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Two people jumping out of plane

Open your mind as well as your parachute

by Joe O’Connor

BEng (Hons) Aeronautical Engineering (2024)

Read more about the Graduate Attributes that Joe developed through this experience

My name is Joe, and I am just about to enter my second year of undergraduate Aeronautical Engineering. I spent this last summer in Washington state, USA, with the financial help I received from the Turing Scheme. Not only did I gain qualifications and industry experience, but I had one of the most enjoyable summers to date, meeting a range of people with diverse opinions and making some fantastic friends.

I spent the summer working as a professional skydiver, gaining my tandem instructional rating the first week that I got there (I had previous experience with skydiving before the trip), and then proceeding to spend the summer jumping out of planes with people strapped to me and sharing in an experience that for most people is a once in a lifetime or a bucket list item.

My time in America has also been a fantastic opportunity to see the American culture from an inside perspective, sitting down and chatting with people who have vastly different opinions to me and getting the opportunity to try to understand where their views originate from, and why they believe in things that are completely alien to me. This kind of open, honest conversation is something I think was only available because I had the time to actually get to know people for the person that they are, and not just by the flags they wave from their trucks or firearms they have strapped to their sides.

Spending time abroad and immersing yourself in opposing views and political beliefs is truly the best way to broaden your thinking and understand of other people. In the modern world, with such polarisation, I would highly recommend to anyone who has strong beliefs in anything to go and get to know the people that they disagree with and become friends with them. If you find the common ground, you will realise that most people have the same core desires. So while I may leave still disagreeing with the friends I have made on certain topics, we have had honest conversations and respect each other as people, and at least respect why we each hold onto our opinions. This kind of friendship removes the hostility from such conversations which, if made a more common practice, may allow actual progress rather than polarised blinded hostility from both sides of a debate, a skill that everyone should aim to develop.

Professionally, I benefitted greatly from this trip as skydiving is a much larger, healthier industry in America, so not only have I gained my tandem rating with enough experience but I am now employable anywhere in the world. I also have progressed along the path of becoming a rigger, someone who can fix and maintain skydiving equipment. Additionally I got the opportunity to work with the aircraft maintenance technicians doing service checks on our aircraft, to completely strip and rebuild a turbine engine giving a much deeper understanding of them for my return to my Aeronautical Engineering course. It’s much easier for me to actually take apart an engine and understand how it really works rather than look at it on a PowerPoint, and way easier to understand how aircraft work in general when you’re sitting in the right seat getting to fly it, whilst asking the pilot about why they do everything they are doing.

Plus, I got to climb mountains, drink beer in every brewery I could find, go swimming in beautiful lakes to cool off on hot days, and shoot guns just for the craic. I laughed when on my visa check in form it said ‘going to Walmart’ was classed as a cultural experience, but when you go it truly is and the Americans will deep fry things that’d even make the Scots turn their nose up!!

I would recommend to anyone that if there is a place you have an interest in, an opinion you disagree with or something that interests you, to go and experience it first hand: you’ll never look back and regret having an adventure.

Joe was supported on his overseas mobility by the Turing Scheme.

Turing Scheme logo

For more information on the Turing Scheme at the University of Brighton visit our Sharepoint site.

employabilityemploymentinternationaljobswork experience

Simon Topham • 10/11/2022

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