READER REPORT:

What a London OE means to me

SOPHIE HICKFORD
Last updated 12:00 12/02/2014

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One small sentence at the bottom of an email I received from a university lecturer was all I needed: "Teach and travel in London."

The days that followed were a whirlwind. I said goodbye to all family and friends, got my contract, visa, flights booked and bags packed.

Flying into London was like nothing I'd ever done. It felt like my plane was flying past the city for a good 20 minutess - a huge difference to flying into New Plymouth airport.

There was no lush green grass, mountains or beautiful beaches. Instead, I was welcomed with fields of snow.

I began to instantly regret my decision of moving half way across the world. Millions of people, Oyster cards, tubes, maps, zones, networks, religion and culture were all things that I got hit with when coming off the plane.

Jetlagged and confused I crashed on a blow up bed and got through the first night.

Waking up was daunting as the flat hunt was on. I was by myself, didn't know where to start, what tube to get on, or even how to tell which coin was a 20p and which one was a 10p.

Luckily I found a flat quickly enough in the far east of London. It was interesting living there, surrounded by a thick Essex accent, people dressed in matching track suits, and I saw roughly two scuffles a day.

After about three months, I was well use to being offered a cup of tea in every single situation; from school to the supermarket. I've never drunk so much tea in my life.

My days were filled with teaching and making friends from all around the world. It's so weird, you instantly click with people, people who are in the same boat as you and have the very same interests.

You form bonds with people and you become instant family. The friends I have met over here are lifelong friends.

I've travelled with a friend in a van for five weeks all around Europe, visitng 12 countries, cooking in -10 degrees in the French alps, watching the sunrise in Croatia, camping in petrol stations, waiting seven days to shower, using a gas cooker to feed ourselves, torch as a light, getting lost and only having a compass as a directional help has been nothing but eye opening.

It has taught me to appreciate all the simple things in life. It has shown me the big wide world and that most of my problems are very small in the scale of what others are going through.

I've now been in London for just over a year. I can truly say it's been the best decision of my life. I've learnt to stand on my own two feet. I've learnt to manage situations, I've made life long friends, I've adapted to living in a city filled with millions. I've been exposed to religion and culture.

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I can't wait to see what my final year in London and Europe brings for me.


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