Interview a Katia who went to London for a Erasmus with the Faculty of Languages in 2006 and fell in love with the city. In 2008 she returned to search work and today she is an English teacher.
When did you go to London?
I lived in London in 2 different moments: the first experience is linked to the Erasmus program, which I did during my 3rd year of University, and lasted from September 2006 to March 2007. The second experience was my choice, very much consequential to the positive outcome of Erasmus, which led me to finish my studies in England, attending a MA, as the specialist degree is called here. I moved in September 2008 and I'm still here in London:)
Did you do any work during the Erasmus period?
Yes, I worked as a waitress in a Japanese restaurant (who does not have the waitress in london?) because I didn't care so much, I just had to get some experience in the work field and earn a little something.
You're still in London today, have you found a job?
Today I work as a teacher of ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, since that's what I'm specializing in at the University: I want to be an English teacher when I grow up.
Where did you live during your time as a student?
I lived on the campus of the host university, the UEL, in the deep East London, in zone 3 exactly in Cyprus, on the DLR. In January I had to move because otherwise on campus I would have had to pay until July. so I placed an ad on gumtree.com which is the most popular site in London to rent / buy / sell anything, not just houses, and within 3 days I had already signed the contract for my new room (this time to the north east, still zone 3, but on the Victoria line, in Walthamstow Central).
The site Gumtree it is convenient because you can write exactly what you are looking for, from the area, to the price, to the characteristics of the room you want and in a very short time you already get dozens of answers and you just have to choose. But be careful, this works especially if you are planning to rent a room, not a real house.
And how did you find the house you live in today?
I found an ad on Loot, a newspaper that comes out every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday in which the owners, usually private, are contacted directly to view the houses and agree on the price. It is very reliable and practical, just call and you will know immediately if the apartment is still available or not, without mincing words. Today I live in an apartment located in zone 2, in the beautiful and very quiet West Hampstead, an area that is confused by many with Hampstead, which is only a 10 minute walk away, where the VIPs live, Paris Hilton style.
Tell us about a typical day during the Erasmus period?
Wake up at 9.20 to go to class from 10 until 13, then lunch in my kitchen with the other Erasmus students and till 15 fooling around. Then with the very slow DLR 45 minutes -1 hour to get to the center where we would go shopping or explore some gems of the British capital such as the places less frequented by tourists and preferably recommended by English classmates. At 20 pm the evening began in the pub, burgers and chips or fish and chips and beer, enough to start singing at with ease. Alternative: Wednesday night was salsa dancing in a Soho club with free admission
How is your typical day in London today?
Much like before, apart from the fact that to go to class at 10 I woke up at 8.40 this time and I spend a lot more time studying. I still take a lot of strolls to find still unknown places: you never stop discovering new corners here.
How does it seem to you to live in London?
The city is wonderful, I thought it from the first time I came here, that's why I applied for Erasmus and then I decided to come back to continue studying, because it's just fantastic. Whoever says she is gray has not understood anything. Settling into the city was not difficult as I more or less knew how the metro works, the buses ... the hardest thing is to find ways to save in such an expensive city, especially when I was on Erasmus and the pound was still very strong ..but with a little ingenuity and forethought you learn to make typical dinners buy 1 get 1 free, things that we dream of.
Was the money that the University gave you enough for Erasmus?
Erasmus was partly paid for by the European Union, which had allocated approx € 200 per month with which I barely paid 10 days' rent. The second time I returned to London instead, having been my choice, I pulled everything out of my pocket and it was painful because the university here is very expensive.
How are wages in London?The wages depends: in my case, being a waitress is not at all proportionate to the cost of living. I was getting around £ 6.50 an hour but luckily there were very good tips, about 12-15 £ per service with which I paid for the meter and the daily expense or beer in the evening. If you teach instead, the salary is pretty good, about £ 18 per hour, but my problem is it wasn't a steady job, so I ended up being a penniless student.
The hardest thing in London?
Mmm… the hardest thing I would say is to make friends with the English and get used to always carrying an umbrella, even when you go out in the morning and it seems like a beautiful day, because the weather is the most unpredictable thing there is here.
The easiest thing abroad?
The easiest thing to always be in the midst of Italians, but if you want to learn the language you have to be able to stay away from them.
A city party you've been to to recommend?
Il Chinese New Year in Chinatown, it's an insanely gorgeous event. Thousands of crazy Chinese screaming, singing and dancing in the streets of the hundred. This explains why for the rest of the year they are silent, because they have to recover their voice.
A typical dish to recommend?
There are not many typical dishes because in London you can find everything and more, this is the beauty, because there is something for all tastes. When people say to me: how can you stay in England, the food is so bad ?. I answer: I'm not in England, I'm in London, and it's a whole other story ... there is no palate that cannot be accotato here. Recommended: Fisherman's pie, to try in a typical pub, I ate the best in Cornwall, but for those who stop in London you need to focus on a good pub. Fish and chips, be wary of the stalls in which they sell it wrapped because you risk finding only a pile of thorns and pure oil even in this case a good pub is the best idea. Sticky toffee pudding for dessert, or apple crumble, a delight, especially if accompanied by custard cream, or the classic English cream that creates the hot-cold contrast… mouth watering.
A place to recommend or a nightclub?
Among the places to recommend: Tiger Tiger, in Piccadilly Circus, there is music of all kinds, but quite cool as a place. For the more alternative the Proud in Camden, live rock bands and music by emerging artists, Mika played there before being famous to understand us. Otherwise for a unique experience the Fabric, also in Camden. Here 80s wigs are the least you have to show up with.
The most expensive thing in London?
The subway without oyster. In terms of food, anything Italian and fruit and vegetables.
The cheapest thing in London? Food at the supermarket, especially chips and various crap, because the British are soaked in it. Even clothes, especially in London markets second hand like Petticoat Lane e Brick Lane (I also go to sell my old things still in good condition.). On Sundays there are real bazze.
A low cost tip that few know for London?
Always take the London Paper, a free newspaper that they distribute on the street between 3.30 and 7.30 in the evening. At the bottom of the paper, roughly before the sports section, there are always offers for a bar called Crussh. For each old copy of the newspaper you deliver to be recycled each week, you are entitled to an offer. For example, last week they gave you a smoothie, the week before a fruit salad, this week there is a free sanwich for every purchase. It is a way to save, to recycle and to eat healthy since everything there is to Crussh it is organic, and in general very good. Before coming to London consult the online page of the weekly Time-out, Offers section, is really useful because you always find a lot of bazze.buy 1main course and get the second free', it means for example that if you order 2 pizzas that cost £ 9.95 each, you pay only one by sharing it with your friend, so you spend practically £ 5 for a great dinner. I did it just last week with a friend of mine.
A positive thing about the two experiences, Erasmus and London life?
Meet lots of people from all over the world and make friends, some of them really important, that you know will last a lifetime.
A bad thing about experiences?
Living independently for a long time can be depressing once back home and having to submit to the family dynamics of the parents again….assuming you come back later...
Would you recommend your experience to a friend or do it again, why?
I would recommend it to anyone, it is a wonderful and educational experience, you learn a language, make new friends, learn to relate to people of different cultures and meet new lifestyles, all within the same city. Then it is a way to understand what you want and how you want or don't want to live when you grow up. I would do it a thousand and a thousand times, in fact I'm back.