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  • Writer's pictureGetrude Orodo

My First Few Months in the UK

I was super excited when I finished my application process. From previous posts on My Expat Journey, you can tell that the process of deciding and moving to work in the UK is not an easy one.

After applying for a Priority VISA on Friday, I knew my time in Kenya had come to an end. The next few days were surreal. My family organized a small intimate farewell party on Saturday and on Monday, I was on my way to London.

There was a lot of excitement at this point. I was now eating the fruits of my labor and they were all sweet and succulent. My first week was like a dream. I was in awe of everything I was experiencing. The huge shopping malls, the double decker buses, London Underground (yes, I used The Tube in my first week).

My happiness and sense of achievement did not last long.

At first it was the small subtle things. The water was too salty for my liking and the food was bland for my taste. I would eat to fill my stomach because I was hungry, not to relish on food. To make it worse, winter was coming. Although, at that point, autumn and winter had no difference to me, given that I had left a 250C plus weather

Also, I did not understand why people could not hear my plain and straightforward English. Many times I found myself having to repeat my sentences (I still do to date, just that I care less)

Things got more intense when we started working. We got to the ward and had to assume the most basic roles. In hindsight, rightfully so. At the time it felt unfair.

Soon we started preparing for OSCE, an exam which is more a test of nerves than a test of nursing skills. Doing and passing OSCE became like the bridge to a more fulfilling life. All plans were made for “after OSCE”

OSCE came and went. It became clear that “after OSCE” was a hoax.

Three months in, there was nothing giving me joy or pleasure. My routine involved long and strenuous work days and off days spent in bed watching Netflix, until we got to the point where there was no longer pleasure in watching.

On the surface, things appeared perfect. Everyone on social media was congratulating me for this great achievement and my inbox was full of questions on how to make it to the UK.

This only meant that no one would understand what I was going through. Therefore I kept everything to myself. Sometimes I would cry but even that was just a short-lived fix.

For me, the hardest part was being alone.

For someone who previously thrived in group activities, I recoiled and became this quiet timid person. I had no confidence to speak or be myself. Being different is a hard experience for sure.

Just when things were starting to look up, COVID 19 happened, bringing with it new challenges. In fact, I wrote about it here.

How did I pull through?

First and foremost, time. Time does not necessarily heal but with time you develop understanding and acceptance of your situation. Your taste buds adjust with time and you begin to enjoy food and water too. You learn how to dress up for cold weather and it becomes easier to hear different accents.

Second, I started reading and writing and this gave me some good use of my off days. I developed new perspectives to life. I learnt that there is The U Curve to Cross Cultural Adaptation/Adjustment (I will talk about this in my next post) which gave me hope on my low days.

Third, I developed an attitude of gratitude. I started looking at my glass as half full. I focused on learning. I would try and learn as much as possible on my shifts. I started exploring the opportunities that came with this transition. I accepted that my differences are here to stay and so I might as well get on with life.

Finally, I strengthened family relationships, old friendships and developed new ones too.

From my experience I have come to learn that the process of cross-cultural transition does not end.

There is always something else to learn.

Bad days are there from time to time but so are good days.

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