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Head Boy's Blog 28th April 2017

    02 May 2017

Confession time: I can't speak a language! Despite school policy, I've managed to avoid learning a language. Some of you might find this surprising, especially as I played a major role in organising this year's International Evening. I was never very good with foreign languages, but I have always loved learning about other cultures. I definitely think that food is the best way to understand a culture. For centuries, people have gathered around tables and tucked into good grub; it was almost inevitable that food would begin to define a nation. Take China. As I have learnt from my own experiences alongside my Chinese friends, food is meant to be shared at a Chinese table. It is so integral to their lives that many will use "吃了吗" as a greeting (literally 'have you eaten yet').

 

I have done a fair chunk of travelling in my time, and food always plays a role in my experiences. One of my first trips was to Dubai. In Year 8, I was entered with a friend into a national debating competition. We were a last ditch effort; most of the other competitors were much older, and nobody expected us to go very far. We won. Our prize was a trip to Dubai, to compete in the Dubai World Debates. What an experience! We got to stay with a host family, and by possibly the strangest coincidence, I ended up staying with one of my mum's old colleagues. Small world. Anyway, in between all the debating (where we placed fifth out of sixteen), I got to experience a lot of foreign culture. Our host family was Indian, and so I got to try delicious food like idlis and chutneys. Our hosts also thought it was important we experienced some Emirati culture, and so we were taken to an authentic Arabic restaurant in Dubai's largest shopping mall. Only in Dubai would you find a waterfall, a candy land and an aquarium under the same roof. One night was spent at the GEMS Dubai Modern High School, where we had a very decadent dinner that fused Western and Eastern themes. I got to cut a cake with a sword, so it really was a dream for young me. There was another night when we visited the Dubai Global Village, one of the world's largest tourism and leisure projects. At this point, the judges of the competition had taken a shining to us, as the youngest competitions there, and we found ourselves spending time with them and learning more about their home countries. One of the judges was South Korean, and for the first time I learnt about conscription. I'd never encountered this before in my life, and it came as quite a shock. On a lighter note, the Village was breathtaking, and nothing quite compares to the diversity on offer there. Better still, on the final night I got to go dune boarding in the desert, and finished my time off with dinner in a desert camp, where I rode and then ate camel, watched belly dancing and had an amazing time. That trip was at a pivotal time for me, and I definitely think that it influenced my love of culture today. To this day, one of my favourite games is Civilisation, where you can lead ancient and modern civilisations through history and forge a great nation. Through it, I learnt of the wonders of the world, like the Neuschwanstein and the Hagia Sophia.

 

The reason I wanted to talk about my experiences is that this week's Sherfield theme is Global Citizenship. Today, I consider myself resolutely British; I am proud of my country and our history of achievements. However, my national pride does not mean I cannot be a Global Citizen. Experiencing other cultures allows us to learn, both about others and ourselves. Travel enriches your life (although not your wallet) and sets you up for our modern global economy. So, my parting message this week is learn more about the world, by meeting people or popping on the internet. What you find may surprise you, and will certainly make you appreciate how amazing the human race is.

 

Thomas Jenkins 

Head Boy

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