Living abroad is something everyone should do at some point in their life. It was an exciting feeling to pack up my life in 2 suitcases and move across the pond to England. It was, after all, on my bucket list!
More often than not, you arrive in a new city and stay in a hostel until a more permanent living arrangement can be made. However, I was lucky to have settled my accommodations before I left Canada. Having been even luckier, my accommodation was located in Central London, just steps from Covent Garden. It was an old brownstone built before the War. Southampton Row was made up of them. The majority of them fell to ruin after WWII, but the one I lived in was left standing. From the outside, you can see where the newer construction matched up with my flat. The house was broken up into 4 levels, each being its own flat. I lived on the main level which had a basement and a walk out garden space. You never see such outdoor space in Central London! It was my own paradise during the summer months. Just behind the garden was an area that could not be built upon. So over the wall there lied even more green space. How nice!
The main level of the flat was large. We had 2 living rooms and a kitchen. Downstairs there were 3 bedrooms and a washroom. The room I lived in was the largest with an ensuite. I also had a walkout to the aforementioned green space. It’s a beautiful space to have lived during my year abroad in London.
A flat in the area I lived is an anomaly. You don’t find places like this and be able to afford it at the same time. I moved abroad with a good friend. The largest room in that flat was shared by the two of us. Seems weird, right? Sure…but that’s why you travel with someone you know you can tolerate. It would be the same thing if you found a 2 bedroom flat. You want to spend your spare time with someone you can live with. Although I’ll warn you, a 2 bedroom flat is literally all you get. There is no common space like a living room for you to hang out in. My friends lived way outside the city centre in a 3 bedroom flat. It was just their bedrooms with a kitchen and bath. That was it. No where could they get together to have friends over and hang out. It was tight. I was so, so lucky to snag the location I did!! I may have paid a bit more to be there, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Having my living arrangements settled before I left, the one major thing to get done as soon as I arrived was landing a job. Not such an easy task let me tell you!! Instead of job hunting myself, I went to an employment agency to do the looking for me. There’s nothing I hate more than job hunting and apartment hunting!! In London, you definitely want an office job of some kind. It pays substantially more than pub or restaurant work. Especially so because in England you don’t tip your waiters/waitresses. I knew working in the restaurant biz was not something I wanted to do. So my agency found a job for me within their own company. I was hired within a week or two of being in London. It was a temporary position, but at that point I would take what I could get!!
Now I should have prefaced all of this by saying never leave home without some sort of savings. You never want to leave it all behind to start your year abroad without a nest egg! With the conversion at the time, I had 2000GBP. As I’m sure most of you know, London is not a cheap place to live. So although when I first arrived there I wanted to see and do everything, I had to face reality instead. Besides, I knew I was there for a while and I could see and do everything over the course of a year. No need to see it all at once! But if you really, really want to see it all then look into the bus tours around the city. It’s the best and cheapest way to see the whole city and it’s attractions within 48hrs.
London….what a city! There is so much to see that I feel like the year wasn’t long enough! My job was situated near St. Paul’s Cathedral. I walked from Southampton Row to Old Bailey. It was about a 30 minute walk. A lot of people take the Tube, so walking traffic was not heavy during the morning commute. Why take the Underground and see nothing when you can walk and see everything!? I loved walking to and from work. I’d stop in at my local Waitrose and pick up lunch or dinner….or sometimes both! I had my favourite coffee shop in the morning I’d usually stop into before heading to work. EAT is what it was called and I absolutely loved their iced vanilla coffees. Especially on a warm day…which were few and far between in London as you can imagine!
Good things never last as long as you’d like them to and I was reminded of that when my job was cut. I knew it was temporary, but I was hoping it would last at least until July when I could quit and start my job for the Olympics. But alas, it didn’t work out as such. I still remember how unprofessional my boss was at the time. He pulled me into the lunch room with others around and started joking about something we had seen on the telly earlier that day. Amidst the laughter he choked out ‘oh by the way, Tuesday is your last day,’ as if it was part of the joke. I abruptly stopped laughing and just looked dumbfounded. Not so much because I was being let go but because he thought this was a suitable way to let go of someone. Needless to say I put in a complaint about him to his superior and he ended up having to take a course within his company on how better to treat his colleagues. HA!
Anyway, always expect the unexpected when it comes to living abroad!! Never set your hopes on something like employment. If you’re lucky enough to hang onto the job, that’s great! In a way, I was glad I wasn’t there the full length of time I needed to be. It wasn’t long before my agency placed me elsewhere. It was literally a day. But because it was Easter weekend, I hadn’t started my new job until the Tuesday. So one week in total I had no work…but I’d like to call that a vacation!
My new job was in Moorfields Eye Hospital. My experience in Canada working as a Medical Office Manager was more than qualified to be placed in my new job. I worked in the private patients ward where patients travelled across the globe to have their eyes worked on by world class surgeons. I was in charge of taking payment from these patients. The job was easy. There were only a handful of people who checked in with me everyday. The downside to my job was that I was alone in an office counting thousands of GBP. It was lonely. But the accounting department down the hallway was my refuge whenever I needed to chat.
Employment was necessary because it enabled me to fuel my need to travel. Living in England was a great way to see Europe since travel from here was dirt cheap. My friends and I made it a point to travel whenever possible. Weekends away to Barcelona or Scotland were part of the plan when I moved abroad. I mean why the hell not?! You’re there, you might as well travel!
Living abroad was a life changing experience. I met a lot of people during my time in London. I was able to cross off many items on my bucket list. I had given a reason to my parents to travel off the continent to visit me — and it’s a trip that has now fueled their need to see more of Europe! So many reasons to live abroad, so little time to explain. If I can say anything at all about it, I’d just say DO IT and you’ll understand later what I mean.
Just some things that were within walking distance to my flat…