. The school arranged over the first few days an Induction programme, with team building activities and situations which left you, (exhausted) and slumped next to other new people. We then had the evenings to get to know each other and Cambridge, we were all living with host families located in similar areas. We would cycle around Cambridge to each others houses and gather in the Parks, or cafe’s to joke about some new cultural differences we had encountered and not previously expected, or some English words or phrases which we would try and decipher thanks to the contribution of our English friends.
We would try saying amusing phrases in English and then see how many other languages we knew for saying the same words, sometimes we managed 10 different languages!
We were all living a new experience together, we could relate to each other’s stories, observations and feelings- like being exhausted from speaking a foreign language for the first few weeks, or really craving a particular food. As the year progressed by each getting food parcels from our parents which we saved and then used at critical times e.g. during exam season, sharing foods and memories from home, this brought everyone’s homes and families closer together.
It can be hard coming to a culture where you have a limited knowledge. However you are doing this with other students, and you are all doing this together. Joining a school and the exploration of new experiences, gets you very close to others very quickly. Different and diversity becomes interesting- you will always be able to contribute to a conversation by saying,’ in my country we do this’ to which someone else will compare to their own country, contributing other personal observations.
By the time you have completed your schooling in England you will have become incredibly open minded, with an extensive insight into cultural differences and the different ways countries are run and organised. All this familiarizes you with situations where you can meet new people, learn to live independently, become culturally sensitive and very aware.
All of this has contributed to my understanding of the emerging global climate around us at university and work, with luck you will have friends for life and an I.B.as well.