By JCI Cambridge member Kelly Tennick
Having never been to a JCI International event before, I have to be honest and say I literally didn’t know what to expect. Yes, I had been told snippets by others that had been before, and knew that I had booked my workshops and events online before we left. So in my head I guess I just thought I would be sticking to my online timetable, meeting lots of new people, learning new things and then going out every night! And to a point, that is what happened…but it truly turned out to be so much more than just following a timetable and meeting new people.
The whole thing started at 5.50am, Stanstead Airport enjoying breakfast and drinks with the other JCI Cambridge members. And by drinks, I do mean a cheeky gin as well as the orange juice! The flight was very quick and before we knew it we had arrived at the check-in lounge at Hannover Airport where we were greeted with free drinks and the first opportunity to start meeting and catching up with other members. I will be honest here and say I felt a little bit daunted at this point! It was probably due to a shortage of sleep and wanting to stare at things rather than talk, as well as it kind of dawning on me for the first time that JCI is slightly bigger than our monthly meetings in Cambridge….
Another journey, by bus this time, and we had arrived at the Stadhalle – one of the main ‘campus locations’ of the event. We registered, received our (slightly amazing) delegate cards and collected a delegate bag which was not only a pretty good bag, it had all the conference information in it and was full of goodies including sweets, perfume and plasters…..fantastic!
Arriving at the hotel a short time later, it became clear that the timetable that had been booked online was not necessarily set in stone! UK members all enjoyed a drink and lunch in the garden before meeting up to go to the first evening’s event: the Opening Ceremony. It was here that I realised why other UK members had been adamant that Union Jack items or ‘Jackage’ would be required. I realised It’s not that we want to rub it in that we are British, but being surrounded by delegates from all across Europe is a wonderful feeling, everyone is supportive of each other’s heritage and wants to show they are proud of their country. Everybody joined in and it was a fantastic feeling. The only competition was which country could make the most noise!
What a wonderful first evening. The opening ceremony was great fun and really demonstrated the togetherness and ambition of JCI. The disco after was just totally enjoyable, as was the continuously flowing free alcohol and the many stands supplying free food including meats, pancakes, sweets and baked cheese, my favourite…yes I think I had about 4 of these by home time! I get hungry after a few drinks.
The next morning found us getting the bus at 8am to the Stadhalle for the ‘First Timers Meeting’. This was the first ‘workshop’ that I attended and it was enjoyable, informative of the week ahead and even included some dancing. I then watched the official opening of the trade show which contained some great stands, including stands from other JCI countries such as Turkey and Monaco, all offering information about their country alongside national delicacies such as Raki, the most horrendous disgusting alcohol I have ever tasted (no offence Turkey!). That was a free alcohol I definitely said ‘no thank you’ to!
Lunch found us enjoying a Chinese buffet just a short walk into the beautiful town of Braunschweig. In our delegate bags we all had 5euro vouchers to use within some of the local shops in the town, meaning lunch with a drink cost me about 4euros! The generosity of the conference continued to surprise me.
The second evening found us partying in a tram station! I know this sounds odd, but really it was a fantastic location. There was lots of space for everyone to dance, socialise and enjoy themselves as well as lots of fresh air so that it didn’t get too hot. On top of this there were free tram rides around Braunschweig as well as again having all free alcohol and a beautiful melted cheese and bread ‘snack thingy’ which was amazing!
The third morning did NOT find me getting up for the bus at 8am! However, I made it to my first workshop at 10.30am which was called ‘Passion Into Action’. This was an absolutely fantastic workshop and really focussed on how to change your perspective to realise that the things you want to achieve are actually achievable! I really enjoyed this workshop and found that it was delivered excellently, passionately and I just soaked up the information like a sponge. I even managed to talk to another delegate who had several businesses in many different countries – proof that JCI really does include everyone from grass roots divisions or start up businesses right through to top entrepreneurs and business people. In the afternoon I attended some of a workshop called ‘To Flirt or Not to Flirt’. I enjoyed the first half and the presenter was interesting and engaging, although I found the content to be a bit stereotypical. However I had to leave half way through to ensure I got back to the hotel in time for UK drinks in the garden and our ride to the third nights entertainment.
Another fabulous night was in store, this time at a cinema complex which offered an amazing amount of space, more alcohol and food (not so interested in alcohol at this point!) as well as the football game being shown on a cinema screen with free popcorn and beer! There was a great display from a Jagermiester band, as well as the performance of the evening, JCI UK delegate Tim Metcalf appearing in a ‘mankini’ to raise money for the ‘Nothing But Nets’ charity. Literally hilarious and extremely brave, this highlighted that not only is JCI serious, business and networking. Its a group of people all with the same frame of mind who, yes want to learn and improve themselves but also have a brilliant time socialising with each other and dedicating time effort and appreciation to charities and those in need.
I’m not sure how I got up on Saturday morning but I arrived promptly for ‘How to Succeed in Business’ which was a really good workshop covering all the basics for starting your own business. I have to say I didn’t really hear anything new in this workshop, but it certainly was a great tool for remembering techniques and ideas that I may have let slip or thought not useful and reapplying them to evaluate and move my business forward.
Following a brief yet much needed afternoon nap, I donned my glad rags and at 6pm met the other UK delegates for the Gala Dinner. Everybody looked really lovely and it was fantastic to be celebrating the last night with all the wonderful people that I had met over the last few days. The Gala Dinner was really special. The venue had been wonderfully decorated and the atmosphere was just fantastic. The food was enjoyable and the drinks were flowing. We (JCI UK) even won the Best New Member award which was a really proud moment and I felt really privileged to be a part of the evening.
A fantastic Conference rounded off with a brunch at the town square which was totally picturesque and wonderfully relaxing….just what was required after a week of hard socialising, learning (and drinking). It was a great place to have a last catch up with all the great new people I had met, grab some food and enjoy the sunshine before making our way back to the airport.
Definitely the best experience of my JCI membership so far, the European Conference was totally worth the effort and I had a fantastic time. I would urge any delegate, new or established to try out an international event if they have not already done so. It really illustrates what JCI is all about, shows you a much bigger picture that what you see through each chapter and demonstrates how what you do within each chapter is part of something that is going on worldwide. A truly amazing time and I can’t wait to attend another international event next year!
And a video of the whole event!!
Categorised in: International Events
This post was written by makedo