This month I celebrated my 8th year living in England. It’s crazy, I know. Sometimes I feel like its gone so quick and sometimes it makes me sad that I’ve been away from home for that long. I suppose, I always saw myself maybe travelling outside of my local town growing up but I didn’t think about living and working in England, ever. This year when my anniversary was approaching I felt a sense of pride that I have been living here successfully for so long. I’m not saying I have achieved everything just yet or that I am the most successful person I know, but none the less I’m still proud of myself. It got me thinking of how fresh faced, immature and naïve I was all those years ago when I moved. I definitely believed I was mature and was convinced this move would be a breeze! Spoiler alert…. It has been more hurricane than breeze at times! lol! I mean it was possibly the most unorganised move in history. I decided one day I was going to accept my Uni course and within weeks I was on the boat. I wrote a quick post after 6 years here, but here’s a little look back at how it was 8 years ago and how I felt. Grab yourself a big cup of tea and get ready for a good read (and laugh).
I will never forget the night before I was going and I was packing my life into the car. I was so excited but extremely nervous and of course, emotional. My best friend came over to say goodbye and when she was leaving the house I was so upset. I cried so much! Don’t get me wrong I’m not the first and won’t be the last to leave home and yes, I am fully aware England is not the other side of the world, but these were and are just my feelings. (FULL DISCLAMER NOW: I am a big crier.) I don’t think I really thought about the fact I was moving to someplace I couldn’t just get on a bus or train and pop home when I wanted. A tiny part of me wondered if I was making a mistake. That night I had a few goodbyes to say and not one did I enjoy, or not get upset over. Each one was difficult.
I was lucky that both my parents were able to come with me and drop me off in England! So, off we set on that Thursday morning with hardly any space for me to sit in the car and I was starting my new adventure across the pond. I think on that day I was so excited about the thoughts of starting in a new place, but forgetting mam and dad wouldn’t be staying with me if that makes sense. After hours of travelling we got to our destination. We checked into a hotel for the night as I hadn’t secured a place to live yet. I had a place booked to view the following day and little naïve Louise believed it would be perfect and that was that. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t like that at all I’m afraid. We pulled up outside the block of flats and I don’t think I will ever forget the reaction from my parents, or me. My jaw is probably still back on the floor of the place 8 years on. It was tiny, two people couldn’t fit in the kitchen at once. The guy who would have been my housemate was showing me around in his dressing gown and he couldn’t show me the room I would have been in as it was locked and he didn’t know where the key was. Needless to say I didn’t have high hopes for the room anyway. I don’t think this will shock anyone, but I didn’t take that room.
So now I was officially homeless and my parents were due to leave over the weekend… There were tears, I had a lot of tears! Thank god mam and dad are very level headed people because I have my moments! All hope was not lost as we continued to look for a place. My sisters friend, Hannah lived in the area and she offered me a bed until I found somewhere and being the amazing people they are, my parents were able to extend the trip for a week. All I needed to do now was find a house to live in. Easy, yeah? NO! I may come across as fussy saying I found this difficult, but I viewed a place that would have been be me living with 6 to 8 other people, with no living room area only a kitchen to share, most of them didn’t speak English and there would be maybe 4 of us sharing a bathroom. Bare in mind this place was not cheap either. For a single room excluding bills it was over £500 a month. I didn’t think I would ever find just somewhere I could feel comfortable. The search continued over the weekend and when Monday morning rolled around, I was off to start university. That Monday morning I was sick with nerves yet again. Now I was starting a course in a different country, had no home to call my own and had ZERO friends. I will never fully be able to explain the feeling in my stomach that day.
For me, it was one of the first times I realised that making friends as an adult is unbelievably frightening. When you start primary school you are in and about 4 years of age, you have no fear. You would talk to everyone and simply ask a person to be your friend. At 4 years of age, everyone and anyone is your friend whether they know it or not. When you begin secondary school, you have your primary friends so you aren’t overly nervous. You have your people and don’t over think making new people, you know. Then comes college. I studied for two years in Ireland before moving and although I was nervous, I lived with girls I was friends with so again I wasn’t worried about friendship making. In England, I felt like a complete outsider. I was worried nobody would like me. What if I didn’t fit in? It’s a horrible insecurity to have.
Things did pick up for me, I wasn’t homeless and friendless for too long. When I went off to college my parents went to view a room on my behalf and took it! I completely trusted their decision even if I hadn’t seen the room and had no clue of where it was. The only issue after this was getting all the credit checks through. I wasn’t allowed to move in until I got all them. I can imagine now, what a weight must have been lifted from my parents shoulders knowing I did have a place to live before they went home though. The apartment they found me was a single room in a 3 bed flat sharing with two other girls.
