Hi, it’s me again — the Secret Teacher.
Or “Amazing Amy,” as my friends like to call me. One day, I’ll tell you how I got that nickname (don’t worry, Gone Girl fans, I didn’t frame anyone for murder). But for now, let’s pick up my story where we left off: on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport in London, England. If you missed my first post, you can catch up here.
So, I’d landed in England, I had my Youth Mobility Visa — I’ll fill you in on that process in a later post — and I had a full-time teaching job lined up in London. But where was I going to stay?
I had lived at home with my parents and my two siblings for most of my life. I spent the first year of my studies in university accommodation, then moved back home for the rest of my schooling so that I could save money (and take advantage of my dad’s amazing home-cooked meals!).
As you can probably tell, I didn’t have much experience apartment hunting (or “flat hunting,” I should say), and I certainly didn’t have any experience looking for accommodation in London.
Making sure I had the right accommodation while I was teaching in London was a big concern of mine, and I knew I needed help to make that happen. Thankfully, my Uteach representative was there to work with me and sort everything out weeks before I even got on the plane to London.
I can’t even explain how much of a relief that was. Having a teacher placement agency in the UK — who were experienced in searching for accommodation for teachers in London, dealing with landlords, and had great local knowledge — was invaluable in helping me find somewhere affordable and enjoyable to live.
Actually getting to my new accommodation (which was neither an apartment nor a flat, but a lovely old house)… that was a whole other learning curve, one I am still slowly climbing!
After collecting my suitcases, I pulled out my phone to double-check the travel instructions from my Uteach rep.
A train from the airport, then a change onto an underground train. Or “the tube,” as it’s known — an accurate name, I would soon learn. As an English teacher, I love a good analogy. I can’t help but compare the feeling of being squeezed out of the London tube during rush hour to what I imagine my sad, crinkled tube of Colgate feels when I try to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of it.
On the train, I took advantage of the free Wi-Fi to message my landlord and let him know I was on my way. He replied to let me know one of my new roommates would be there waiting with my keys. I knew one of them was a fellow overseas teacher — from Spain, I think. Another was in marketing, and the last was a chef. My stomach did a little flip-flop.
I was finally in London. And I was about to start my first full-time teaching job! I spent the rest of the train journey scrolling through photos of my new neighbourhood on Instagram. It seemed like there was so much to do, so much to see — I couldn’t wait to get there.
The train halted at my changeover stop and I shepherded my suitcases out of the sliding doors and into the station.
The journey from the airport had been quiet, peaceful — filled with business travellers glued to their laptops, solo travellers stuck to their books, and a few sleeping children attached to their parents. This was something else entirely.
Victoria Station was loud and busy, thrumming and humming with the sounds of London. I stood still, taking it all in until a man literally ran into me. My first London tube lesson: everybody is in a rush, nobody has time, so don’t get in the way. Noted!
The tube map my Uteach rep had sent me looked like a spider’s web, a huge mass of colourful threads crossing and looping around one another. But I followed the signs and — miraculously — got on the right train. Soon after, I was at my stop.
My Uteach rep had managed to find accommodation that was close to the tube station, so I opened Google Maps and punched in my new address. Suitcases in tow, I arrived minutes later in front of a gorgeous house on a quiet little side street and knocked on the door.
It swung open to reveal a small, curly-haired woman with a warm smile.
“Hello! You must be Amy?”
“I’m Martina. Pass me one of your suitcases. Come on in!”
And that’s how I met the woman I’d come to call my best friend. More on Martina — and my tube adventures — in the next post.
The Secret Teacher, Amazing Amy xo
Have you ever travelled somewhere by yourself? How would you feel about moving somewhere new? Do you have any advice for solo travellers?
- By Amazing Amy