Post-Europe Kalyn, a mixture of America and England

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I’m an American 20-something living just outside of London in a quaint English village that I previously thought only existed on the BBC. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, and after graduating high school I decided to go to the University of Pittsburgh.

Kalyn moved to London in 2012 on a study abroad program, and ended up loving the UK so much that she found every way (and visa) she could to come back. Without no plans to move, she is looking forward to enjoy that feeling of “being home”.

Could you introduce us to “Kalyn” before boarding the plane to Europe?

Oh, pre-Europe Kalyn! I’d like to think that living in England has made me posh and effortlessly fashionable and scholarly, but I think the main difference between that Kalyn and me today is a basic confidence about life. Before moving abroad, I had never navigated a foreign culture, never traveled on my own (except to university, which hardly counts), and never had to advocate for myself to any great extent (as I always had parents or my university to do it for me).

Pre-Europe Kalyn was excited about an adventure but had no real clue what she was doing, while post-Europe Kalyn is still excited about having adventures, but is much more independent and confident. Sometimes I still have no clue what I’m doing, but I can ‘fake it’ a lot better than I used to.

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It seems that the main motivation to move abroad have been studies: What does the UK offer for your professional growth? Why London?

I originally moved to London as a study abroad student. The first time I studied abroad in London, I had an internship with a local non-profit (which is now closed down, but hopefully not because of me…). This was one of the reasons I felt confident in returning to London –I had not only studied, but actually worked in the city, and it felt much more like ‘home’ that way.

Along those lines, I’ve always been career driven, and so the UK  was an easy choice for me as a study abroad destination. The common language meant I could really immerse myself and make professional connections. London was another easy winner, as most of the PR and Communications agencies are based in London.

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Tell us about your life in England! What do you like doing in your free time, trips …

I used to live in central London, but now live in a village just outside of it and am surrounded by rolling hills and sheep and cows and horses. It’s quite the change, but I like having access to the city during the week and the ability to relax in the countryside on the weekends. Life in England is a bit slower paced than I was used to in America (Americans always tend to be rushing somewhere!), but it’s perfect for me.

I love traveling within the UK and abroad. This summer has brought me to the Lake District, Crieff, Edinburgh, Dover, Brighton, Bristol, and Copenhagen. I’ve recently gotten into running so I try to run as much as possible around town (and then come home to a bowl of ice cream, of course).

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Could you tell us how did you live the transition of taking the decision to move abroad, preparations, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and getting settled in your new home? 

I said the other day that “moving abroad is the easiest choice I’ve ever made, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. I’ve been lucky with living arrangements, but it is always a massive effort to keep myself updated on visas and ensuring I have the correct one, and I have spent hours and hours preparing for my various moves. I haven’t had anyone to rely on to help me answer these questions or give me their own experiences, so at times it’s been a little lonely feeling like I am the ‘pioneer’ of my group of friends and family. Everyone is really supportive, but sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do from their own experience without me having to stress for days on end about it.

Getting settled in takes time, and I found it was especially hard in England with the more ‘reserved’ nature of the English that I’ll talk about next. I learned to drive here, which went a long ways towards making me feel at home and able to get myself around, and over time I’ve been able to make my own friends and find my favorite places and shops and seat on the train. But it’s taken awhile! I first moved here in 2012 and finally feel settled three years later.

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What are the cultural differences, people … Between the US and England?

This is such a difficult question, mostly because it’s hard to answer without generalizing everyone. I think there are two main differences that I always come back to.

The first is the openness of Americans versus the more reserved nature of the English. Americans are quite happy to chat to strangers and tell you their whole life story in the first five minutes of meeting you, while the English tend to keep to themselves more and would stick to small talk for a long time. It’s not that Americans are necessarily more friendly or that the English are standoffish, but American culture in general is just a bit more ‘extroverted’.

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The second is the emphasis on tradition in England versus innovation in America. As a country with such a rich (and long) history, England places importance on tradition. Sometimes ceremonies and events and processions are the way they are simply because they’ve been that way for hundreds or thousands of years. America, on the other hand, has a blip of a history by comparison, and the American culture is always looking for the “new”. Again, it’s not to say that either country has it wrong –sometimes I think the English may hold on to tradition to an excessive amount just for the sake of it, while I also think sometimes Americans are always looking for the “next best thing” without focusing on improving the quality of what already exists.

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How has it changed your life this great journey? Could you tell us which are your expectations for the near future?

Besides making me more confident and given me a much broader worldview, I would never have met my boyfriend of 2 years if it weren’t for moving to England, so I’d like to think that this journey has completely altered the course of my life. When I first studied abroad, I never thought I’d be aiming to settle in England permanently, and yet here I am.

Honestly, one of the things I’ve learned from moving abroad is that you can never have expectations, and if you do, you’ll almost always be surprised. I’ve just finished a course in PR and will hopefully find a permanent job in London in the new year, but I also am interested in growing my blog and travel writing. I’ve got a lot of information to share about moving and studying abroad, and I’m looking for ways to share that with others. I’m definitely in England for the near future with no plans to move –it’s just started to really feel like home and I’m looking forward to enjoying that feeling!

If you want to know how the adventures of Kalyn continues: Girl Gone London !

EXPATS IN BELGIUM

If you’re starting your own adventure expat in Belgium, you need expert information or to meet people that are in your same situation, join the e-community of Settle & Connect !

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