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Anna during her experience in London, UK!

Anna in London: "When I got off the plane in Heathrow the first thing I thought - through the delirium of a 26-hour flight - was: I'M IN LONDON"!

  • Adventure
  • Internship Abroad
  • Europe
  • United Kingdom
  • London
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What was the first thing you thought when you got off the plane? (bus/train/car)

When I got off the plane in Heathrow the first thing I thought - through the delirium of a 26-hour flight - was "I'M IN LONDON"! I remember hearing the English accents over the announcements and feeling such a rush of adrenaline. Heathrow airport in particular seems a place of excitement and possibility, probably from all of the English movies I watch (hello Love Actually).

When I got off the bus from London into Bath my first thought was "this is idyllic as FUCK" which is hilarious because I never swear, but I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the sandstone buildings and the green fields dotted with sheep we'd just passed through.

What was the most shocking difference between your home country and your new country?

I think the biggest difference was moving from a big city (Melbourne) to a country town (Bath), and the small-town lifestyle there. Some of this was really lovely, like being able to walk from home to the supermarket or into town. Some of it took a while to get used to, like how everyone expects to be thanked or acknowledged if they make room for you to pass on the street -  I was used to the big city attitude of avoiding eye contact at all times. And some of it was super frustrating - mostly in the administration and bureaucracy, which in England seems really unnecessarily complex!

Did you ever feel homesick? How did you cope with this?

Yes!! The worst homesickness was in the first few days and weeks when EVERYTHING was unfamiliar. I'd feel homesick when cafes didn't serve the food I was used to seeing on the menu, or when I went to the supermarket and didn't know which aisle muesli would be in. I coped by taking deep breaths and trying not to cry in public, by Skype calls home, and by eating Vegemite toast for dinner.

I think it's important to be kind to yourself and accept the homesickness, especially at the start - I sometimes found it hard to give myself permission to be sad, because it was such an amazing opportunity I'd saved for and planned for for so long and I put pressure on myself to enjoy every second. But missing home is part of the process and worth embracing. I also told myself "this will pass, just keep going" and it DID. By a month in I was loving my life there and now that I'm living in Australia again I feel homesick for England!

Did you feel at home in your new country? Why (not)?

YES. I think it being a small town and walking everywhere really helped - soon I felt I knew every corner, every park, and I had tried all the coffee places and ranked them all.

I never felt "British" necessarily - though I did pick up a lot of their phrases and habits by the end of the year, and some people said my Aussie accent had almost gone! But Bath quickly became "mine", my place and my friends' place. In a few short months I'd built up a life and a community to enjoy life with and be supported by.

Please give us tips about who to befriend when living abroad. The Russians? The Irish? The Chileans? (Honestly, we want to know some gossip about other internationals you’ve met.)

WELL. Firstly, I lived with two utterly amazing unicorns of human beings, my two housemates, who were from the Netherlands and Canada. And they were amazing! So make friends with everyone from these countries as they will probably all be amazing!

But the real unexpected international group were the COLOMBIANS because for some reason our university has a special connection with Colombia and there were a huge group of them in the international students group! And they were all so friendly, funny, full of energy and great dancers. It was unexpected to meet so many people from Colombia in England, but that's what happened.

Honestly I think all internationals will be great to befriend because everyone comes in with the same mind set - open to new experiences and people and with no pre-existing commitments. So connect in any way you can with the other internationals you know and enjoy exploring your new country together. If you're an introvert like me, try and be brave and do this as much as possible especially at the start of your time - remember, you will have lots to talk about because you can both share about your home countries. And it's okay to give yourself a break with some alone time every few days too ;) 

What was interesting to me was that even though everyone has their own distinct personalities, the stereotypes definitely held up. Tip: if you're arranging to meet with people from Northern Europe, arrive five minutes early. With people from Spain or Colombia, arrive *at least* an hour late.

Describe the inhabitants of the new country in three words.

Slightly too polite.

What did you learn from your experience abroad? Was it the loving community you liked? The cheap cocktails? The overwhelming nature? Or was the experience less helpful than expected? Details, we want details!

Oh goodness, WHERE TO START. I feel like I've talked about this in some of my above answers but basically, it was the best year of my life. I expected to learn a LOT (I did). I expected to be sad and homesick (I was) and I expected to fall in love with the beauty of old country houses, rolling fields and squirrels. 

I knew there'd be odd things I'd learn too. Like that those beautiful old houses have seriously inadequate plumbing and no mobile signal, or that British people have a mysterious custom of asking you if you're "all right?" every time they see you, as if you look permanently in distress. 

And then there were all the things I had no way of knowing I'd discover. Like that if you take your old bus tickets to a certain bar on a Wednesday night they transform into free drinks for you and your friends, on the strike of midnight. I found out I am not as serious or as shy as I thought, and far more adaptable. Thank you Bath, I'll miss waking up to this view and walking your sandstone Georgian streets!