“If you can make it the first 6 months in London, you’re surely going to stay for a long while!”
My friend Andreea, who has been living here for the past 7 years, often told me that the first half of the year is challenging. I moved to London on March 23, after I quit Pro TV. Technically, the day my notice expired, I flew to London. I wrote more about my experience in the television industry and the way I suddenly changed direction towards a job in education in this article.
Relocation is a complex process from all points of view. It took me a few months to start digesting what was happening to me. Beyond the actual change of country and the social, political and artistic culture of the new place, this change of trajectory means you have to do some psychological digging. I was enthusiastic, then completely confused not knowing where to go, what jobs to apply for, and then there was the phase of pure joy, in which everything got settled in a balanced way, from the right rent to the free time I’ve got now.
I came here with the money I spared, that is 3,500 pounds. I’m not saying it’s little, nor much money, but as far as I’m concerned, it helped me live without a job in the first two months. Initially, I moved in with my boyfriend and another couple in an apartment in the Wembley area (district 4) at approximately one hour from the centre. We shared an apartment with 2 rooms, 2 bathrooms, one open plan kitchen living room, plus a large balcony. We were paying 1,800 pounds for it, invoices included. Practically, each of us was paying 450 pounds monthly for rent.
I was very enthusiastic during the first month. I visited the city quite a lot, especially some of the areas that are now my favourite, such as Shoreditch and Camden Town. I love the walls that express stories and those areas have plenty of graffiti.
I went to events, including journalism events, documentary film festivals and workshops on different themes. I considered each occasion a good opportunity to practise my English. My first days here had me a bit inhibited in interacting with the British people. For a while, I had complexes and fears thinking about how was I going to get a job in London without properly understanding the locals.
When I saw there were situations when communication between the British people was not clear if they came from areas using different accents, I calmed down and took time to get familiar with this aspect.
Besides the events, I used to go out in public places such as parks or pubs and listen to people talking English around me. When I had the opportunity, I talked to different people who seemed interesting to me. It was clearly the exercise I needed.
There were also weeks when I felt disoriented. My low immunity had a great influence on this. I had a nasty flu that tormented me for over one month and because of this I started to take antibiotics. These drugs created a vicious circle, led to a candidiasis and so I had an emergency visit to the gynaecologist. One important aspect for those who want to move to the UK is to take into account that it’s essential to register with a GP after obtaining the work permit and all the necessary documents. I was lucky I had a health insurance from Romania right from the beginning because I paid over 250 pounds only for the gynaecological consult and a lab analysis of some secretion.
After I got better, I got hired in education. The first weeks were difficult because interaction was deficient. Many of the autistic adolescents with whom I work don’t speak and I was not familiar with the Makaton signs at all. They were asking for a glass of water, for example, and I didn’t understand their messages. Makaton is an internationally recognised language used by pupils with autism, by their families, friends and specialists that get into contact with them. I had a lot of help from my colleagues and now, after a few months, I feel I understand how things are in this field.
Looking back, the only thing I was totally convinced I wanted to change was the rented apartment. As many other people moving from one country to another, we also had the bad luck to live with inappropriate people. So, in early summer, we decided to save money to move out just the two of us. In August we changed apartment. Now, we live in one bedroom flat in West Kensington, a beautiful central area that is well connected with the rest of the city. If transport can cost you 150 pounds per month, food, however, seems quite a bargain in London, especially when you cook. Usually, for 50 pounds I buy enough food for a week.
The major change for me during this period was the fact that I’ve got to have a lot of spare time. I work 7-8 hours a day, from Monday to Friday, and every two months I have half a month vacation form work. At my current job, we don’t use mobile phones during classes so all our attention is directed towards the students. This is one of the new aspects that I got used to very quickly. Before, I was using technology excessively. I feel like all the big changes that occurred during the last months were just a process that led me to a peaceful and joyful state of mind.