And so we’re about to bid maasalama to Abu Dhabi. The Edinburgh Team Leaders have packed up their shows and said goodbyes to the local Science Communicators. Everyone’s soaking up enough sunshine to get them through to April and taking advantage of the last bit of Arabic hospitality (which mainly means polishing off the breakfast buffet).
It’s been quite a journey, which is probably best summed up by the Science Communicators: the groups of undergraduates who have been polished and molded into presenters in a learning curve so steep they should have been given a safety harness. They were made to perform in front of groups of (often rowdy) children, developing people management, public speaking skills and patience throughout the most intense science festival any of us have ever seen.
Of course some found it harder than others, just as the festival itself wasn’t perfect. Some discovered they preferred the organisational side of things, whereas others excelled at leading workshops into new exciting places. Some may never do science communication again but, as far as I could see, even those initially least interested will have taken something very special from this experience to use in their future career.
There were some emotional farewells on Saturday. Seeing the rise of confidence and enjoyment in most communicators revealed something we knew deep down from the start: culture differences are just surface issues. Friendships and respect formed between people from internationally diverse backgrounds because we were, at the end of the long, long days, just people trying to make children happy and excited about science. Working together it was a job successfully done.
It was crazy. It was often intimidating, especially when several thousand people turned up to see our beloved shows (it’s hard being awesomely popular). But it’s definitely feeling like an au revoir. This isn’t the end of science festivals in this part of the world but, as a Team Leader, it’s been a pleasure to be a piece of the beginning.