What an adventure I had from June 19-27 in the UK!
I left on the 19th in the late evening and arrived in mid morning on June 20th. My cousin Montio was waiting to meet me at the airport. Here is a picture of her beaming self that I took the following day:
Montio and I set out for Birmingham, where the first Kumon experience of my trip was to take place: a visit to the corporate Kumon centre there, which assists well over 400 students in their Kumon studies. As such it is by far the largest centre in the UK.
Traffic on the M6 was horrific but we stopped on the way for a bite to eat and whiled away the hours very pleasantly in catching up on each others’ lives.
To our surprise, we got to Birmingham just at the time I had originally forecast. We were helped to find a parking spot by the very kind Will Messent, who is in charge of corporate centres in the UK, and we began to look around the centre. It was fascinating.
After getting a lot of answers to questions about the centre and observing the children study there, Montio and I thanked Will and the staff and went on to have dinner at a local Indian restaurant. The food was delicious and by the time we were done, the M6 was free and clear back to Manchester. (I don’t remember too much at that point – I had had very little sleep on the plane and mostly dozed on the way back.)
We then arrived at the very impressive and beautiful Midland Hotel – here is the Kumon UK blog, which includes a view of the hotel from the front: http://www.kumon.co.uk/blog/conference-2013/#more-7719
The Kumon UK staff were tremendous throughout and did their best to assist with any questions.
The next day was an informal lunch at a charming Italian restaurant with Executive Vice President of Kumon Europe and Asia, Mike Shim. Mike had worked for Kumon Canada for a long time and I have known him for over 15 years. It was wonderful to catch up.
That evening we had dinner at another Italian restaurant and the following day was the first full day of the conference itself. The head of Kumon International, Mr Akio Tsunoda, gave the opening address.
He is a warm and kind individual. I always enjoy meeting him though I must say he was surprised to see me in the UK!
We also heard from the President of Kumon Europe and Africa, Kazu Shibata (again well-known to me as he worked in North America for many years), on the topic of letting go preconceptions.
Our emcee for the two day event was a delightful and animated 12 year old Kumon student who confided in us that she hopes to become a lawyer. She was certainly bright and articulate enough to be successful at whatever she wishes.
The conference was full of much learning and professional development and there was also ample time for valuable networking with my colleagues not only in the UK and Ireland, but also from Spain. We had a lot of fun too – the gala dinner Saturday night was around the Great Gatsby theme and had a terrific jazz band followed by a dj with more contemporary music. We danced till 1 am!
(The saxophonist looked exhausted but did a brilliant job and didn’t keel over once.)
Kumon UK staff all dressed in period outfits – very spiffy indeed!
Another lighter aspect of the conference I enjoyed was the pianist who entertained us for hours in the hotel lounge.
We had a lovely chat about all kinds of music and he even indulged me in my singing along with a couple of better known favourites. It was a music-lovers’ highlight, definitely.
All in all, much valuable information, great people and unforgettable experiences. I look forward to my next UK conference – probably not in the next couple of years but perhaps in three or four years? We will see.