I remember as a child I always fathomed about moving abroad for university and then that opportunity passed and I was still living at home, in my comfort zone in the South Side of Vancouver, Canada. Then it became my interest for volunteering abroad in some third world country because the unknown excited me and I always had a desire for unfamiliarity and new adventures. However, it never worked out for me to go abroad to volunteer due to schooling and a part-time sales representative income did not support this. Then I realised the concept of volunteerism isn’t as great as it should be with possible opportunities of indirect and direct exploitation and really people going to these countries to volunteer for all the wrong reasons. Then came the opportunity to teach abroad for a month as part of my Bachelor of Education Degree and I was lucky to be chosen to go to Freiburg, Germany for a month of teaching English lessons, teaching in the Black Forest, and really getting a glimpse of life would be abroad.
Fast forward through the beginning of 2016 where the idea of teaching in England soon materialised. It all started at a University Career Fair where opportunities of teaching abroad became more real than ever! Then it was my interview for a Teaching Agency, followed by my Tier 5 Yyouth Mobility Visa appointment, then paying the hefty amount for my Visa application and the health charge, but nothing hit me the most then hanging out with my friends for the last time before I would leave Canada for 9 months. Well here I am. Almost 8 months later, and I can’t believe that I will be heading back to Vancouver on the 28th of June for a month. Now let me finally get to the point of this post, I wanted to do a bit of summarising of the highlights and the not so greats of being an expat that I have experienced so far.
1.The ideal glamorous life of living and travelling
In past years there has been a hype for people around my age in their early 20s where the desire to travel/study/work abroad has been seen as ideal time. This is the age where we are finally free from university or the age where we can still have the most fun without too many responsibilities weighing us down. This is the age where parents may still be making financial contributions and the age where we are not necessarily tied down to commitments or anyone for that matter. Social media has almost become a shine light on my travels platform which I have to admit I can find myself caught up in sometimes. I don’t think I was too naive to think that everything would be amazing while living abroad in London, but I think I was hit by how unperfect it can be sometimes. While all my friends were thinking “I can’t believe you actually made the big move!”, “You are so lucky to be travelling so much!”, I on the other hand was hit by so many responsibilities and worries living abroad. (Ex. Living in houseshares, paying rent, transportation without a car, starting off without any friends, etc) It isn’t the glamorous life, but it can be the good life if you work hard, put yourself out there to make friends, and to stop comparing and being open to new experiences. As silly as this sounds, I realised I had to be working a whole lot more as a supply teacher to support my interests and my want to travel.
2. Leaving a good home
I think the main reason why moving to London was so hard for me was because I really had it good back home. I really loved my life of going to school, hanging out with friends, and spending time with family. I had a good balance, a core group of people that I could count on, and I really loved my city. I have met so many people since in London who have expressed how they felt their home country did not provide them with opportunities, was backwards, was boring, and was simply not like London. My response was always Vancouver is not like London, but that is why I love home so much. I decided to take a leap of faith and leave what I had which is good for hopefully something better and different. If you honestly ask me, I wouldn’t give you the ideal expat story of loving my time abroad because that really wasn’t the case for me unfortunately. But I am happy with it just being alright right now and am enjoying my time here with plans to stay longer but not forever.
3. The ability to adapt and create a new home
It took me awhile but as crazy as this sounds I realised that I wasn’t allowing myself to adapt to new people and a new lifestyle. I found myself constantly comparing my life here to my life back home. I would think to myself, how in the world do people just pick up their belongings and make instant decisions to move acoss the world? Leave home for a few months even? Even live as a travel blogger? I for one always crave stability and it took me awhile to gain it but I did it. It scares me to think that when I go home, what if it no longer feels like home? I am happy to say I only had to move once whereas I have had other expat friends tell me they moved several times in their first year in London before they finally found the right place. I really love my place in Wimbledon now and I have slowly but surely made it my home.
4. Oh The Places You’ll Go!
In reference to Dr.Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
When I found myself in a new city as an expat, I found myself wanting to try new restaurants, explore the city on my own, learn new routines, join new organisations, and try new things! I knew how important it is to me to have experiences and things that I am a part of that are for myself which really helps build a positive experience as an expat. One of my favourite thing about being an expat in London is that there are always exhibits and some type of event going on which makes this city so much more fascinating!
5. Importance of Friendship
My situation might be a little different as I felt at a young age I relied on my friends more than my family due to circumstances. This was especially the case in my late teens and early 20s. Friendship is really one of the most important things to me and I find myself holding on so closely the friendships that have stayed while everything else has changes. When I moved to London, I found myself unhappy with my friendship situation as I missed having friends that lived right by that I could easily contact for a late night dessert or bubble tea run and some last minute adventures. Most of my friendships have been going strong since the early elementary then highschool years and through the years, the important ones have truly passed the test. Then I found myself in London, with little to no friends, constantly thinking to myself “If I was back in Vancouver, I could be doing this…” It took the long and hard way for me to realise that the friendships I have back at home are not leaving and I need to work on building new friendships in London. They won’t compare but seriously, who said these new friendships can’t become just as important in the future? I am so thankful for the friends back at home that I have stayed in contact with through all types of social media that have made no matter where I go feel just like home.
6. Future of an Expat
This is one that hits close to the heart. Uncertainty. One of my most dreaded fears. I came on a VISA that allows me to stay for up to 2 years. After that, if I want to stay, I need to apply for a different VISA with the hopes of being accepted. Quite honestly I know that London will not be my forever home but I guess I can never be too sure about something like this. At the moment, I know I would only want to stay for a maximum of 5 years as I don’t see London as an ideal place to raise a family, for my career, or offers the environment that I love. If this is the case for you as it is for me, it is so important to live in the moment and soak in what is currently happening and what I can currently achieve living here. Do what makes me happy here.
7. Travel Adventures
One of my most valuable things I have gained while living as an expat in London is the ability to travel around Europe so easily. It makes me feel so blessed to know that with early planning, I can find flights for a mere 12 GBP. This is the main reason for this blog. My love for travelling and how this is all possible because I am living in London now. It is such a blessing that I can fly to another country just for a weekend trip and find myself immersed in a new culture and country so quickly. This will always be one of my greatest memories as an expat…and to think I am heading to Barcelona on Wednesday! So keep an eye out for some upcoming Barcelona posts!