As long as I can remember I was always encouraged to actively learn about other people and places…my Grandma especially was an avid traveller and had an insatiable interest in global politics and always told my sisters and me you don’t know anyone until you’ve walked in their shoes and seen and experienced what they have…and always have respect for your fellow citizen…looking back it was always a case of stressing those things that connect us are so much more important than things that divide us…a truism that is as relevant today as it has been for many many years.
I grew up in Yorkshire and I was fascinated by space travel and history and geography…in that order. I remember seeing a huge globe that had been brought into my primary school and being amazed by the stories of oceans, movements of peoples and land masses and cities…and thinking, wow, imagine living there in a very different part of the world and speaking another language and trying to explain what your city is like to someone who has never left theirs and what their lives and experiences were like…and this whole joined up world looking like that big blue marble from space!
My curiosity about the world and how it supported and developed the billions of people in it only grew and was also encouraged by my parents and wider family to understand those connections…
I learnt about the American and Irish parts of my British identity and started a family tree hoping to find lots of widely differing countries and cultures involved…a little disappointing although it was great to find some Belgian and Portuguese heritage!
My father was a keen linguist and had a particular interest in the Middle East and mum had a great thirst for European travel and art; dad’s family was south of England and mum’s in Yorkshire so it was very nice they met at an event in Leeds…the geographical (and arguably cultural!?) centre of the UK!
I was firmly encouraged to be open and curious and take advantage of opportunities to travel and learn about new cultures and places and I was blessed to have parents that celebrated that curiosity. Like many young people I had the great opportunity to travel to France for a week and it was all so brilliant to even travel across the sea, to meet people who spoke differently and yet we managed to communicate and learn from each other and have a truly life-changing time.
My deep appreciation of history and world cultures were developed at school and I thank my inspiring teachers for their fantastic support here which led me to go to University to undertake a degree in United States Studies.
John Rolfe, Community & Partnerships Manager at the GSA
I’d long been interested in learning more about the American influences in my ancestry and this also allowed me to also develop my strong interest in American history and literature. Living in the US was an incredible experience and it was fascinating cultural immersion, and often an exercise in personal resilience and developing understanding, very few of my peers had ever heard of Yorkshire (is it in London anyone?!) and I’m not sure why so many thought I was a real Cockney with that accent?!
It’s a cliché perhaps, but a very true one, that nothing beats the face to face experiences of teaching and learning…my passion for this was firmly and forever embedded during my nearly two years living, travelling, studying and teaching across the USA.
This time also crystallised my thinking that global education was where I wanted to be…to support and celebrate the inspiring educators who strive every day to bring the world into their classrooms and ensure all young people, irrespective of their financial position, should have access to global opportunities.
It was actually in Washington DC that I first met the British Council in their USA offices at an event and learnt about their work with school and teacher exchanges and I thought…yes, oh yes, this is what I want to do….
Part two coming soon!
Funding to transform global dimensions in your school
We are investing in 20 schools to complete the Global School Transformation programme, including partnerships, online exchanges, delegations and international student trips. Book your student exchange trips with us and get £8000 worth of programmes for free! Get in touch today to find out more.