Last July I went through one of the strangest experiences in my life: I booked a one-way flight to England. This meant that, in September, I was going to have to leave my country and all of my friends and family behind, and start a completely new life in Sheffield. I found this idea scary, interesting, exciting and thrilling, but most of all very unreal. And now, roughly three months later, I am actually here. The past three months have indeed been very confusing and surreal, but also extremely interesting in terms of personal development. In just three months, I went through a whole lot of new experiences and processes, and already I feel like I am a changed person.
I would say the first phase I went through looked a lot like anxiety. As I started preparing for my departure – finding a sub-tenant for my place in The Netherlands, trying to figure out what things to bring, moving out of my home, etc. – I started to feel more and more anxious about the near future. Though I had been to the UK many times before, I had no idea what to expect of the country and my new life over there. It scared me that I didn’t know what was going to be ahead of me.
The second phase involved actually moving here. I remember feeling horribly nervous during the week before my flight. I realised I’d never flown on my own before, and I always feel a bit wary about having to find the way in a place I’ve never seen or visited. I remember crying at the airport and finding it hard to recover from that. Due to stress, my immune system completely abandoned me, and I immediately fell ill the day after I landed in Manchester. It took me three weeks to get better – not the best way to start your new academic life.
As time moved on, however, I gradually started to adjust to life in Britain. Though you might think the difference between the UK and The Netherlands isn’t that big – it’s just a channel keeping the two apart – I think you certainly can still speak of going through a culture shock when moving from one to the other. Most of this is due to the fact that textbooks and teachers can teach you all the English you want, but they will never fully succeed in teaching you the real ways of the British. Which is why, even as a teacher of English, I’m a little taken aback every time someone greets me with “you alright, love?”. What I think helped me most in the end, though, is making new friends. They will help you feel more at home and more comfortable with your new lifestyle.
So, in order to answer the true Sheffield question you aren’t actually supposed to answer: yes, I am alright, thanks. In fact, I am more than alright. I am doing great. And I might even be falling in love with this city already.