Get Involved


We believe oracy is the key to unlocking an individual’s potential and creating a more tolerant society. By donating, you can help fund our activities and programmes which empower young people and help them to make the most of their lives.

Donate now

Become a member

Membership enables you to meet people in your local community and across the UK, and to help young people in your community and beyond increase their confidence and discover their voice.

Find out more

Join a programme

Our wide range of debating and public speaking programmes, competitions and international exchanges can help you – or someone you know – to transform your life. Sign up today and unlock your potential.

Discover more
My exchange taught me it’s good to be outside your comfort zone

Rosie Millard OBE

Journalist and former Chair of Hull City of Culture

Being out of your comfort zone

Journalist, novelist, former chair of Hull City of Culture, public speaker and marathon runner, Rosie Millard OBE knows a thing or two about being out of your comfort zone. ‘I’m a big believer in that,’ she says. ‘I do a lot of things that put me out of my comfort zone – on purpose – because I think it’s good for my stamina and it’s good for my confidence.’

Rosie’s first introduction to being out of her comfort zone was perhaps the year she spent at Cushing Academy, Massachusetts, on an English-Speaking Union Secondary School Exchange. ‘I remember going skating on Boston Common and thinking, ‘oh this is going to be easy because I’d been skating at home’,’ she says. ‘But skating on a lake in the middle of Boston is not the same as Streatham Ice Rink. There is no barrier, there is no hand rail and it was absolutely terrifying. I was suddenly completely stricken with homesickness,’ she says. ‘It ambushed me from nowhere.’

Happily for Rosie, she was cast as the lead in the school play shortly afterwards, and all fears soon evaporated. ‘It’s the same old thing isn’t it; as soon as you get involved in something, you become part of a team, and you stop worrying about home and missing everyone. From that moment on, I just loved it.’

She describes her year there as ‘an all-singing, all-dancing American experience.’ ‘It was like walking into the set of Glee,’ she says. ‘There were cheerleaders, ice hockey, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I couldn’t believe how all-American it was. It was just so exciting and different and thrilling.’

Like all SSE students, Rosie had already taken her A levels, so she was free to take whatever classes she was interested in. ‘I did American literature, French, Russian history (which was fascinating seen from an American viewpoint), and American history – our teacher had actually fought in Vietnam. Hearing from someone who had been there and knew the fear made a very big impact on me.’ And despite never having played sport competitively in her life, Cushing Academy’s expectation that everybody participate found her on the softball team. ‘I was by no means the star but nevertheless I was included,’ she says. ‘I think that spirit of inclusion is something that British schools didn’t have when I was young and I think they should have.’

The exchange was really important to my life and career. I felt much more experienced when I got back because I had lived alone and I had travelled on my own. I felt much more confident about organising my time, and about taking things on and succeeding with them.

Support our work

Our speech and debate programmes and cultural exchanges improve young people’s attainment, self-esteem and social skills, helping them to thrive personally and professionally, in whichever field they choose.

Help more young people discover their voice

Join a programme


Become a member

Share Page