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Posts Tagged ‘ERASMUS’

Theresa May is the British Prime Minister. She was appointed 6 months ago after becoming leader of the Conservative Party by the votes of just 199 MPs. Barely 6 weeks before that she had unsuccessfully campaigned for her country to Remain in the European Union. In October 2016 she spoke at the Conservative Party Conference and proclaimed

…if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.

I could launch into dictionary definitions and how her blinkered ‘vision’ is inadequate for the complexity and interdependence of the world in 1917, let alone 2017…

…but instead, here are three reasons why I believe in my heart and soul that she is wrong and why, despite all the Brexit sound and ‘America First’ fury raging against me, I’m proud to think of myself as a citizen of the world and a citizen of my country. Indeed, I can only think of myself in that way.

Eurocamp

For virtually all of my childhood that I can remember, I enjoyed family holidays in France, Germany and Italy, usually staying in Eurocamp tents on sites from Brittany to Tuscany, from The Dordogne to the Black Forest. I learned how to ask for baguettes and croissants, understand different road-signs, convert kilometres to miles. I discovered the joy of Orangina in funny-shaped bottles. Europe wasn’t something to be feared or resented, it was full of people quite a lot like us, with fabulous countryside and terrific summer weather. I’ve tried to pass on these attitudes to my children.

orangina

Put the Zep on…that snowpile is dead.

Between school and university, I went to the US for 6 months on an English-Speaking Union exchange to a High School in Princeton, and this boy from the Cotswolds discovered the world…

I found I could escape my (self-imposed) teenage persona of clever but never ‘cool’, often painfully awkward. On the very first morning, I was invited to skip class by other guys in the Senior Year, and we went out to get ice cream (it was January and about 5 degrees below zero), before one of them drove his car around the icy carpark, spinning and wheeling in all directions, ultimately ploughing into a snowbank. This seemed a long way from Gloucestershire.

I played baritone sax in a jazz band, played alto sax in a student rock band, started to write a screenplay, skied in Colorado. I travelled alone from New York to Seattle and San Francisco and back again. I was refused re-entry to the US at Niagara Falls. I gambled in casinos in Reno. I thought I was Don Johnson on top of the World Trade Centre…

world trade center

I grew up and grew out of myself in America. I couldn’t understand it in this way at the time, but travelling and living in another place made me appreciate my home all the more, while respecting and loving the differences.

Erasmus

At the end of my 2nd year at university, I signed up for an ERASMUS exchange to study in France, without consulting anyone, let alone my parents. A real snap decision, it was also a brilliant and far-reaching decision, as I got to go skiing in the French Alps A LOT, enjoyed a long weekend on the Mediterranean coast, and a week travelling into Italy to Genoa and Florence. I met and studied with multi-lingual French, Italian, Dutch, German students.

Most far-reaching of all, it was in Chambéry that I studied marketing & market research for the first time, and discovered more human, real-world ways to apply my thinking beyond the abstract, macro-economic aspects of my degree course.

Even more so, if I’d not studied in France I wouldn’t have been at university in Exeter for a 4th year, and almost certainly wouldn’t have met Rachel.

Erasmus

Erasmus. A scholar and citizen of the world.

I once gave a pecha kucha presentation about key moments in my life. Two of those focused on the experiences I had in Princeton and my decision to study in Chambéry: they have been that fundamental to my life since, the way I see myself and the way I see the world. I Reckon it’s simplistic to say the least, and actually insulting to suggest that people who think beyond their own country misunderstand the concept of citizenship.

So I encourage, implore you, dear readers, to think broadly about how we depend on each other, how we are stronger for being part of things that transcend nation-states. Be citizens of the world. The world needs us.

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Around 12 months ago, The Real Adventure (where I work) initiated a little extra agenda item for the monthly all-agency meeting. Volunteers were sought to present a pecha kucha, which could be about anything they chose. The purpose was to offer the whole agency to talk about something they cared about, and for the rest of us to learn a little more about each other.

cufflinks

This last week, it was my turn. I had thought about film clips or scenes, and even tried to make the technology work to play 20 sound clips. But in the end I opted for a more linear narrative approach, relating moments from my life that still resonate with me now, and/or have seemingly changed the course of my life, even if I didn’t realise it at the time…

You can view the full set of slides on slideshare, together with extended speaker notes (there’s no way I could tell all the stories I wanted to in 20 seconds per slide!)… but to give you a flavour, a couple of selections…

Monday 11th January 1988
Between school and university, I went to the States for 6 months on a school exchange, and this boy from the Cotswolds discovered the world…

I had no baggage, I found I could break out from my own self-imposed teenage constraints – clever, not ‘cool’, awkward in conversation – especially with girls(!). On the very first morning at school in the US, I was invited to skip a class by other guys in the Senior Year, and we went out to get ice cream (it was January and about 5 degrees below zero!), then one of them drove his car around the icy carpark, spinning and wheeling in all directions, before ploughing into a snowbank. This seemed a long way from Gloucestershire.

I played in a jazz band, started to write a screenplay, skied in Colorado. I travelled on my own from New York to Seattle and San Francisco and back again. I was refused re-entry to the US at Niagara Falls. I gambled in casinos in Reno. I thought I was Don Johnson on top of the World Trade Centre…

On the top of The World Trade Center, April 1988

Thursday 7th June 1990

At the end of my 2nd year at university, I signed up for an ERASMUS exchange to study in France, without consulting anyone, let alone my parents. A real snap decision. It was a brilliant and far-reaching decision, as I got to go skiing in the French Alps A LOT, even buying my own boots and skis. We travelled down to the Mediterranean for a weekend, we took a trip into Italy. We met and studied with multi-lingual French, Italian, Dutch, German students.

Most far-reaching of all, it was in Chambéry that I studied marketing & market research for the first time, and discovered more human, practical, real-world ways to apply my thinking beyond the more abstract, macro-economic aspects of my degree course.

Even more so, if I’d not gone to France for a year I wouldn’t have been at Exeter in my 4th year, and almost certainly wouldn’t have met Rachel.

Thursday 12th March 1992

I’ve played the horn since I was 12. In my Final Year at University, I’m playing 1st horn in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. It’s 90 minutes long, with 10 French Horns in an orchestra of over 100 and a choir of approaching 200. The Great Hall at Exeter is packed with up to 1,000 people (?certainly hundreds?). After the massive final chords, the audience erupts. Section by section the orchestra is called to stand by the conductor. Still shaking from the effort, the concentration, the exhilaration, it’s the turn of the Horns.  There are cheers, people are standing. We nailed it. I nailed it.

It’s still my happy place moment.

Friday 30th January 2003

I’ve only ever actively resigned from one job, and that was back in 1994. I’ve been sold once and made redundant twice – and all of them have been Good Things, especially this last one. On 30th January 2003 I was finally set free from the politics at Barclaycard. I was sent home on gardening leave while Rachel had Post-Natal Depression and Hannah was still only 7 months old. It precipitated our move back from Oxfordshire to Gloucestershire, and my career shift from client to agency, as I came to TRA.

08 August 1998 Southam Tithe Barn

My life, like all our lives, has featured many important and properly life-changing moments. But even more, there have been countless fleeting moments, or events that might seem like nothing, but are often a lot more than nothing.

Many of these moments don’t matter, are forgotten and lost forever. But many of them really do matter. For longer, and in ways we couldn’t begin to realise at the time.

 

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