London - The Who
So this is going to be the first part of the little series I told you about last time and it's going to be the most personal one. I don't really know how this will turn out but I think it will include the most personal experiences that I have ever shared with you. And it's going to be a long one, so get comfortable!
Let's start with how it actually started: in the airport saying goodbye to my parents. Well, I'm not a person who gets homesick or is afraid of leaving home or my family (like on school trips, etc) but I've also never been away on my own and for more than 10 days or so.
After struggeling with traffic on the way to the airport and finally being sure that I won't miss my flight, I was quite confident that everything will be fine if my mum won't start crying. Which she fortunately and surprisingly didn't!
I have been in a kind of nervous state of mind for the two weeks before my trip worrying if I will be able to do my job properly and if the people will be nice and things but reflecting now, I think it was more a nervous excitement than a nervous worrying. It kind of first hit me when the plane took off that I finally realized - Oh my God! You're actually on your way to London now! You won't be coming back for 7 weeks! What the hell are you doing?! - but I wasn't panicking, it was more like a moment of actually feeling what was going to happen and that it will happen STARTING NOW.
The flight was okay, I more or less read the whole little book some of my friends gave to me called 'London on a budget' to get me in the mood and to fill the time (as there was noone to talk to really, my neighbour didn't even look at me once.. nice! :D )
When we arrived and got to the baggage I knew, I will have to find the counter to get my bus ticket. It was a bit hard to find the right spot because I had to go somewhere different from last time but I made it in the end and before I could worry about anything I found myself sitting on the bus, organized and confident that I will be able to do this. In the end I managed to do the flight and the airport business afterwards on my own without major problems.
My stop was reached. Making it with a 20kg suitcase and a large maybe 8kg hand luggage from Baker Street Station to Paddington was another challenge ahead of me. Loads of steps and dragging my luggage around (one nice man kindly offered his help which I found really great for a start) I decided that there had to be another way to get to Baker Street Station for my way back in October!!
Somehow I managed to find my way to the hostel where Esther in the reception had no idea I was coming - great! :D I actually didn't really know anything apart from a rough idea of what my tasks will be and the address of the hostel. But I don't freak out easily and I didn't have any expectations so I thought, it will be sorted out somehow, relax.
Turns out I was not the only intern (or supporter, as we were called there) in the hostel but that there were 3 more and I would share room with max. 8 guests 'downstairs' and a French girl right next to me (who wasn't there at the time). After emptying most of my suitcase into my space it was time to text my parents that I arrived safely so that they did't have to worry. In a free minute Esther then showed me around the hostel and I got to know the other supporter girls from Barcelona who lived in the room next to mine. I was so glad that there where others who already know the place around my age and not being in a superior position! They were very welcoming and told me A LOT about what the tasks would be and that I would meet a lot of other employers and that everyone was nice so that after Chloé came back I could go to bed very happily knowing that there's nothing to worry about. That's this thing about me, I might not show that I'm worried or sad or something but I'm a chronic overthinker which can be so annoying!
The next day was my first day off so all I had to do was meet the manager and get my shift plan for the week. Afterwards I went on a 2 hour walk in Hyde Park. It was raining but I didn't care. It was my first day and I wanted to explore the surroundings and spend some time outside to relax and realize tha the coming weeks could be really nice and there was a good chance to meet so many great people.
In the afternoon the Spanish girls had finished their shifts for the day so I spent my time with them and Chloé strolling around Piccadilly Circus and later accompanying Chloé in her bar shift which was kind of a tradition among us so that we weren't bored when no guests were around and time had to be killed ;) Another fact about me: I'm by nature a quite shy person and not so very extroverted as I sometimes wish I were, so usually it takes quite some time for me so get comfortable and become my real self among new people. Nevertheless especially one of the girls from Barcelona made it really easy for me to feel part of the group and we became real friends in the (unfortunately only) one week we spent together. The next day Chloé left as her 3 months were over so the bed next to mine was empty for some days until Mireya had to leave one week after my arrival and I moved to to take over her bed next to Martina. I would have never believed that seeing people leave whom I only knew a couple of days (especially Mireya!) could make me so sad and that I could actually make friends with someone from another country in only a couple of days in another country not speaking my mother tongue. I guess that added some more points on my scale of confidence!
