A Holiday Speaking Engagement

Hello again fellow bloggers, writers, readers, scholars, and friends and acquaintances. I am back in Dubai now, after my brief but way too busy trip home to Canada to celebrate a friend’s 50th, my mum’s slightly-more-than-50th, and the highlight for me … going back to my old college to speak to a group of first year students about the opportunities that are out there for them. Seeing friends and family is always good; but having the chance to possibly impact a life, or maybe a few, well, that is as close to being a teacher as I’m likely to become.

I could harp on about how it started snowing as soon as I stepped off the plane in Edmonton (apparently I brought it from Dubai with me), but I won’t do that. I could really harp on about how I’m super sick at this moment, a nasty head, sinus and chest cold that made my 15 hour flight from LA to Dubai seem impossibly long. And for the record, I am at work today but taking some extra time to go through all the emails that were waiting for me. Most of them I can delete right away, as at work I’m included in several mailing lists because of my grade level but 99% of the emails have nothing to do with me. But today I’m reading them anyway. You will be pleased to know, I hope, that my cats were absolutely delighted to see me and did not want me to unpack because it meant less time on the couch cuddling. And who am I to let them down?

So, on to the trip to my old college to speak to some wide-eyed, mostly paid attention to me students (except for the two in the middle row but what can you do?). When I graduated from the program nearly 10 years ago now, it was an applied degree, meaning my final year was spent doing two 4 month work placements as part of my degree. I would have to write 3 essays per work placement centered around each of the work placements to contribute to my final mark. There were a total of 65 students in the program when I left it. The program has now been revamped and is a standard degree program now, with different options and streams for students to take. All told, there are over 450 students in the program through the 4 year cycle.

Armed with a blazer, Coke slurpee, and my rapier-like wit, I sat my butt down on a table at the front of the class and waited for my former co-student, now professor, to introduce me and ask a few opening questions. I didn’t know of the questions before hand, and any questions from the students would be off-the-cuff, but I wasn’t concerned my stutter might make an appearance anyway. We were soon joined by my former technical writing instructor, who had many more questions than I had for her in 3+ years of schooling; but turnaround is fair play I suppose.

A couple students from a later year were in attendance as well, and they asked the majority of the questions. I suppose the one that everyone wanted an answer for was, “did I feel my degree from the school prepared me for the working world?” I answered honestly, that it did. I felt I had the tools to walk into any environment and contribute from the first day. And I think I have with every job I’ve had since I graduated. Naturally, you pick up stuff along the way, but I was prepared and confident enough to make a go of it. I couple that by saying I was a “mature” student, and I used the word mature quite loosely. I would not have been remotely ready to accept a job in the Middle East if I was 25. At 35, I had been kicked enough by life to know a few things and accept that it isn’t always sunshine and fucking rainbows. I was mature and responsible enough to know that I couldn’t move to Saudi Arabia and live the way I lived in Canada. At 25, I might have thought I could, but I would have been wildly incorrect.

My former co-student mentioned how wonderful my Instagram account is (on the basis I post a lot of travel photos because I’m a lucky bastard who travels a lot), but I made sure the students knew that it wasn’t all good. I have never been one to air my dirty laundry or go searching for sympathy. I post fun, happy, good things, which I believe is even more important in today’s society. When asked what was tough, I mentioned I spent my 36th birthday alone in a restaurant in Saudi Arabia because I had only just arrived 2 weeks before and didn’t know anybody. That might not seem like a big deal to some, but to me, who has always had a very close family, it was tough. This raised a few eyebrows, as you can imagine, and a couple follow-up questions came of it.

The 90 minute session flew by, if I’m honest. I received the standard round of applause afterwards and a couple students stopped me outside to ask a few more questions. Apparently, on the Thursday, the next day the class met, a few other students had questions relating to my talk. I guess they were listening.

I’m not sure if I made a difference, if anything I said will stick with them or not. But I don’t think I did them any harm either. I was honest and open, told them working abroad isn’t for everybody, but if they were willing to look, there were opportunities out there for them. Maybe some of them will look. Maybe I helped open some eyes.

Cheers,

Ger

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