How I ended up living in England

Where it all started

My name is Katja. I grew up in the old German Democratic Republic (GDR) and my dream was always to live in England. I was extremely good at English at school and even got some extra learning material to study more. Though it was not possible for me to travel to the UK as we were living behind the Iron Curtain. Then, in 1989, when the wall came down, I could finally make my dream a reality. When I got a little older, in 1992, I went on my first language course with EF to Hastings. It was a wonderful experience!!! I knew instantly that I wanted to live in the UK. After the first night I woke up and I had even dreamed in English! I relished to be completely immersed in the English language and being with British people. Although my English was not as advanced, I had a great time. But class was a little frustrating as we had a teacher from Germany for the Grammar lessons, which was not much different from going to school in Germany. Also, as it was for younger students, we were a group just from Germany.

The next year I went to Torquay, again with EF, together with my best friend. We had a great time. Again, the experience confirmed the desire to live here. The frustration around the lessons was just that we did not have any contact with other students which were, of course, from other countries too so the only way to practice English was with our host families and grabbing some time with our teachers as our class was, again, just Germans.

Practicing English

When I was at home I tried to watch as much English Television as possible. I sometimes record films and tried to understand all the dialogue. Also, news programmes and shows were very educational, although mostly in American English…

I went again to the UK for the next 4 years: on a 2 week holiday to Jersey, on holiday with my best friend to London, to Edinburgh and Dublin with other language schools. The last language holidays were excellent!!! It was a mix of international students in our class of all ages too!

Testing my English

My flight to Edinburgh was interesting: I flew from Leipzig Airport to Edinburgh via London Heathrow. As a quite inexperienced flyer I did not check in to my connecting flight again at Heathrow and by the time we boarded and I did not have my boarding card, they left me off the flight because the airline double booked the seats! Now: Imagine. You are in a foreign country, you do speak English but have never really been “on your own” out in this big wide world and you see your plane take off – without you!!! Furthermore I thought I had checked my luggage through to Edinburgh but to my horror I discovered I had not and it was still on the luggage band at Heathrow!

At the check-in desk, a member of staff came to me and explained: Go down to the Lost Property Office and explain your situation with your suitcase. Then come back up to a different gate in 2 hours and board a plane to Glasgow. In Glasgow you will meet a Taxi Driver at a certain point who will bring you to Edinburgh to the family you are staying with. Oh, and here is £50 compensation for your troubles. – Now try to remember this all… – and in English… and alone in a foreign country…

When I got onto the flight to Glasgow, I started crying!!! I didn’t even know where Glasgow was on the map!

After finally getting to my host family, I had still no idea about the whereabouts of my suitcase apart from that they will deliver it the next day…

The next day it finally arrived, and I could have an enjoyable time in Edinburgh. The class was amazing, with an amazing teacher from Shetland. The students were literally from all ages and all countries! A great learning experience! And in one speaking activity, we had to do to take a real story and make the ending unbelievable. So I took my suitcase story and ended it with it turning up in India! 

Opportunities

Then in 1997, after I was in Dublin, I had the opportunity to study International Trade with the Erasmus Program in Brighton. It was a 3 month course at a College staying with a host family again. – But all for free! The German Government sponsored it! That was my opportunity to find a job and make the move I dreamed of. I applied with a company In Lewes, East Sussex and they said: “When can you start?”

So I phoned my parents: “I have good news and not so good news: The good news is I have a job! The not so good news is It is in England!” Of course my parents wanted to first discuss it but I had already made my mind up: I am moving to England!!! 

So on the 4th of January 1998, I packed up my car and drove all the way from Germany to Brighton to pick up my suitcase and finally make my dream come true! To live in the UK! (And no. There are not many Bowler hats or any fog in London.

P.S. I have got 2 NVQs (Grade 2 and 3) and completed a GCSE style school qualification, but I did not study at University. My latest learning achievement is a TEFL qualification, which entitles me to teach English as a foreign language. I am not a British Citizen but have got my Right of Settlement. I have now been living in the UK for 24 years.

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