International 16 is an International Society project that each year brings together a diverse group of 16 Greater Manchester students from 16 different countries. We meet every week during term time and learn about each other’s lives by sharing our stories. The group provides an inspired and creative space for promoting international peace and friendship, celebrating cultural diversity and connecting people around the world.
Each year, the International Society runs two International 16 groups, one in Manchester and one in Salford. For the last four years I’ve lead the Salford International 16 group with my partner, Sam, founder of the project. As I celebrate my fifth year as co-captain, I’ve realised it’s the right time to share the #Salford16, since I already write about elements that are at the project’s core: creativity, fear, the unknown, and courage. As I write about our experiences with the #Salford16 this year, interwoven with my posts sharing life in writing, it is my hope to try and capture in words some of the joy, love, stories, and ways in which this wonderful and important project changes lives.
The way our #Salford16 year together works looks something like this:
It might look like fun and games to an outsider. But we know that it actually requires tremendous commitment. Not just from 1 or 2 persons, but from all.
Then why does it feel effortless in relation to other things like exams or assignments?
Maybe it is because what we got out of this experience is worth so much more. We learn so much from each other through our activities, our trip, and our individual presentations. What makes the 16 so unique is that it is not merely international students talking about their countries, presenting touristy information and what not. It is about our lives and where we fondly, proudly call home. As I see other places I’ve never been [through our presentations], not only are my eyes open to new scenes, [I also] reflect on what I haven’t thought of before about my own home. I’m sure some, if not all of [us] have the same feeling. It is nothing you can find anywhere else.
We are more than just friends. We are each other’s family away from family. We are each other’s home away from home.
I never thought I would be in this incredible group made of these amazing people. I feel honoured and privileged to be a part of it. 8 months is not nearly enough time sharing with all of you. So let me say…
Thank you with so much love. This might be our last gathering but this is not the end. The capacity of human heart is far larger than what science considers it to be. You all will always have a place in mine and I hope I have a place in yours.
– Poly, International 16 member, Thailand, 2011-2012