Becoming a different self

Days right before going to Dundee I was extremely calm. I wasn’t nervous about living far away from home nor I was feeling like I was unprepared for that. I booked two flights: WAW to CPH and CPH to EDI. On the moving day (Saturday) I simply woke up early, went with my family to the airport, dropped my checked in suitcase as one of the first people and went through security. I remember making a mental note of how tiny the plane to Copenhagen was. When the plane was taking off I began to feel excited. I was beginning a new life after all. Boarding the plane to Edinburgh I double-checked my schedule. I had a short time safety buffer on top of the time I needed to commute between the airport and the train station from which I would leave for Dundee. I was sure of making it in time. Leaving the plane took longer than I expected, as our plane was held in place for good 15 minutes before they brought the stairs. I thought that I have nothing to worry about as I had a quarter of an hour more just in case.

Walking through the airport (which looked a lot like Luton Airport, in my memories) with a huge smile on my face I arrived at the reclaim luggage area. It was this area precisely where my blood pressure slowly but surely started going up. Here’s why: the info screen said that suitcases from Copenhagen would be released after a few rounds for preceding flights. 5 minutes of waiting turned into 10, which turned into 15 and at that point I made a semi-nervous call to my mom to let her know I landed and I’m afraid I’ll miss my train to Dundee. Then the baggage carousel started filling with suitcases and duffel bags of people from my flight. My stuff was nowhere to be seen. I was convinced SAS lost my things and I was imaging how long it would take me to report lost luggage. Then, finally, I’ve seen my suitcase on the belt slowly approaching me. I practically ran with my two suitcases and a handbag to the shuttle bus that would take me to the train station. Then, I had some issues with getting my prepaid ticket (protip: buy it directly from the guy at the cash register, it’s way quicker) and the bus that was boarding, as I was talking to the lad in the tiny office, left. At that point, I knew I’ll miss my train and was feeling a bit sick. Luckily, these buses were going every 10 minutes and when I got on the bus I had about 40 minutes to sit there in a bad mood thinking how will I resolve the situation once I’ll arrive at the train station.

On my way to the Edinburgh Waverley, I started to realise I actually HAVE a chance to make it in time! After getting off the bus I (again) ran to the train station where I still had to get my train tickets from the machine. I quickly did it, sprinted to the platform gates and got on the train maybe 30 seconds before it left the station. I then had a funny situation with finding out my seat — it was marked as 33F and I walked through the whole train back and forth with my luggage searching for seat F and when I asked for help it turned out that F means ‘forward’… From that moment on my journey went pretty much smoothly.

Getting into my room in the halls I was so happy to finally be able to sit in an empty space that was just for me. It felt like a real luxury after being surrounded by loads of people for an entire day. Soon I realised that I should probably get something to eat as it was almost 7 pm and I only had a hummus wrap at the Copenhagen airport and 3 coffees. My stomach was growling. I went for a food search and by asking people on the streets I learned more-less how to get to Tesco (keep in mind I didn’t have the internet available). After getting a heavy bag of groceries which I almost abandoned because I just couldn’t carry it, it was so heavy, I arrived back at West Park Flats and realised I don’t have any bedding yet. Although you can purchase that when you collect keys I’d preferred to have a choice of what pillow, duvet and covers I’d like to have, The first two nights in Dundee I slept with a jacket as a pillow and a hoodie as a blanket. To this day I believe that that weekend has had a massive impact on shaping me into a person I am today.


My first months in Dundee were really amazing (as was the whole year) but I’ve noticed that my English fluency was a bit rocky. Coming from an IB programme where I was speaking, writing, reading and thinking in English I was dead sure my conversations would run smoothly, at least from the language perspective. Surprise, surprise, that wasn’t the case. My first month, maybe a month and a half I kind of struggled: I was speaking like normal, blah, blah, blah, and then all of a sudden I would want to say something I couldn’t find a word for. An EASY word. Once, I went to Holland and Barrett and as I was chatting with a sale assistant I forgot how to say pineapple, and that’s a word I kept saying quite a lot in a recent past. My face went instantly red as I had to summarise my thought process to the guy while browsing through the dictionary. When I found out the word I started explaining very awkwardly that I know it’s such an easy word and I learned it many years ago. Quickly after that, I left the shopping centre and went fast to my halls.

Being in halls where most of my flatmates were either native speakers or English was their first language I felt very self-conscious about my abilities. Back in Poland I was constantly asked how was I so good at speaking English. Here, I was mediocre and struggling to speak Polish without mistakes a little more every day. Of course, there were people with worse English skills than mine, but I tend to look only at those who are better than I am, and then I end up with a false image of the situation.


