My name is Daniela and this is my story.
I started traveling at the beginning of high school (on and off), through school and humanitarian projects. But the peak of it was in 2013, when I decided to move to England for University. Coming from Eastern Europe, no one questioned my decision for a better life; except my grandparents – strong patriots like myself. They never quite understood my wanderlust and I can still hear my grandpa`s words after I told him my decision:
“Why do you have to go 3000km away from your home? Is bread cheaper there?”
In my first months away, I would laugh every time I remembered his line since British bread cost more. As a matter of fact, everything is overpriced there compared to Eastern Europe.
“Decided” is a strong word since I`m impulsive – if an opportunity arises, I will take it. This strategy lead my life for 21 years (since the day the womb was too small for me); and it worked fine. When a recruiter approached me about studying abroad, I jumped in. So besides taking all my final year exams and getting high scores; I was buried under a mountain of paperwork, plus seeking scholarships, jobs and accommodation too.
Expat Regrets: Why I Don’t Live With Them
One of my fears in life regards things I haven`t done and having regrets. There weren`t many people studying abroad in my hometown. I was a pioneer; but I knew that I would regret not going since I had the chance.
I talked with my parents about it and they encouraged me to go – I`m blessed with open-minded parents and I treasure them greatly!
So here I am, in England, three years later, in my final year of University, preparing my dissertation in Digital Marketing; volunteering with refugees every Friday and working part-time (and remotely) in marketing for an IT company.
Expat Life Begins: Moving to England
I am not saying it was easy.
My first month in England I would wake up some nights at 5am, go to the lounge and just wonder what the hell I was doing. Other nights, I would cry myself to sleep, then wake up and get ready to fight another day.
Adjusting to a new culture wasn`t easy, even though you would think so since English is spoken everywhere nowadays. As a non-native English speaker raised in an increasingly Americanised culture; when I arrived in northern England I was feeling like either no one was speaking English or I didn`t know how to speak it. The northern accent is pure torture to understand – not to mention the slang they use and the local rivalries.
Growing up in Europe with locally grown vegetables and tasty food; the decision to move to a country which imports most of its food, and drinking tea with milk was a gastronomically and tasteless disaster.
From England To The USA: A Life Changing Experience
After my first year in England was over, I decided to spend my Summer traveling and working on a beach in the United States; away from a rainy and cold England.
There, I came to realise that British food was okay, compared with the North American food; which is full of sugar and overpriced fruits. But even on the other side of the Atlantic, where I had to work 16 hours a day to support myself; I was able to meet amazing people.
But with empty pockets; I was having to eat meals mostly in churches, amongst other students, ex-convicts and the homeless.
Don`t read any prejudice in my last sentence.
Through this, I discovered overly accomplished people who did not survive the economic crisis living as homeless. People who would give me the last pancake, because they knew how much I love it with syrup. I discovered people regretting their stupid mistakes, receiving second chances or even ex-convicts; all eating their breakfast next to me.
I grew so much as a person that Summer, although most of my experiences are locked in a “don`t tell mom” box.
Expat Living: It’s All About The People You Meet
I have included my American adventure in this piece to show that even though the food was awful; I worked as a slave and couldn’t fully enjoy my time there since I was under the legal age of 21; it was the people I met who made it all worth it (and discovering Ben & Jerry’s…aka the best ice-cream ever!)
I can also say the same when I speak about England. It wasn`t the food, 24/7 libraries, modern devices in classrooms, the experts coming to give lectures at school, or the fact that I am in one of the most privileged countries on Earth that made all the sacrifices to be here worth it.
Nope. It was the people I met here and the opportunities I came across.
I can tell you all about the clever Chinese boy who came to England for his master degree that was so lazy and lovesick, he couldn’t write his dissertation, so he paid someone and then failed. Or about the Eritrean refugee whose family was beaten with stones in South Africa for being migrants. I can show you the shirt full of tears belonging to a Lithuanian girl who fell in love at Vilnius airport with a Lithuanian boy who studies in Berlin and they now have a strong long-distance relationship. I can also go on and on about the American exchange student who came in Britain just to see all the places where Harry Potter was filmed.
One would think that with the events of 2015: the Paris terrorist attacks, the fire in Bucharest, the Japan earthquake, the ISIS attack in Lebanon, the bombings in Baghdad, the hurricane in Mexico etc, would just create chaos in a University with almost half of its 22,000 students being international. But this hasn’t happened. Instead, support was available everywhere and a fun ‘colour fight’ was even organised to remind us of our diversity and bonding.
What Did I Gain From This Expat Experience?
The people I have met and the memories I have with them are the best part of traveling and living abroad. Being in a country that is considered rich, and therefore attracting foreign students and travelers is a plus in meeting new open-minded people and having many travel opportunities. (A bus trip from London to Paris was only £2? Yes, please!)
If I ever had the chance of doing it over, I wouldn’t do anything differently – ok, maybe I would do an exchange semester in another country just for the sake of doing it. But, I don`t have any regrets about the path my life has taken.
I`m looking forward to my graduation this year; to the Morocco trip I booked in a stressful moment (and never cancelled); and to moving to Amsterdam to work and start my path as a digital nomad.
I encourage everyone to book the next cheapest flight you can find for this very weekend and always remember my motto:
“You are never alone – your new friends are waiting!”
Want some more expat inspiration? Check out Chantell’s NYC dream here: An Aussie Expat In NYC: Making It In ‘The City’