In 2007 I travelled to London for the first time. This was a trip I’d been planning for months and dreaming about for years. I’d wanted to travel to London for as long as I can remember, and had hopes of living there on day.
And during that first trip, London was everything I hoped it would be. I remember the feeling I had when I got my first glimpse at Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, seeing the Queen, even when I did a tour of the Wimbledon grounds. I fell in love with this city and was heartbroken when I returned to Heathrow to fly back home to Sydney.
It was 2011 before I was able to return to London. A couple of my friends had moved to London from Sydney so this was the perfect opportunity to see them and spend some time in my favourite city again. That feeling I had during my first visit was still there. Even though it was winter this time and the weather was a lot colder and it rained most days, I still loved every minute. I had already planned to come back to Europe with my sister six months later when the Olympics were on, and as I wandered the streets of Westminster on my last evening in London, I knew that next time I came back I wouldn’t be able to leave.
So over the next six months I began making plans, started selling my belongings, and applied for a Youth Mobility visa that would allow me to stay in London for two years. After arriving in June 2012 I travelled around Europe for about two months before settling in to London life.
It was then that I started to feel the effect of culture shock. While finding a job was a relatively painless process, trying to find somewhere to live was soul destroying. I began to discover more of the city outside the tourist areas and found that not all of them are particularly pleasant or safe. Even though I had moved to another English speaking country, there were still things I didn’t understand. Like what the heck is an aubergine? And why do people always ask if I’m alright as a form of greeting? I began to miss foods from home, like Cadbury chocolate that actually tastes good, Twisties and Arnotts biscuits. I was already planning two weeks trip back to in Sydney in February to attend a friend’s wedding and alleviate my homesickness.
But after a while I settled in and I loved the opportunities that living in London gave me. There are always things going on, so many great restaurants to try and exhibitions to see. I have a London bucket list and even after two years I still have plenty of things I haven’t ticked off and I believe that I’ll continue to add new things to the list for as long as I live here. I love how great the public transport system is. I love that I can hop on a train or a flight and be in a new country in a matter of hours.
When my Youth Mobility visa was coming to an end I fought so hard to stay in London. The process of getting a Tier 2 visa was incredibly disheartening, there were times I was tempted to give up altogether. But my love for this city held strong. It may not be as perfect as it seemed when I first visited but it will always have a piece of my heart.