Leaving the home you grew up in, the people you will love forever and experiences to look upon from afar, being an international student is no easy task, perhaps, even more so, when you come from a small island.
Goodbyes are always hard but entering the realm of the unknown is harder. The flight is long but worsened by tears and already missing home but there is the element of excitement, curiosity as to what the future holds. Upon arrival the welcome is not exactly friendly with a fierce immigration officer questioning you to ensure your intentions are really to study here. Once you exit a different world appears before you, no longer the tall palm trees but towering skyscrapers – the land of opportunities all at your fingertips (or so we’re told).
A chilly wind, temperatures of 7 degrees, nothing like the 31 degrees and hot sunny days of the Seychelles. No horizon in sight but the nearest thing to the sea is the River Thames. Layer upon layer, soon to wear boots and scarves, is a drastic change to the everyday flip flops and shorts. A different life to lead.
From the slow paced, quiet and peaceful island life to the now fast, vibrant life of London is something to get used to. People rushing by daily without a sign of acknowledgement all seems too unfamiliar, one begins to feel like an individual in a mass, alone in a big world. One hardly knows their neighbours, but perhaps, a morning glimpse of their face which contrasts starkly with the conversations one has across verandas with the neighbours on the island. The anonymity can be embraced but at the same time, one feels like if they were suffering from a heart attack during the morning rush hour, no one would notice compared to nosy islanders who would notice a shy sneeze. The tube is also an interesting experience of avoiding eye-contact with strangers as people grumpily go about their business. London does not seem like the friendliest place but one should not despair, the many interesting inhabitants of London are amazing.
Living in a multi-cultural city has proven to be an educational experience of meeting people of various nationalities, cultures and colours. Whether it be the accommodating British, the vibrant Brazillians, the fun-loving Carribeans, all different in opinions and views but in the universal experience of being an international student. We recount our difficulties of finding affordable accommodation which is near to impossible in London and the Oyster card which hardly resembles a discount. Cooking disasters are always a reason to laugh- a once ‘picky eater’ is now just glad there is something edible that does not require chopping onions or crushing ginger and garlic. All food is now good food. Also, one always took for granted the money management which our parents engage in when it comes to balance the paying of the the bills (rent, electricity and internet), buying food, and still we wanted presents. Now it all comes to our own budgeting skills otherwise, a descent into bankruptcy. One cannot ignore how easy it is to get side tracked in London, the big department stores, the attractive theatres, the countless luring clubs which always seems that more interesting than coursework or the library. One has to focus on priorities, otherwise the ‘bright lights’ certainly look more attractive than dreary pages of black and white. All of which makes spending harder to control. One finally realizes that independence is here and survival is the name of the game.
It has only been a year here for me but the stories are countless. The friends are unforgettable and the climate… well, its Spring, it’s getting better!