Sunday, 19 January 2014

An American in England: 6 Years On

The 19th January 2014 marks 6 whole years since I walked off the plane with my suitcases in hand in ole' Blighty. I was 19 years old at the time, and had no idea what the future would bring me, or if I could even survive in another country, completely alone.

Found a whole bunch of 'arty' photos of me on my FB from 2008, so thought I'd stick one in this post for authenticity.
I'd gone to university at Western Washington, had a good scholarship, but only one year in I realised it just wasn't for me - I didn't know what I wanted to do so felt like I was floundering, coupled with upset over a long distance boyfriend I had at the time who was cheating, and a natural inclination towards depression and anxiety, I was a mess. the coursework was easy and I'd get decent grades for little effort, but I hated it there - I cried myself to sleep all the time, and often missed class just because. It's a shame because WWU is a stunning university, but it just wasn't for me at that time. So I packed up my little car before Spring Break and drove myself all the way home, 10 hours of driving, to my understanding though I'm sure worried, parents.

All these years later, I really wish I'd had my hair down and closed my mouth for this photo.
They took me to see a life coach, who gave me tools to handle my anxiety and depression, and I slowly got better. I got two part time jobs, in a hotel and at a restaurant, and worked on myself a bit. Then one day, my parents suggested I go to England to work and travel for a year - my life coach supported it, and I started to think it was a great idea! So I quit those jobs, got my first full time job as a receptionist, and saved up to move to England.

In a culture where pretty much everyone goes to university and gets a degree, it was awkward to have 'failed', come home and gotten a job. I didn't like seeing my friends much - I'm sure I've cited this before, but I will always remember driving around with a well-meaning friend and her telling me I'm 'wasted potential' for not going back to school. But that didn't matter, I figured I had 5 years to use my scholarship, so there was no harm in taking a break and doing something different. So I booked my ticket, and Dad and I flew to England - arriving 19th January 2008.

Dad came over to help me get sorted in that first week. He upgraded us to business class as a special treat, which was just so exciting! When we arrived, things didn't quite go to plan - the flat I had tried to set up when abroad for me to move into ended up being a scam (luckily I hadn't been silly enough to send them money before seeing the house (there was no house!)), I had put in some CVs but not managed to secure a job yet, and so my Dad dropped me and my suitcases off at a hostel, Globetrotters, in Hammersmith.

That was it - at 19 I was alone in a hostel with no job, just 6 months worth of savings (in American dollars too, awful exchange rate!) in London. Unfortunately, in typical teen fashion, I spent most of my savings in the 2 months I lived in that hostel (it had a bar in the downstairs!). But I made some friends I still keep in contact with, and had some really good experiences. I got a job as reception in a gym in Chiswick (where I met actress Vanessa Redgrave) and was lucky enough to secure a little room in a flat with two lovely posh English boys.

And when I say little, I mean little. It was big enough for a single bed, and about a foot of space around it. I struggled with homesickness and really living with others for the first time in that place, but on the whole I really enjoyed it. Particularly because of my flatmates (hi Sam!) - they were a whole different world than I'd ever seen - bars in Sloane Square with £15 cocktails, cabs, parties on the roof using a ladder they found on the street, it was always something new with them. I once got woken up to Sam drunkenly standing on our coffee table singing 'Sweet Home Alabama' (apparently my identifying tune) - I got into the living room just in time to see the table give way - legs everywhere, drink spilled, very dramatic! (spoiler, he was okay though!) - I loved that I got to spend so much time with English people, because as much as I loved the Ozzies at Globies, I came to England to immerse myself in the culture!
Oh yeah and I looked like this - why did I not realise dark hair makes my skin glow even whiter than usual?
I upped and left in July, only 6 months after arriving, for a trip home as my homesickness was so bad, but that I would say was the turning point in my life. Being home and realising nothing had changed - I wasn't missing anything, people would still be there, I should be enjoying my life! - really turned my thinking around and from that moment I loved living in London.

In a temp role I met my first real friend, who took me to Bar Rumba, the African music club where I spent every Sunday night for a year. I loved the music, the dancing, the attention I got... poor Sarah, I later even made her go there for a few months after we started dating (as a pop music lover, she did not love it like I did!).

Ready for Rumba, back in the day

And then... I started at Knowledge to Action. That fateful day, I met Sarah. And you all know how that went.

Six years on, I would never have thought I'd be where I am today. In love with a beautiful woman, getting married, having lived in Australia for a year, traveled all around, in a job I love, with our family home purchased, loving my life and the endless surprises and ups and downs along the way.

I still am prone to depression and anxiety, but the tools I was given by my life coach long ago paired with the joy it has given me to take control of my life here in England has made my doubts much easier to control. I'm lucky as well that over the years Sarah has learned just how to knock me out of it whenever I do have little lapses - and if worse comes to worst, a Skype with my mum always makes things better.

I'm very grateful to my parents for giving me that push I needed to do the best thing I've ever done in my life (move to England) and for the support when I wavered. I am so lucky to have made that leap and ended up where I am today.


  1. You're such an inspiration Laura. Wishing only the best for the both of you xx

  2. I love hearing your story of how you ended up where you have, so awesome :) You two are the best <3

  3. Ah I didn't know all this about you. Sounds like a really brave decision you made and one that I'm glad you did or I would never have met you guys :) xx

  4. You certainly had a wild time living with the boyz and that "shoebox" bedroom was very sad indeed. :( You are a beautiful young lady, and Dad and I are very proud of you and your accomplishments! ;) Love, Mum xxx

  5. Great story and blog! And congrats on the wedding too!! Keep spreading the love around the world


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