Less than 10 days until I fly back to America. I can hardly believe it! I have spent over a year away from home and just the idea of going back seems strange. England has really become my second home this year. I feel established: I have amazing friends, a great job at my favorite company, a world-leading university to support me, a loving boyfriend, and a whole continent to explore. I am finally catching up to the banter and learning enough slang to get by as a local 😉 I don’t feel like a guest anymore, I feel English. What a connection that is!
I took a four-hour train from London to Plymouth, on the southwest coast, to visit my grandmother for Mother’s Day last weekend and the journey itself is enough to bring tears to your eyes with how beautiful it was. Bright green fields dotted with happy sheep and cows, thatch roof cottages, a coastal stretch along The English Channel (the water between England and France), before disappearing again into the rolling hills of the countryside. I have fallen in love. I couldn’t help but stare out the window for most of the journey desperate to catch every second of this incredible country.
I am often asked what am I doing after I graduate and as my time in England continues, the answer becomes ever more complicated. I love my home, my lifelong friends, my family, and the love of nature that you find in Washington. Washington has a piece of my heart always. However, England has some things that Washington just can’t match.
Transport: They have an incredible transport system where I don’t even think about how I will get across England, let alone Europe, because there is always public transport that will get you where you need to go.
Humor: The humor is unmatched. I suggest going back to read an old blog about banter because you cannot escape it here 😉 Essentially it is just intense sarcasm, but “taking the mick” out of everyone lets you not take yourself too seriously and leads to some hilarious conversations.
Honesty: They appreciate honesty. One of the silly things some English people have a problem with is American customer service. American customer service is incredible and they admit that, but the problem they have is that they find it fake because they are paid to be nice to you. I never thought about it myself, but the English appreciate the honesty that comes with good and bad service alike. Banter helps here too! By being able to use sarcasm and laugh at yourself, people will be more honest with you.
Food: The food is healthier. There are far less preservatives, very limited uses of high fructose corn syrup, more local food, and most importantly higher cocoa percentages in chocolate! The English are very fond of their chocolate and are more than happy to tell you that their chocolate is the best. I don’t disagree! I have eaten more chocolate in these last three years than in my entire life. Only thing to watch out for, that without lots of preservatives, food goes off quicker. Check the expiry dates and you won’t have a problem.
Healthcare: Healthcare is FREE! Now this is subject to controversy in America, but as a student it is incredible. I have never paid a penny for my healthcare and everyone is treated with the same care as anyone else. You can get private healthcare, but it is by no means necessary.
Work: Work is more reasonable (for a lack of a better word). My hours are 9am-5pm which is pretty standard, but I can also work from home and have the same holiday, even as an intern, as my Dad who has worked in America for the last 20 years. 20 days of holiday is the minimum paid holiday in England.
University: University education is practical and affordable. Tuition changes year to year for international students, but it was still cheaper for me to be an international student in England than get an in-state tuition in America. Along with that their degrees are shorter, degree content starts sooner, classes are fully led by the teacher most of whom are Doctors, and they have the unbeatable placement year! I am working at Microsoft this year as a Software Engineer in their London studio who has just recently announced the release of Paint 3D. The tangible experience will be irreplaceable when I need to get a full-time job. Students in America cannot not have the amount of experience I will have over their entire four years unless they take time off from school or work while at school. As a bonus, my placement in England has led to a placement in Washington at Microsoft’s main campus working at XBOX!!!
Travel: Travel, travel, travel. If you even just take a skim over the blogs that I have previously written, you can see that I love to travel. My wanderlust has just gotten worse since moving here. It’s just so affordable and accessible! I would be silly not to travel at every opportunity 😉 Flights can be as low as £5! The average is about £50-70 round-trip. The most I have ever paid was £150 which is the flight I am currently on to the little-known island of La Palma in the Canary Islands off the coast of northern Africa. Travel is not just about seeing pretty places, it is about learning the history of the country and really the world. I went to Berlin a couple weeks ago, for my 21st birthday and I remembered more in those brief three days about WW2 and the cold war than I did in school. It’s engaging and personal when you see it for yourself.
That was a long list about why I love England. What I love the most though is just the feeling being here. I still have no idea what I will do after I graduate, but I know at some point I will 100% move back to England.
With all these thoughts floating around in my mind, I feel slightly nervous going home for the first time in a year. I wonder how I will feel with such big streets and buildings surrounding me, I wonder if the people will be funny still, I wonder if I have crossed the threshold into being more English than American. I can’t wait to see the mountains surrounding me always and the waking up to my cat every morning, but it seems so foreign now. I am probably being silly, but I can’t help but feel a little nervous going 5000 miles away from everything I have known this last year.