Coming to Dundee has also had an impact on my identity. Back in Warsaw, I was living with my mom and grandma, who both raised me and were very protective. As an only child, I constantly felt their attention (which was nice) but I also had an impression of being kept on a leash (which was definitely unpleasant). Had I stayed in Warsaw I would be living with them to this day. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful to them for everything they did for me and for always having my back. However, I like my space and privacy, which I felt were impossible to maintain in 65 sq meter flat with two other people, a cat and a dog. Moving to Dundee solved all of these problems. I was staying in a flat of 5, where we all had our own bathrooms and different schedules. At times I wouldn’t see any of my flatmates for a few days. If I wanted space and privacy I could go to my room with my food and eat there. Not one of them was intruding my room because it was always locked. Conversely, if I wanted to talk to a friend I could knock on Karolina’s or Louise’s door to do so. We also frequently chatted while making food in the kitchen. So, in a way, moving to Dundee gave me the freedom I really needed.

Being an only child with a grandma at home also meant that I hardly had to do any chores I didn’t like. I always could offer my grandma an exchange of tasks on our to-do lists. My mom told me a number of times that she’s worried that I won’t be able to take good care of myself once I leave home. Now she’s denying ever saying that, as I didn’t starve myself to death, I was cleaning, doing laundry, and other adult stuff. I even opened a savings account (top-notch adulting here)! I am not the type who doesn’t know how to solve problems but I will admit that at home I prefer to wait and see if anyone will offer to do something so that I don’t have to. I think it’s a phase and once I will become a mom I’ll be more proactive. But now, I’m enjoying the moment and watching Netflix.

Coming home for summer in May my mom noticed how much I grew up and changed. To put it simply, she loved what university life did to me. She’s also very proud of me… but that doesn’t mean I escaped ‘the leash’.

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9 Comments

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  1. Na pewno było świetnie 😉

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  2. Świetna podróż. Zazdroszczę ☺

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  3. I really enjoyed your post. As someone who moved from Australia to the UK to study, I relate to a lot of it. I absolutely wasn’t ready when I left, but it was in many ways the best mistake I ever made. I can’t really relate to the person I was before I moved, so much has changed. I hope it continues to go well for you. And I know that you’ve had some time immersing yourself, and written English is in some ways easier because you have time to compose it, but I think your English is fantastic, for what it’s worth.

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    • Amy, thank you for your kind words! I hope that you’re enjoying your time in the UK as much as I am. Moving abroad is difficult, especially if you are quite attached to to the people and things around you. I’m in a quite lucky situation as I’m just one time zone away, so calling everyone is easy. You, on the other hand, have it a lot harder. Was it difficult in any way for you to adjust to the change of hemisphere and climate?

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      • I am! I actually moved several (err, many) years ago now, to do a masters degree and then a PhD. The PhD didn’t work out so I’m retraining. (I’m now married to a British citizen and have lots of friends and family here, but, for sure, the first year or so were very challenging indeed- and I didn’t get to go home for the summer, too expensive!)
        The time zone thing is a challenge. It’s a 9 hour difference at the moment, and 11 in the (UK) winter. I tend to talk to my family in the evening UK time, although when I first moved here Mum wanted to talk to me twice a day, which was very difficult to schedule! And I was unfortunate enough that my first winter here was one of the worst that the UK had seen in many years (amounts of snow that ground everything to a halt). Where I come from it hasn’t snowed in over 30 years! The hemisphere thing itself isn’t so bad, except I do still find the seasons and months thing strange (and people don’t believe me when I tell them how I spent Christmas as a child, because they can’t imagine Christmas in summer).
        All in all, life’s pretty good and I recognise that as foreign students go I’m pretty lucky (the culture’s much the same, people accept me, English is my native language). But I absolutely relate to it being a challenging and a growth experience. I wish you luck with the rest of your degree, and may the rest of your time in the UK be kind to you.

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      • Wow, lots of information to process! What was your PhD? I moved to UK after the referendum but before formally deciding on Brexit and now I’m afraid I won’t be able to pursue a second degree in medicine here. Hopefully the change won’t be too hard. I’m guessing since you’re married and moved here some time ago you’re safe and I’m happy for you.
        I’m slowly starting to have more and more friends in Scotland and England and I plan on living here permanently. The hard part of coming from very far away is the travel tickets. Two of my Polish friends who are dating went to study in the USA and Australia and keep their relationship long distance, seeing each other once every 6 months. By the way, which part of Australia are you from?
        P.S. Thank you for your wishes. The UK is treating me well and I love that it’s never too hot here (20°C in Scotland vs 33°C in Poland)!

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      • My PhD was in ancient Greek history, particularly Athenian law (it was more specialised than that, obviously, but it’s kind of difficult to explain).
        I’m really sorry about the uncertain position you find yourself in vis-a-vis UK residency. I’m still on the immigration pathway, but I have a known and secure path to citizenship at this stage. (My husband and I were long distance for a couple of years due to visa problems I had, before we were married, and it was very hard) I’m from Sydney.
        You’re very welcome. I struggle with the cold and the grey, weather wise, but I love where I live and I wouldn’t trade it.

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