Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Eternal Expat (Series 2, part 2a) - The Expat student: A stranger in a strange land

After the first part of this series being published, this second one has turned out to be so long, I have had to divide it in two. Here is the first chapter: 

At the ripe old age of 14, after much travel and fascination with aircraft, I decided I wanted to study Aerospace Engineering. Fulfilling my first dream, to be a civil aircraft pilot, was not an option as I am blind as a bat, and being a stewardess would not have suited the customers, believe me. 

I can't tell you when I decided to study abroad. That seemed to have always been a given. Why then not add in an Engineering degree as well? There are sure to be at least one or two other women there. 

My original plans to go the US were waylaid during a 'propaganda' visit my parents took us on to the UK, in an effort to steer me towards somewhere not quite so far away and significantly more affordable than, say, MIT (Why not shoot for the stars, when you are at it?). In a very un-teenager-like manner I actually enjoyed the trip and decided that maybe the UK would be a good place to be. Not, of course, without some hard soul searching in the face of the fact that I was - how uncool of me - doing what my parents wanted me to. I squared it with myself by say that I was doing it despite their influence. Whatever works! 

My English professor at school was enormously supportive in helping me get the UCAS (Unversities and Colleges Admissions Service) forms filled in, and working on our school principal, who, rather than being pleased that a whole one of her students in the final year was leaving to study abroad, gave me grief over causing her the extra effort of a single signature at the bottom of one form. Wouldn't want to raise young adults to be curious and try new things, would we? 

It would take too long to detail the UK university application system here, so for those interested, I will do that in a later post. To keep a long story short, I ended up at the perfect university for me, Bristol, one of the top two places to study Aerospace Engineering in the UK, in a lovely city big enough to offer plenty to do and small enough to walk most places I wanted to go.  

So, off I went, having just turned 19, to a country I had visited twice before, ready for my next adventure, an Expat in a new place. 

I arrived in Bristol, bushy eared and starry eyed, my belongings jammed into 2 suitcases, after only one night of second thoughts. Finally, the night before we left, I got a bit scared. What was I doing? Would I be ok? Would I fulfill my Aunt's prophecy of coming home in a couple months? 

By the next day all the last-night jitters had passed, the little girl in me had been quietened, in part also thanks to my Mom, who had come along as moral and financial support for the first week, and the young woman was raring to go. 

Here I was, in the land of Shakespeare, the royal family, high tea and football hooligans.  Or was it? Over the next seven years, several relationships, two degrees and so many student flats that I have lost count I discovered my England, a place I love

PS:  Das ist der zweite Teil (eigentlich der erste Teil des zweiten Teils) meiner zweiten Serie, in der es um mein Leben als Expat geht.