I decided on a whim to enter Future News Worldwide 2017 - and I got the shock of my life when I got an email telling me that I was one of the South African delegates selected to attend the conference in Edinburgh. The preparation and lead-up to the conference was such a buzz, and my head was in the clouds way before it was July 4, when I set off for Edinburgh. I found an amazing friend and travel companion in my fellow SA delegate Boniswa.
As soon as we landed, there was no time for rest. The extra-long summer days allow for one to squeeze plenty into a day, and I was lucky to be able to do just that in my time in Scotland. As soon as I got to our accommodation - just a few hundred metres away from the Scottish Parliament, where the conference was being held - I met up with a friend of a friend who took me all around the city, before I got lost for two hours trying to find my way back in time for the welcome reception at the Scottish Parliament that evening. Getting lost turned out to be one of the most brilliant mistakes I could have made. I am now lucky enough to say I managed to have scaled almost the entirety of Edinburgh's Old Town by foot! I saw Princes Street, the wonders of the Royal Mile, had ice-cream at the Castle, grabbed lunch at The Elephant House, and even caught a few exhibits at the Scottish National Museum.
The reception that evening was brilliant. There were plenty of laughs and encouraging words from the organisers - and then we ate. The food was so thoughtfully catered, and there was not a single detail that was forgotten - I needn't have worried about my halal requirements. This goes for all three days; the food was so delicious at every single meal.
And the actual conference? It blew my mind, full-stop. We engaged so many current issues, such as fake news and the digitisation of news rooms, but we also got to hear so much from one another about the challenges that we face in our own countries. We got to share, and it was an important time for me to also get to reflect on how lucky we are in South Africa to have the degree of media freedom that we do. Our speakers were so accommodating and so extra-willing to listen, even when we voiced criticism. One of the parts I really enjoyed was the workshops that Google and Facebook did with us. Overall, it was such a brilliant learning experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I have made friends and contacts for life, and I am so thankful to the British Council for making it all possible!