I made friends quickly on my course. Everyone seemed friendly but looking back I am sure I took the 4 year old Louise approach by just talking to everyone and be-friending them, no choice given! haha!! The first week I had my parents to go to every evening so I suppose the real sense of loneliness only kicked in the day I had to say goodbye to them. That of course was the hardest day and still makes me sad thinking of it now. I hated it, I wanted to get in the car with them and just go with them. Once again, I cried. I cried with fear, I cried with loneliness. I was just so sad.
Although I had made friends on my course, I couldn’t well explain my situation to them. I didn’t even know them a full week. I couldn’t be crying to them about missing my family! The flat I moved into was nice. My room was small but cosy. I made it homely. Little did I know when I moved in that I would spend so much time in that room! The girls I lived with were okay too. We just weren’t BFF’s or anything. They did their thing, I did mine. I wasn’t used to that way of living either so I struggled at lot at the start. I found it weird eating dinner in your bedroom each evening. Doors closed. That’s just how it was. You do you, I do me kind of situation. I had been in college in Ireland before moving and lived with girls who I would eat dinner with every night, we would go shopping together, go out together, we were always having a laugh. It was so different. I missed living with Grace and Linda (my Galway roomies) so much for that whole year.
I got used to that living situation and just made myself busy when I could. The next hurdle thrown my way happen to fall one Sunday afternoon. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows where I’m going with this. I obviously had to feed myself and all that jazz so I made a decision to have a sleep in one Sunday morning, spend some time sorting my room out and decided I would go to Asda in the evening and spent a couple of hours in the supermarket. Cool kid over here, I KNOW, but that was the plan. To wander around the supermarket! I did have a sleep in and sort my room but by the time I walked to the other side of the town to go to Asda and get my shopping, IT WAS CLOSED! I mean, I was really confused as to why at 4pm or just after on a Sunday afternoon the supermarket would be shut? This however is normal, because England only have 6 hours of trading on a Sunday and all supermarkets close at 4pm. This is something I will never think is okay, even to this day! As you can guess, that evening I was pretty damn bored having no place to wander around so back to my room I went. It did give me something to do the Monday evening though. lol! I did also live in the town for months before I realised there was a short cut to the Asda too. I would be walking a route which took me about 20 mins longer until one day I got brave and explored other routes… oh well, the walking did me no harm, eh? 🙈
Without going on for days about everything that happened, I want to mention is my first trip to London… alone!! Before I moved to England, I think I had been 3 times before in my life. I had been to London twice but I had stayed in the city so never have to navigate my way around really. Please bear in mind I just about had a phone that worked and rarely had money to buy credit so the day I decided to go alone, I had to have a plan. I had no google maps and no internet at all. I knew how to get to the train station where I lived and from there, well it was all new territory. Before I went I decided I would start on Oxford St because I wanted to explore all the shops. I had a pocket tube map so I knew If I got to Kings Cross, from there I just needed to get the light blue (Victoria) line straight to Oxford St. Simple! That was my plan and when I got there if I needed the tube to somewhere else, I would go to a toilet and check my map on how to get there. I wasn’t sure how friendly or helpful staff would be so I wanted to know for myself but I didn’t want to whip the map out and people know I was lost and then get robbed. I have such an overactive imagination, I sometimes (a lot of time) fear the worst. I will admit though, because of my secret tube studying to navigate my way, I am a dab hand at tubes these days! I should also mention the tube staff are extremely helpful and will always tell you what tube you need etc. if you do get lost. You don’t need to secret tube study like me!!
After being here a few months, I obviously settled in and found my feet (stopped crying!!). A few hurdles along the way of course, but I learnt so much. I struggled at times with homesickness definitely. I come from a family which are very close and if I did live near home now I think I would see them most days. I speak to my mam every single day on the phone even 8 years on and I don’t think that will ever change. It was such a new experience for me. I felt nerves I had never felt before but what’s life if you don’t push yourself outside your comfort zone.
I am always asked would I do it again given the chance?
I would like to hope I would. I have met some of the best people over the years and learnt so much about life, people and myself. Maybe I would do more house searching before I made the move but that was a little speed bump along the way I suppose.
Things I learnt in my first year:
- Get your shopping done before a Sunday afternoon!!!
- When you do go shopping and can’t afford a taxi and have to walk, don’t buy all your heavy goods in that shop. I learnt that the hard way.
- You can eat cheaply if you don’t mind pasta most nights!
- You can ask for directions, people will help but always have your wits about you.
- When making friends, just go for it. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend thats their loss. You won’t know until you try.
- I should have saved more money before moving.
- I missed my family a hell of a lot more than I expected.
- I love walking!!
- Exploring new places is actually far more exciting than frightening.
I really hope you enjoyed the snippet into my first year in England. I could have honestly wrote for days on this subject. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start this blog from day 1 telling you all about my journey. Don’t worry though, its all still in my head so I can do more catch up posts anytime! If you did enjoy it, please let me know. I love getting your feedback.
Have a great Thursday!