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(Re)Discovering Your Passion Abroad — Party Hard, Paddle Harder

A move abroad offers a multitude of opportunities to find or rediscover your passion, be it to embark on new adventures or cope with all the challenges that a move abroad can bring. We asked our members to tell us their story and this is Dee Blackman’s story of how she was looking for friends and joined a dragon boating team.

Settling in to a new home in a new city can be daunting. When I moved from London to Singapore just in time to celebrate the arrival the New Year, I found myself eight hours ahead of my family and friends and somewhat on my own. While I settled quickly in to my workplace, I wasn’t sure where to start on finding new friends. That’s when I discovered dragon boating! Singapore has an amazing dragon boat community, complete with local and expat teams. I remember observing the teams on the Kallang River working up a sweat with the city skyline beyond, each team working together and having fun. I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of that.

Image credit: Philip Hayward — Sava Sprints 2010

I chose to attend a training session with the British Dragons. Little did I know my timing couldn’t have been worse! They were in full race training mode, which had me at the back of the boat, panting and sweating as I desperately tried to keep pace with the team. Undaunted I returned the following week and, before I knew it, I was part of the team. The best thing about the British Dragon Boat Team was the multi-national members — soon I had started to make friends from all over the world.

A spine injury (unrelated to dragon boating) had me quit training. But while I recovered, my friends on the team would visit, cook for me, and entertain me — which really is testament to how awesome the team is. I became what they call a “social member” — which suited me perfectly — with lots of supporting at races and celebratory dinners and drinks. While my spine injury stopped me from paddling, it didn’t stop me from getting back in the boat. I soon had the team going round and round in circles as I stood at the back of the boat learning to steer. I had such fun coxing the team, being bossy, and seeing how their dedication and determination paddled them to many race finals. Dragon boating is more than just a sport, it is more than just a team. Dragon boating is a community that brings the world together!

Sadly, I no longer paddle with the Brits as I left Singapore and moved to the Cayman Islands. However, I long for the day a team starts here or the day I move back to Singapore. The friendships I have made continue across the many miles, and I enjoy meeting my friends in different places to travel with them.

Image credit: Natalya Makarova — St. George's Day Paddle

Get to Know Dee

What is your favorite aspect of the passion you shared with us? Has it changed your life in any big way?

My favorite aspect of dragon boating was meeting people from all over the world with whom I still keep in touch today. Our friendships have taken us through many years and many adventures. Additionally, I was able to share my passion with my students at SJI International School who enjoyed many team-building dragon boat events. The British Dragon Boat team also participated in races overseas, so we had the opportunity to travel and compete in many countries such as Japan and Thailand. One truly special occasion for me was when the British Dragon Boat team were selected to provide two escort boats for the Singapore Dragon Boat Segment of the Queens Baton Relay for the 2010 Commonwealth Games

Tell us how your passion allowed you to make new friends or meet anyone you normally wouldn't have!

The British Dragon boat team was open to all nationalities with one shared passion: “Party Hard, Paddle Harder!” When we went out for social events, it was like a United Nations gathering.

Why did you join InterNations? Has InterNations helped you pursue any of your passions?

I joined InterNations as a way to expand my social horizons, meet new people, and enjoy new experiences. It was through InterNations that I reached out to new members and encouraged them to consider joining the British Dragon Boat team. I knew how difficult moving to a new country could be and wanted to make it easier for others to settle in and meet new people like I had.

Why do you think it’s important for people to have a passion?

Passion is a drive that takes you on a journey of discovery. Life is about collecting moments, so if everyone had a passion for something then they’d really be enjoying their life to the fullest.


Dee Blackman is a dynamic educator working for the Ministry of Education, Cayman Islands. She taught in London and Singapore before swapping busy city life for a slower paced island life. Dee has a passion for inclusive education and is a dedicated advocate for children with Special Educational Needs. During school holidays, you’ll find her travelling and seeking out new adventures.


Are you curious about how other members (re)discovered their passion abroad? These are the other finalists of our story contest:

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