Hi, I’m Finn, and I’m 20 years old and am currently working as an activity leader at Country Cousins!
I first joined Country Cousins at the age of 14 as a PALS (Promoting Acceptance of Language Students scheme), alongside my best friends, however I was the only one who stuck at it.
In my first year my best memories came from being able to make good friends and being able to help certain students break through barriers. For instance, one student I remember well is a boy called Martin, a very tall, shy Czech lad who had poor social skills, but was incredibly kind and still to this day is one of the most warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. During his visit, I remember talking to him more and more until the point we performed sex bomb (of all songs) at the karaoke night together. He did not only receive praise off his group, but off all students.
Being a PALS in my first year gave me the opportunity to help someone, to provide someone with the confidence to step outside his box. And that chance to help someone’s stay be special kept on bringing me back as a PALS.
In my 3rd year as a PALS, I was one of the only ones there throughout the summer, however this just provided me with more opportunities to meet more people. This also allowed me to meet someone who would not only be a good friend to me but also eventually feel like a brother. During the departure of one Taiwanese boy, he asked me to look after his little brother when he arrived the next week. At the end of the first lunch that following week, when the bell rang in the rush of students, a small boy was screaming in bewilderment, and then just attached himself randomly to me.
FRIENDSHIP FOR LIFE – MEETING JUSTIN
That was the first time I met Justin, who would stay for 2 months, at the age of 9 all the way from Taiwan.
Throughout the summer I struck up a bond with him, being on most activities with him and becoming good friends. The next year, no longer being a PALS, now moving onto being the True BBQ King of Country Cousins, he requested to stay with my family. For two years he stayed with my Family, as I became an activity leader, and he genuinely feels part of our family, a brother to me, when he is here and we are excited to have him returning, since he didn’t come last year. My family has also had the pleasure of meeting his parents, and it really felt incredibly wholesome how appreciative they were of my family and I.
Being part of Country Cousins has made me excited to be in North Devon as a teenager and young adult, I’ve met people who I would say are as close as family, whilst I have made friends among colleagues and group leaders who I know I will be friends with for life. At the same time, as I enter my 3rd year of activity leading. My 7th year in the company, I have gained skills that I could not have gained anywhere else.
I was a very shy kid with a speech impediment, however, now I can talk in front of 100 or more with confidence. The skills I’ve gained has helped me become Vice-captain of my University lacrosse club, a feat that I could’ve never have reached without confidence and other skills I had gained. So, when people ask me of my experience of Country Cousins, all I can reply with is that it has been an opportunity that has improved me and my life indefinitely.