….they call it “Sports Tour.”
Each year in the Spring, sports teams from across the UK flock to Western European destinations to partake in an oh-so-infamous week known as Tour. My situation was unique, as my cheer and dance team- the Brighton and Sussex Waves- do all social activities with the Brighton Tsunami American Football Team (the irony, I know.)
Let it be known: two teams are better than one.
So, as April crept upon the calendar and the weather began to tediously thaw, Wavenami boarded a coach en route to the beachside city of Salou, Spain- full sized speaker in tow. Many capri-sun beverages and 28 hours later, sixty of us reached the British spring break mecca: Saloufest 2016.
I’ll give it to you straight, no chaser:
….I thought I’d seen it all.
Having spent my freshmen year on spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida, I embarked on this journey considering myself a spring break veteran, blissfully unaware of the madness that would soon ensue. Tour exceeded all expectations, and set the bar in ways I simply cannot put into words for the world-wide web.
Picture a Week long sorority/fraternity function…on steroids.
Sewing myself into an Oktoberfest costume, in the middle of March, while in Spain was hardly a position I anticipated I’d find myself in upon my arrival in England. Clubbing in full orange body paint, with green hair, dressed as a carrot? Not on my radar, either. Each night summoned an eccentric theme, shenanigans that shall never be put into print, and memories I’ll carry with me for years to come.
….I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I cannot, in good character, boast as though I’ve experienced Spanish culture. That would be a gross exaggeration. I stand by the claim I made when this blog was born: traveling is not synonymous with cultural immersion. While I did spend time on a beautiful Spanish beach, I’d argue what I experienced was more or less an authentic British spring break. This was equally- if not more- rewarding.
A few months ago, I was asked to speak on a panel at a welcome orientation for several hundred incoming international students attending the University of Sussex for the Spring semester. The majority were Americans.
One member of the panel suggested they visit an all-you-can-eat buffet. Others told them to stop by well known attractions such as the Brighton Eye and Royal Pavilion.
“Stay put,” I said. “And get to know the people. They’ll teach you more about this place, and about yourself, than anything else.”
Suppress the natural inclement to hop on a plane and jet set across Europe, I suggested. Shed pre-conceived notions, and let go of the comfort that lies in socializing with only those of your native culture. You see, my experience living internationally is almost wholly defined by the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made.
Sports Tour is one testimony to this claim.
While the food, photos, postcards, and stamps in my passport are lovely souvenirs, it’s the relationships I have here in England- both through Wavenami and various other social circles alike- that add substance to this time and place in my life.
The people I’ve met are the reason I can now register [some] British slang.
The people I’ve met are the reason I better understand and comprehend the British culture and custom.
The people I’ve met are the reason I’ve fallen in love with Brighton…. the reason, in just a few months, it will be so bittersweet to leave this incredible place.
Some will remain friends for a lifetime; friendships I can say, with absolute certainty, will yield a mutual effort to maintain contact and connection for years to come. Friends I will make a conscious effort to share and celebrate life milestones with, despite the distance. It’s a bit dreamy when laid out in text, but those who truly know me know I can-and absolutely will- commit to this effort. Y’all know who you are…..and if you don’t meet my kids one day, I assure you, you’ll at least meet my cat.
Some will stay in touch. A friendly face or bearer of meaningful encouragement. We are a technological generation and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. The opportunities for cross-cultural communication and connection are endless.
Some will remain frozen in time. Exactly as they were in the moment we briefly crossed paths, a static memory.
Everyone I’ve met, in each and every social setting, sports team, society, and context will hold a place in my memory; responsible for shaping my time in England thus far, and my time to come.
So…..As the brits would say, “big up” to my Wavenami Fam for a “Mad” spring break.