Firefighting: A Universal Language

By Kelly Sexton, Relocations Intern

This past semester I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in the relocation department here at The International Center. Through phone calls, e-mails, welcome packages, and orientation tours, we assist international employees who are moving from their home country to Indianapolis on a business assignment. At first it seemed relatively easy, clear-cut, and laid back. But let me assure you, it is quite the opposite. There is never a dull moment in the relocation office whether it be a client’s security alarm going off at 4 in the morning (and not knowing the code to shut it off), flight itineraries changing last minute, or chaotic move in/out inspections. On top of all this craziness, my supervisor went on maternity leave and our stand-in Relocation Director accepted a new job outside of The International Center (congratulations to the both of you!!!). Nevertheless, Joan, who has been “holding down the relocation fort” in the office, as well as the rest of the relocation staff, stepped up tremendously and have been working tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition for all our new clients, as the arrival list continues to grow.

 In addition to working in the office (with a beautiful 20th floor view of downtown, I might add), interns at The International Center are given the opportunity to volunteer at various events around Indianapolis. Last week the 2015 FDIC International (Fire Department Instructors Convention) was held at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center downtown. The International Center was invited to host an “International Lounge” for all of the firefighters from out of the country that were visiting for this event. We provided food, drinks, a place to sit and relax, translations of the program’s events and directions, and a display of flags from each country represented.

I volunteered to man the information desk at the lounge on the Friday morning of the conference. As I arrived eager to help, I found myself overhearing a conversation between a gentleman from Nova Scotia and one of our own from The International Center. They were discussing the convention as a whole as this was the final day, and the Canadian firefighter mentioned something that intrigued me. He said it was interesting to gain a perspective on American firefighters and their relationship with one another, as they all call each other “brothers and sisters.” Apparently in Canada they do not have this close of a relationship. They view their fellow firefighters as co-workers or colleagues. He thought this was really fascinating and was somewhat taken aback by the thought of fellow firefighters being part of a family. Yet if you think about it, on-duty firefighters do spend a significant amount of time together, sharing meals and extremely personal experiences. And while this comment I heard may seem like a miniscule one to ponder, it stood out to me and really made me think how true it certainly must be for Americans, especially after the events of 9/11 as the supreme example of firefighters all over America coming together as a community to support one another.

I’ve greatly enjoyed working at The International Center, learning about different cultures, and communicating with people from all over the world. But having spent time at the international firefighter’s convention, it occurred to me I may take my own culture for granted sometimes. For example, growing up, my view of firefighters, police officers, etc. was always local. There is a fire department less than a mile away from my house, it never occurred to me that this service was performed worldwide. Now obviously this is a naïve opinion as fires can break out in an apartment in the middle of downtown Beijing just as easily (and as devastatingly) as it can in downtown Indianapolis. This is why I am even more thankful for my international experience this semester and being able to learn about so many different cultures. It gives me the humbleness to appreciate where I come from, but also the desire to expand my international mindset.