I wake up to the sound of carts rolling through the aisle as the flight attendants serve breakfast. The bright lights disorient me; my body tells me it’s 11:58 pm, but the in-flight map insists that it’s 5:58 am. I sigh, gearing up for the inevitable few days of jetlag – one of my least-favourite parts of travelling. Feeling grumpy, I take a croissant to cheer myself up.

Just over two hours later, I’m more awake and in a much better mood. As I clear customs, I spot two familiar faces: Ifeyinwa and Kolade, both IAPs from Lagos. I squeal and dash over to give them big hugs, and we promptly start talking over each other, too excited to be polite. I coo over Ify’s new wedding ring, and hear about Kolade’s move over to Lufthansa Cargo.

As we make our way to the shuttle, we meet up with Karsten (Johannesburg) and Alex (Boston) – more squealing (and not just on my part), more hugging, and more chatter as we wind up the hill to Seeheim.

We check in, drop off our bags, and meet downstairs to get lunch before it closes. Veterans of the Seeheim buffet, we scan the newly-renovated facilities, and go for the tastiest option: the croquettes (always a hit).

My room in Seeheim.

One of the staff recognizes us, so we spend a few minutes catching up with her before sitting down with our food. As the meal progresses, I can hear myself getting giddy, and I know that I’ve hit my wall – right on schedule. It’s nap time.

Changing into my pyjamas, I crack open the window and crawl under the wonderfully heavy duvet. I set two alarms, both of which I ultimately ignore, and sleep for three hours. Bliss. (Have I mentioned how much I hate jet lag?)

As the afternoon progresses, more IAPs trickle in; by dinnertime, I’ve also seen Peter (New York), Tassos (Athens), Olena (Kiev), Greg (New York), and Heike (Paris). Tomorrow I’ll see Valeria (Milan), Sascha (Johannesburg), and Yovana (Mexico City).

Peter found true love with the 747-8.

Looking around the table, I feel a small shiver of happiness. It never ceases to amaze me: here I am, a Canadian, sitting in Germany, cracking a joke with a Ukrainian, a Greek, and a Nigerian. Without this program, I would never have met these people, most of whom live halfway around the world, and many of whom will be friends for life. On impulse, I lean over to give Alex (yet another) hug.

So a Greek and a Nigerian walk into a bar …

It’s an early night; we start our three-day project management module tomorrow, and I want to review the assigned reading. I’m also annoyed with myself for taking such a long nap – I hope it doesn’t keep me up all night …