Why did you decide to move abroad?
I wanted to do my PhD in Psychology and thought that it was a good chance to spread my wings and live abroad for a while. I quit my job in Cape Town and started researching PhD opportunities but a part of me still thought nothing would really come of it. Next thing I knew I had a Skype interview, an acceptance letter, and a one-way ticket to a small university in an English market town. It all happened so quickly, which is probably a blessing as there wasn’t much time to back away or doubt the decision.
How did you spend your First Month Abroad?
I moved from a big city in South Africa to a small market town in England, which in itself was quite a big shift. Adding to this, I moved in January from the heart of summer to a freezing snowy winter in Europe. I’m not sure anything can quite prepare you for that. The days were so short and it was dark by 4pm each day, which took some getting used to! It felt like a big adventure though and meeting people was quite easy as part of a university setting.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
From a personal point of view it has been a real experience of growth moving away to a new country on my own. You are bound to go through all kinds of highs and lows, but you also realise that you can rely on yourself and get through the tough moments and make it work. Another surprise was just how amazingly friendly people in English towns are. It’s not something that I could compare to anything else.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
People in England are really not into hugging. In fact, they often go out of their way to avoid hugs, which was something I only learned after I had been hugging everyone for months! I had also been using the term ‘pants’ to refer to long-legged trousers - not realising that ‘pants’ in England means underwear. The weird looks suddenly made sense.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
Buckingham is a countryside town that is really close to London and Oxford. There are incredible parks and river walks that I really enjoy. There is also beautiful Victorian architecture and the Old Gaol right in the centre of the town. Weekend markets are always exciting and of course, being a quintessential English town, there are loads of pubs!
What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?
I would definitely recommend venturing away from the big cities like London to come and see the English countryside. Not many tourists do that and I think it really gives you more of an idea of the culture here.
What do you miss most about home?
Family. It’s hard being so far away from them and missing the day-to-day routine and experiences. That has been the hardest part of being away by far. Cape Town’s natural beauty is also something that I miss very often, especially the mountain and the sea. But when you do go back home for a visit it definitely makes you appreciate it so much more!
Right now this is home. But having already done the scariest thing that I could imagine – moving away from home by myself – I know anything is possible. So there’s no telling where to from here!