About a week later, Martina also left which made me the only remaining supporter and left me a bit worried who will replace them, when, and if it will be a boy or a girl and whether I will get along with them. In the end, Carlos was to be my new neighbour. Since then quite some time had passed and I got to know the other people working in the hostel a bit better. Someday I started a thing which became a habit, being staying up and spending the whole night with the people from the night shift, or shall I say the boys from the night shift? Which leads me to the next fact about me: I always had problems with getting along with boys, I don't know why really, I mean, I had some issues with some in my school time but I don't know if that was the reason. I could never speak to them properly, I always felt some kind of intimidated. But something was different with the boys or men who I met there. I don't know what it was. In the beginning I had to thaw a bit as usual but then I observed myself making friends with them in a way. I still don't really know what kind of relationship it is or was, I feel like, they became my friends but also a bit like brothers that I never had. I was really concerned about how it would be to sleep directly next to a man whom I knew nothing of apart from his name, age and home town but I learned that my concerns were so unnecessary and I was actually able to get along and even make friends with boys/men. What!? Who would have thought that?
There was one day I will probably never forget which really sucked for me. I was feeling so down but normally I'm an expert in not showing my true feelings when I am sad or disappointed. They noticed. They didn't urge me to tell them about it if I didn't want to. When I left for bed I felt so horrible because I was afraid of the next day being the same. I thought, I would at least have to explain to them that this was not my real self that night, just to explain my behaviour. So I messaged one of them on facebook. I didn't explain exactly what happened because it had to do with a person working there. But he instantly replied and asked what happened and that they noticed I wasn't feeling well because I didn't smile and was retreated. This gesture helped me so much! They didn't only want to know what happened but that they had noticed my sadness, they cared and they wanted to comfort me. The next day came, I managed to get through it without the trouble I had to go through the day before and in the end I even got a message asking how my day was and that they were glad I didn't have to experience the same thing again and that I had the support of all of them. I don't think they realized what their support meant to me.
When my stay came to an end, it was suggested to do a goodbye dinner for me in the hostel. I was really touched by that even though I thought, maybe it won't be happening in the end as it was with Mireya several weeks before but just the thought to do something like that made me feel part of the team even more. In the end it did happen so we went shopping together and cooked our meals together and spent hours in the hostel although most of them were either off and only came for the dinner or they had finished their shift earlier in the day. You probably can imagine my feelings when I had to say goodbye to them in a period of a few hours. In the end I decided not to go to bed at all to stay with the people who were working in the night shift for as long as possible and because I was afraid that I wouldn't be awake in time if I went to bed so I just returned to my room to finish packing, change clothes, etc and then go downstairs again to leave the place I called home for 7 weeks. The place where I got to know so many people. People from so many countries, with so many opinions, different attitudes, characters. People who I laughed with and could share my feelings. People who didn't judge me for who I was or how I felt. People who became my friends. People who gave me the feeling of being part of a family.
Leaving the hostel felt like leaving a part of me behind. A feeling of sadness, of gratefulness, of confidence. In the last few days I had experienced a rollercoaster of feelings. On the one hand I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends at home but on the other hand everything was overshadowed by deep sadness.
Summarizing the whole stay I have to say, I got to know so many people, I made friends, I overcame my fear of speaking everyday English, I learned to manage my life on my own (the only thing that was missing was to earn my own money), I learned so much about myself. I never really understood what people were talking about when they said, they found themselves when having been away for some time. I felt, they must be exaggerating. Now I do understand. I know what I am capable of, that I can make friends regardless of where I am or what my mother tongue is, regardless whether I am a bit more shy or quiet than others. I'm just more of a listener than a speaker but I do like to talk and also talk a lot when I'm feeling comfortable around people. My opinions on topics were appreciated, let it be on politics, society, music, people's personal future plans, etc..
I don't think, I have ever experienced such things as intensely as I have during my time in London and I will treasure those memories forever.
It has been weeks since I came back to Germany by now and still when I'm on the train or on the bus or in bed, I remember little things and situations which make me smile and wonder, if this had really happened to me.
I didn't only got to know other people, I got to know myself a bit more than before.
For those of you still being with me right now, I'm impressed and I thank you lots! ;)
Have you experienced something similar before? Where have you been when it happened to you? What have you learned about yourself? I would like to know all about it!
See you soon!