I don’t know if you guys know this but I’m not a British citizen. I have a Thai passport, and I’ve been living in England on a Tier 4 student visa for almost five years now. Except for my little brother (who’s attending sixth form in Oxford), my whole family lives in Thailand. I’ve been flying back and forth between this country and my home country pretty much every holiday, like most international students do.
My life has completely changed ever since I arrived in England in 2012. In this mini series, I want to talk about some of my personal experiences here as an international student - some are good but mostly not so good, heh.
For this first part of the series, I’m going to discuss about how my parents sort of forced me to come study here and my number one enemy - the weather (ha ha ha). For the subsequent parts, I’ll be reflecting on some of the more serious experiences and struggles I’ve been through like how I feel like I don’t quite belong here.
Quick educational background: I studied at an American school in Bangkok from kindergarten to grade 11 then got shipped to a private school in Brighton for my last 2 years of high school, AKA sixth form. Now I’m currently studying biomedical science in Surrey, with the hopes of getting into medical school after I graduate.
I didn’t want to study here in the first place.
My original plan was to graduate from the American school I was attending in Bangkok and go to university in the USA like most of my classmates then. I was really, really looking forward to attending a university somewhere in Southern California like LA. The chill vibes, the people, the sunny weather - and uh hello, Koreatown - had me daydreaming about living there.
I thought my parents were on the same page as me but nope. In the middle of grade 11, my parents suddenly told me they wanted me to study in England. My stubborn, rebellious teenage self fought a lot with them that year and in the end, I had no choice but to do what they said. I ended up having to repeat a year of school when I moved to Brighton due to the differences between the UK/USA education systems and my circumstances. There are a lot more details I could get into about this (A-levels and whatnot) but I won’t for the sake of keeping this post from getting too long. If you’re interested in hearing them, feel free to hit me up.
To be completely honest, I was shattered. I didn’t want to be here. I don't hate my parents for this, nah, I love them to death and know they wish nothing but the best for me. I didn’t quite enjoy my time here in the beginning…
But then I met Akash in the first month of university 2 years ago, and hey, he turned out to be the love of my life. He made all the struggles, pain and frustrations I’ve been through in sixth form worth it. He’s been the sole reason I look forward to flying back to England after every holiday in Thailand (before we met, I used to dread coming back so much). I also made some really nice friends over the past few years.
I guess everything happens for a reason, right? If I had moved to America, I wouldn’t have met him and many of the amazing individuals I know in my life right now. Studying here has also enhanced my own personal growth. Over the past 5 years, I learned how to be a better daughter, sister, lover, friend and most importantly I learned how to properly take care of my own body and mind - something that I'll be talking a lot about on this blog. So, thank you mom. Thank you dad.
- and this is the part where the ranting queen inside of me comes alive, oh ho ho -
Oh god, the winter.
The summer, autumn and spring here are, for the most part, really wonderful. It’s the winter that I have a problem with. No, it doesn't rain all the time but I kid you not, the weather can change from one second to the next. One moment it’s nice and sunny, and before you know it, it’s raining cats and dogs. With a lovely touch of icy, strong wind gusts slapping your face.
You have to understand that I lived in Bangkok for the first 17 years of my life (that’s relatively a pretty long time, considering I’m only 21 now) where I got so used to seeing the sun and feeling its warmth pretty much every single day, all year long. Here? Sometimes the sun doesn’t come out for weeks, and it’s so depressing. All you see are grey, gloomy clouds in the sky. When I’m outside during wintertime - freezing my butt off - I often grit my teeth and find myself yearning for the warmth of my home country (or somewhere nicer like LA).
If I had grown up in England, I think I would’ve been used to the cold (after all, I do see British people casually walking around in T-shirts when it’s like sub-zero outside, and I’m here huddled up in my padded jacket, a scarf and a pair of gloves - and still feel cold to my bones). But I didn’t, so here I am complaining about the cold - in the same way that when some foreigners come to Thailand and complain they feel like they’re boiling under the blazing Thai sunrays and suffocating in the humid air (because they're not used to it), both of which I’m totally accustomed to (because I grew up there).
You know I’m the sort of person who tries to see the bright side of every negative thing in life, and I’ve tried to do the same for the gloomy British winter but.. it’s not happening. I’ve tried guys. I can’t find one good thing that can make up for all the bad aspects. I really loathe the winter here. (Okay on second thoughts, on the rare days when the sun is up and it's less windy, I do enjoy the chilly, crisp winter air.)
Oh yeah, and it gets dark so early in the winter but I guess the extra - amazing - hours of sunlight in the summer makes up for it.
Dressing for the cold is such a hassle.
The concept of seasons in England was a bit strange to me because Bangkok has a tropical climate which means it pretty much doesn't have any seasons - it's the same warm temperature all day, all year. Stable weather. Great stuff. I love that. It took me a while before I got used to the summer-autumn-winter-spring thing here, especially when dressing for the cold seasons.
Before I came to England, my wardrobe only consisted of what most people would call ‘summer’ clothes (to me, they were just my ‘everyday’ clothes, y’know?). Back home, I don’t have to think much about what I have to wear before I leave my condo to go outside. I just grab a T-shirt and pants, maybe an umbrella if it’s raining, and I’m good to go - any time of the year.
But here in England (or any other country with the standard 4 seasons).. nah that doesn’t happen, obviously. There’s this natural phenomenon called seasons that made my ‘everyday’ clothes cease to exist. Instead, I now have clothes for ‘when it’s bloody cold’ and ‘when it’s slightly warm’ and ‘when it’s crazy windy’ etc.
I just want to be able to quickly walk out of the door and start my day with a simple top, pants and shoes. But noo, I have to make sure I don’t freeze to death by wearing a thick jacket, a scarf, gloves, thermals, thick socks and/or a beanie as well. Ahh. So much hassle, haha. I don’t know man.. people who are into fashion and that kinda stuff may love it. But I’m the type of person who can’t be bothered to spend so much time on clothes. Yeah, I’m definitely a tropical climate kind of girl.
Okay to be fair, England is a wonderful place to go to for a holiday during winter, especially to places like Winter Wonderland. I don't mind dealing with the cold for a week or so. But I've been studying here since sixth form, so I've had to face it for years. I do love the 'sweater weather' though, and I savour every second of it.
Do you like winter? How do you deal with the cold?