It was a strange feeling waking up last Saturday morning. I genuinely had to think about where I was after spending the previous eleven nights in a tent; a tent in a field on the outskirts of Glasgow.
And, realistically, I should have been happy to finally be able to have a lie-in in a real bed, but I wasn’t. I was wishing I could rewind time and be back in Scotland’s largest city, volunteering at the Commonwealth Games.
I had spent the best part of two weeks working as a Clyde-sider at the Games’ Road Events, and how could I best describe the experience? Surreal.
Surreal that I saw the first gold medal of the games presented to Jodie Stimson of England and, like many others stood bemused as ‘Jerusalem’ was played as the national anthem, rather than the expected ‘God Save the Queen’.
Surreal that I was working in the same vicinity as BBC news presenters Jane Hill and Sophie Raworth along with Olympic legends Jonathan Edwards and Katherine Grainger.
And a personal highlight of mine – bizarrely – the sight of England’s Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee in the Media Centre, calmly pouring themselves cups of coffee just minutes after triumphing in the Mixed Relay Triathlon at Strathclyde Country Park.
Even after volunteering at the London 2012 Paralympics, this was unlike anything I had ever been part of, made better by the fact I was working within the Press Operations functional area (for anyone who doesn’t know I am a 3rd year Journalism student at Roehampton).
The experience began on 21st July, with a nightmarish 8 hour train journey and – after a manic hour directing the taxi driver to Uddingston and pitching my tent in record time – the opportunity to attend the final dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. I arrived at Celtic Park, the home of Celtic Football Club, with minutes to spare and left so impressed that the following day I queued for 2 hours in George Square for tickets to the actual spectacle. On the night I was further taken aback and, whilst I’m not usually one to cry, the Queen entering the stadium coupled with the Red Arrows flypast, had my bottom lip trembling beyond belief!
I was lucky enough to attend some preliminary rounds of the men’s Boxing along with two morning sessions of Athletics at Hampden Park – as a spectator – whilst I worked on Mountain Biking at Cathkin Braes, Cycling Time Trials at Glasgow Green and both the regular and mixed relay triathlon events; guiding photographers to photo positions around the field of play at each event and being on hand to (try to) answer any queries.
If I am totally honest, the role was not quite as I had imagined it due to my journalistic career aspirations, as personally I would like to become a journalist for the written press, not a photographer. Nonetheless, just being in a media centre with journalists and photographers at the pinnacle of their careers with Getty Images and the BBC, to name but a few, has given me an invaluable insight which can offer nothing but positives for the future, not to mention brightening my CV.
For fear of sounding soppy I will not say I have “fallen in love” with the city, but ever since my first visit in December, I have felt comfortable, at home and above all, welcome. At the end of my first week, I travelled to Edinburgh; Scotland’s picturesque capital with a landscape unlike any other. But it dawned on me during the ninety-minute train return train journey, that it just wasn’t Glasgow. It may have just been down to the ‘buzz’ of the games but I felt a genuine sense of warmth and community spirit that I just wouldn’t experience at home.
This was continued in the team I was part of at the Games, and although I felt that my role was one of a uniformed spectator, each and every one of my fellow volunteers welcomed me with open arms (as the baby of the group) taking an interest in what I had to say and just generally making the experience – which I embarked on alone – one that I will always look back on fondly.
So what have I learnt? Funnily enough, Scottish people actually do drink large amounts of Irn-Bru, the words ‘yes’ and ‘little’ are non-existent in their vocabulary and ultimately, the Scots are, without a shadow of a doubt, some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
I’d never been north of the border before my interview last year, but I have found a place that I can’t wait to visit again and, dare I say it, could see myself in the future – it really has had that much of an impact on me. Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to my next volunteering challenge…
See you at Gold Coast 2018 maybe?