In my opinion, one of the best things about teaching internationally is the sense of comraderie that develops amongst your work colleagues. This seems to be very different from the UK when everybody already has their own group of friends, and of course their own families. I was lucky when I did work in the UK as Campion was pretty sociable and so we hung out together frequently, but I have been assured by other teacher friends that this is not often the case. It makes me really sad when I hear people say “I avoid socialising with the people I work with, I see them all day I don’t need to see them on my time off too”, I’ve had some fantastic colleagues and I have loved getting to spend time with them socially.
When I first left the UK to experience a year of teaching in Japan, I was a timid 23 year old who had just finished a gruelling PGCE course. I was so happy to find that I would be working with a great bunch of teachers, of similar ages and with similar interests to me. We would hang out at karaoke bars, go dancing in Roppongi, explore crooked alleyways or eat Ramen together and we had a great time doing it. The distinctions between colleague, friend and family become very blurred when you’re so far away from home.
My favourite memory from 3 years in Vietnam comes from the first weekend that I spent with my colleagues on a 3 day weekend in early September. Kim arranged a bus to take us to Mui Ne, a stunning palm-fringed beach on the China sea, a 5 hour bus journey from Saigon. Armed with Harvest Baking cinnamon rolls and a few bottles of wine, 47 of us headed off for a weekend in the sun – a beautiful location to befriend my new ‘family’ for the time being. Despite fearing for our lives on more than one occasion (and watching Ben flung horizontally down the coach after a sudden emergency stop by the driver) we made it there safely.
We swam in the pool; banana trees laden with heavy fruit swaying gently overhead. We ate at fantastic restaurants and drank cocktails to the sound of the sea lapping on the shore. We took motorbikes and rode the coastline, the wind whipping through our hair (this was before Vietnam made wearing helmets compulsory and it didn’t even occur to us at the time to wear them!) We danced on the sand, and Anna launched herself off the steps and onto the sand to perform her legendary caterpillar.
I lay on the beach that evening watching the flames of the fire dance in front of me, mesmerised by the lightning flickering over the sea, and realised how lucky I am.
This weekend I went to Helsinki with the people who are to be my colleagues, friends and family for as long as I stay in Sweden. In honour of the birthdays of Ryan and Nick, we booked a two day cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki. The boat would depart at 5pm on Friday, sail across the Baltic sea and deliver us onto Finnish ground by 10am on Saturday morning. After 7 hours of exploring Helsinki we would make our way back through the Swedish archipelago and arrive in Stockholm at 9.30am Sunday morning. This trip cost us 25Kronor each – less than £3.
It is fair to say that everybody had a pretty amazing time: we ate, we drank, we danced, we mocked Nick’s accent. The weather couldn’t have been any better, Helsinki glittered in the autumn sun.
Thanks for a great weekend guys and here’s to many more!
This post is dedicated to all of my amazing colleagues & friends from CLI, Campion, BIS and IESE. Thanks for all the good times 🙂
“we ate, we drank, we danced, we mocked Nick’s accent.”
HAHAHAHA poor guy 🙂 remember he will get you back when you are learning Swedish 😛
Hope you had the best time in Helsinki… sorry I missed you on the train this morning!
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