Monday, 10 June 2024

Tobias is cycling from Germany to South Korea to meet friends and roommates from his treasured time at Brighton College.

47 days into his Eurasian bikeride to meet Sang Kil Park (Ab. 2009-11), his first school roommate, Tobias updates us on his progress and delves into the backstory of his incredible journey. Currently in Turkey, he plans to cross the Caucasus through Georgia and Armenia, dropping into Iran before heading up through the Himalayas to Pakistan and India.

If you (or anyone you know) are an Old Brightonian and will be in the vicinity, get in touch with the OB office to pass on your details: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tobias writes:

I was very lucky to actually be accepted into the college because my grades at my German school weren't all that bad but they certainly weren't all that good either and I had no prior relation to the college and considering my oldest brother even went to the College of which no word is to be spoken (somewhere near Shoreham-by-Sea) four years earlier, getting into the college was very fortunate in that sense.

I still remember the feeling I had after the interview with Mr. Simon Smith if I recall correctly, where I felt that I just wasn't exactly good enough for this school, a school that impressed me by the sheer beauty of the buildings and the beautiful athmosphere, and felt I could maybe get the chance prove myself.

The agency, which back then arranged the interviews at different schools for me, handled the rest, and so I got a place at Brighton College and was thrilled to experience school life in another country.

Now boarding life is something that most people in Germany are not familiar with and I also wasn't familiar with, and so it was a bit of a shock in the beginning and it really took me some time to get used to it. At the age of 16, in a rather different culture, I probably did not make it easy for myself at times either, especially the first year left me with mixed feelings between excitement and anxiety while trying my best to perform academically and also in extra-curricular activities and generally just fitting in, which in hindsight is something most probably all pupils feel and also adults feel more or less in the later life, sometimes shown more or less.

Getting over that initial insecurity, it probably means that you need to find your group of friends that you know support you and get supported by you in those tough moments that you encounter regularly and I found my small group of close friends that really was a wild mixture of foreign and British students from School house and Abraham house, it was the boarder community. Naturally, part of it was also Sang-kil Park with whom I shared my room for the first year at College.

Now looking back (which is when I tend to romanticize), all the moments, whether good or bad, tough or simply enjoyable really were all necessary experiences for the then current and also later life (which is something that you really start to understand years later).

Apart from this I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the College in general because there was a sense of striving for performance in whatever way, so it was not all chasing for grades ( I was glad enough to have finished with an A* in Germany A's in Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Business studies and a B in AS History, and thus just made it into German medical school) but it was a feeling that if you perform and you try your hardest you get the recognition and that is something that I definitely remember when it comes to Brighton College. Apart from academics it was the first time for me to encounter a boarding community, which is very distinct and unique experience, something that if I was to have kids I would definitely want to pass on.

In addition to the friends that I made, if we had a bank holiday I was so glad to have amazing guardians living in Brighton who formally were also the guardians of my brother when he was at another British college, providing emotional and cultural support, especially in moments when I would need explanation for very British things, like let's say Rugby or cricket rules, which is to this day something that still hasn't really been very clear to me.

After graduating from Brighton College I went back to my hometown to coach two different youth handball teams and also play handball myself for about one year at a senior team, while also working in a hospital, since it became clear to me that studying medicine would be an option. After that "gap year" I then went on to study medicine at the university of the Saar region which is just on the border to France and 400 kilometers away from my hometown.

During my university time, I used the opportunity of the Erasmus program to travel abroad with financial support of the European Union, so I went to Timisoara, Romania for half a year and I went to Innsbruck, Austria also for half a year. When I was almost finished with medical school, and starting a work experience at Sambia in the obstetrics department, my best friend and flatmate had a tragic accident during a new year's eve party leading to his death and my flight back home. Whilst this might not be something that you want to mention in the magazine, I write because I think it changed the way that I approach life decisions and and risk management, since you really never know when it is too late to do what you always wanted.

Four Months later, after finishing medical school in Germany I then went on a small bike and trip which took me 4,000 kilometers through Southern Italy and all around Greece and really opened my eyes, considering I encountered so hospitality and presents and I was never in a position to give back this kindness, since I was always in a position of a guest, but never the host, leading to me returning back home and starting medical training to become a GP. I went to Innsbruck to start my GP training there, because they're having a bit of a different system in Austria when compared to Germany and also I had very good memories of living in the mountains and this is where I finished my GP training after almost four years, just half a year ago. I then continued to work for the private practice that I spent time while in training as a GP and started my trip on the 13th of April, just after calling Sang Kil and telling him that I will be around in South Korea in something like 9 months.

Telling you about the trip, which has only been 47 days so far would take me another day I suppose, however most importantly I met on of the closest friends from Brighton College, Alexander Balcigil, in Istanbul. Not having any contact whatsoever for 13 years, I looked him up on Linkedin and decided to try my luck by just cycling through Instanbul to the headquarters of the bank he works for, and actually met him in the lobby and spent the consecutive 2 days with him.

Now I have to say, but I often think about what experience I took from Brighton College since it is not very common for German people to go to private school especially not to one that is located in England. This encouragement when it comes to performance in no matter what field of life is something that I will always remember, even if I'm not working at the moment and really just pedalling to the other side of the world. You can really apply it anywhere and I am really glad that I got to know this and I also remember this very strict policy when it came to bullying that Mr. Cairns applied and probably still applies. It is very mentionable because he talked about it very regularly and it stuck with me because it just taught the tolerance when it comes to other people's opinions and also generally other people's feelings, which is really the essence of traveling because you get to know a lot of different cultures and you have to adapt even if you don't necessarily understand other people or the way they behave.

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