How is the Luggage?

Another joy of interaction with students is the educational visit — especially those to foreign parts. The expectation of the experience rarely matches the participation and all the meticulous planning can never prepare you for what lies ahead. Needless to say, it’s not just the students that you end up taking responsibility for! — but that’s for another day.

An early experience of an overseas visit was taking 29 male and 2 female students to Rotterdam. The college had entertained a Dutch partner in the autumn and arranged to do a reciprocal visit with them the following spring for two weeks. The first challenge was agreeing which staff would take part. Eventually it was agreed on 5 members of staff. Three were to travel with the party and 2 more to follow on for the last 7 days. This was just as well because one student also needed to join the rear guard.

The first group were due to travel by coach from south Wales to Harwich for the 2pm ferry so an early morning start was agreed with the bus arranged for 5am. To their credit all students and staff all duly arrived on time on a chilly Saturday morning. However communication skills were in some doubt when there was no bus. A call to the sleepy bus company gleaned that they were booked for 5pm! Amazingly the bus was swiftly organised and arrived only 1 hour late. The subsequent journey to Harwich, though with fewer stops than planned, was thankfully uneventful.

All safely aboard the ferry the students were generally left to their own devices — which for many meant several hours in the bar! The staff settled down to the delights of the Stena Smörgåsbord. The seven hour crossing, whilst leaving everyone extremely full, and some a little merry, also left everyone very tired from a long day not knowing that it was about to get considerably longer.

The party was met at the Hook of Holland ferry port by the host leader who guided them all on train for the 30 minute ride to Rotterdam central station. From there the group was informed that they would walk to their accommodation. Now, the host was about 6ft 4inches tall and proceeded to stride out to the destination. The party of 32, being Welsh and short, and carrying an assortment of luggage from knapsacks, holdalls and suitcases — some with wheels, naturally struggled to keep up. What they didn’t know was that the walk was about 5 miles and took nearly two hours resulting in a line of staff and students stretching a few hundred yards having left a trail of broken luggage to the not so sumptuous accommodation.