Opinion / Blog

My study abroad in the UK

By Maierwei ( Updated: 2016-01-29 14:17

My study abroad in the UK

London Eye and the River Thames. [Photo/]

Sometimes your expectations don’t survive. But you have to make it through.

After a lengthy visa application procedure, I was ready for my first lengthy stay in Europe. I left my dog with my father, jumped on a flight, and there I was, in London, UK. Since Europe is an aspiring country, I had imagined it as a place where things always worked perfectly. Below, you will read what a revelation it was for me to find out that things meant whatever I made of them, and how my perception of the world depended on my acceptance of it. I was alone in dealing with all kinds of problems as they arose, that was alright and this is how I became a “special person” during my Erasmus exchange.

On the way from Heathrow airport to the city, the train suddenly stopped. “Please bear with us”, echoed the announcement. One apology followed the other. Some people complained to the staff as he repeated his apologies. I sat down and remained silent. Three hours had passed before the train started to move again. Buses and trains often stopped like that and sometimes passengers were asked to switch to other vehicles. At the bank, I was told my stay was too short to open an account. Registration as a temporary student was tricky. The only accommodation I could afford was far from the city. Life was just like how it was elsewhere, imperfect. To make things worse, I was new to many things, and definitely an outsider. My dorm was in a silent neighborhood. Little did I know, those calm streets would often welcome the likes of loud fire trucks. I remember personally welcoming them.

The fire alarm rang often in the dorm. There were few residents, but it was either someone taking a hot shower or smoking in the room.

That morning, I closed the kitchen door after placing some bread in the toaster. I was still half asleep and looking for something to wear. For some reason, the automatic mechanism of the toaster to push the slices up didn’t work. When I went back to the kitchen, it was full of thick white smoke. Coughing hard, I opened the windows. Stepped outside the door for a breath, and then went in again to reach for the fire extinguisher. It was the first time I used one, and had to get out of the kitchen to be able to see how to unlock it. It was only then the fire alarm went off! I went in again and made sure I put off the fire.

When I went outside, I apologized to everyone, including dorm management. Normally I was fluent in English, but I was so shocked that simple words escaped me. They didn’t believe I put off the fire and called the fire brigade, saying we couldn’t get in until they checked it out. Soon, two massive fire trucks arrived on our small, peaceful street. People in neighboring buildings were looking to see what was going on. I was overcome with guilt and shame.

The kitchen appliances were left by former students and none of them belonged to the dorm, but they charged me for all of them, plus the fire extinguisher. They said they wouldn’t refund my deposit, and charge more if necessary. Once they put a notice on my door, saying I had to pay for the upcoming week, I had to remind them I had paid for the whole duration of my stay in cash.

Nothing was how I planned it out to be. A few times, I hung out in the school cafeteria, but couldn’t make friends. I went to discover the city, alone. Independence wasn’t something to be ashamed about. I wish I had made friends with people, but it turned out that I had to learn I wasn’t in need of others’ company to enjoy life. My international experiences that followed definitely made me more social, but now I know that being alone is not a weakness, but a part of life to embrace like our mistakes, carelessness or bad luck. I can say it was during my time in London that I learnt I was, despite everything, a strong and special person who can cope with anything that comes her way.

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