This month I’m super excited to share another Expat Wisdom post with you! If you’re new here, the Expat Wisdom series is a project where I share one of your expat stories each month. The goal is to build an online community to share experiences and give advice. I always love reading everyone’s stories and learning from their experience! If you want to learn more about the project you can find the page here.
This month I’m sharing Cristina’s story as a Spanish expat living in the UK! As you may know if you’re a regular reader, I grew up in the UK before moving to Dubai, so it’s interesting to read about the expat experience the other way around of someone moving to the UK. Cristina has a blog called My Little World of Travelling where she shares her expat experience and lots of interesting travel guides – you can find her blog here.
I hope you enjoy learning more about her story and reading her advice!
My expat story started before I moved abroad when I was studying my degree at university. Many of my colleagues were applying for an ERASMUS exchange, but I didn’t go because I was in a relationship, which wasn’t a good excuse to miss this opportunity. However, I decided that I would study abroad after finishing my degree!
Before starting my last year at university, I went to Leeds for the summer and during that time I explored the city as well as volunteered for the educational team of a farm located near the city. I stayed there for a month and I had a really good time. After this experience, I was a hundred per cent sure I wanted to move to Leeds the following year.
I was planning to move with my boyfriend at the time, however, we ended our relationship just before our graduations. At that point, I knew I needed a big change in my life, so I decided to look for masters abroad and then I remembered the amazing time I had in Leeds.
I found a Masters Degree in Tourism and just the thought of it made me so happy. The downside was I didn’t have any savings and I was a bit scared of moving abroad alone. The next day I told my mum and she thought this was a crazy idea and suggested to leave it for later.
I knew that it was the right moment for me to live abroad and this time I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to do it, otherwise I would regret it as I did before. So I went to the bank and decided to take a loan.
My family wasn’t very supportive because they were concerned about myself. They tried to change my mind many times by asking me questions like: “Are you sure you want to move abroad?”, “Why do you want to move abroad? You could easily find a job here and practice your English without going abroad”, etc.
One of my pieces of advice is to stop listening to other’s opinions and do what your heart wants. I know it isn’t easy as your family or friends are important, but it’s your life and you don’t want to regret not taking this important decision before.
Studying in the UK
I didn’t know I was going to struggle with the language until I was there, I studied “Standard British English” at university, so of course, I wasn’t used to hearing a good range of accents from different parts of England. So I found the Yorkshire accent a bit difficult!
When I started my Masters, things weren’t easy because I wasn’t used to studying everything in English and there were plenty of words I didn’t understand. I had a good level of English before moving to the UK, but I had to learn many words I hadn’t heard before.
This can be a little overwhelming but my advice is to be patient with yourself. You just need a bit of time to get used to it and as time passes you’ll be surprised how much you’ve learnt in such a short period of time.
At the same time, I found that studying in the UK was so different from studying in Spain. When I was studying in Spain, I had to study and memorize plenty of information, whereas my masters in the UK was all about research, presentations and assignments.
Life in the UK
Living in the UK has its advantages and disadvantages. Over the years, there are things I have been able to appreciate more and reflect on the good and bad things of living in England.
I can totally say university life is amazing because there are so many events to meet new people, you can get advice on how to manage your budget or get counselling support if needed. At the same time, I found that there are many degrees and masters specialities I didn’t find in my home country.
Once you graduate, you have many job opportunities in the UK and abroad. The only thing you must be aware of is that if you apply for a specific role, the company will definitely prioritise people who have studied for the role or has some previous experience.
Something that will help you get a job after uni is volunteering, doing an apprenticeship or working in that sector. British companies really recognise volunteering and having some experience.
Apart from studies and jobs, if you are a passionate traveller, the UK is a great country to explore. From beautiful sandy beaches in the south of England and multicultural cities like London to stunning National Parks.
Although some cities may look very industrial, you can easily escape from the city and discovering beautiful green spaces. Something that I’ve noticed is that London and other places in the UK are prioritising green spaces within the cities and taking care of the environment by increasing fees for those who drive in city centres.
The biggest downsides of living in England is the weather unless you love the cold! That’s something I never get used to it. In addition to the cold, it gets dark very early (3 pm) during the winter months.
My biggest advice for you
Moving abroad is a unique experience that I wouldn’t change, but I want to tell you that it isn’t for everyone. Travelling to a place is completely different to living in that place. It’s ok if you move and realise it isn’t for you, it’s ok to live somewhere for years and all of the sudden realise you want to move to a different county; it’s ok to move abroad and realise there’s no better place than your hometown. Remember it’s completely fine to change your mind!
I hope you enjoyed reading about Cristina’s story and hopefully you learned some advice that can be useful to you! If you’re interested in sharing your story in the Expat Wisdom project, reach out to me via LittleMissExpatBlog@gmail.com or on Instagram @Little.Miss.Expat
See you next week!