The Little Story of Me Moving to London: Part 1

Posted on 10. Jun, 2010 by in Europe Travel, expat UK

This chapter is the first of the series The Little Story of Me Moving to London - check out Part 2, Part 3 and the final chapter.



London by Anne Gauthier

I remember everything as if it were yesterday. The words, the faces, the feelings. The stress, the anxiousness. But let’s start at the beginning.


I’ve always wanted to visit Great Britain, as far as I can remember. The accent always made me drool. As I grew older, I discovered the musical world and was won over - and when I turned old enough, so did the pub scene. Then one day I met this amazing guy and we both quickly came to realize that one of the most important things we had in common was the vibrant need to escape Montreal and go out there, anywhere, on our own. So we had a look through his university’s partnerships – Lausanne, Sydney, Boston… all great places to go to but yet nothing seemed quite perfect. And then, it appeared, in plain, bold letters: University College London. We looked at each other and knew we had the same thing in mind. One of the best schools in the world actually offered his programme and had spots available.  No further discussion was necessary. He immediately applied for the fall semester of the following year. And from that point on, it was a total hurricane of forms (visas, school applications, insurance), research (neighbourhoods, airlines, flat, commodities), questions (how, where, when, what, why, how much)… and mixed feelings.


London by Anne Gauthier

Neither of us had actually travelled overseas and we did ask ourselves many times if the project was going to work out at all. If we were going to work out through all this. But quickly enough, more important questions took over and we decided not to think about our future as a couple but just fully live the experience, with no second thoughts. Carpe diem, or something like that.

The hardest part of the whole planning process was probably having to live in continuous ignorance.  Being predominantly inspired by Monica Geller (i.e. neurotic and control freak), it was a real challenge for me not knowing what was about to happen and not having immediate answers to basic questions: where we would live, what airline to choose, what were the costs involved, etc. It was all about short delays and quick decisions - no pros/cons lists, no long conversations, no rationalization sessions, no large amounts of documentation… all without which I was no good. Somehow I was able to overcome my stress and actually deal with these matters, a fact I am still amazed at today. They say adrenaline will get you through anything - I can only concur.

The most stressful challenge I had to face was probably getting my work visa. I applied online for a working holiday visa two months before my planned departure, which was a normal timing. Everything seemed to have gone smoothly. I did get a date and time for a biometrics appointment in Ottawa, but I hadn’t received any form of acknowledgement of receipt for my application.

London by Anne Gauthier

The only proof I had was my credit card bill - $460 was indeed paid to the UK Border Agency. Three days before the said appointment, I called them (and spent $13 a minute) and asked why I didn’t get any sort of confirmation. That’s when I learned that somehow, my application hadn’t actually been delivered to the UK Border Agency and had consequently not been processed – meaning that my appointment was voided and that I was basically out of time. Not getting my work visa likely was the worst possible scenario – it simply meant I couldn’t leave. Being dishonest and working under the table was definitely not an option - am person of principle (and a bit freaked out about the whole illegal work and prison thing). Fortunately, the lady on the phone was in a good mood and set something up for so I could keep my appointment and fill another form in 72 hours. All I had to do after the biometrics appointment was to wait for the refund to be issued.

Two weeks before departure, I still didn’t have any idea where we would be living – we did ask for a spot in the Student Halls but the clerk we spoke to told us that since we weren’t married, we didn’t stand a chance. Subsequently, we went on a flatmate hunt on Gumtree and ended up finding the perfect Scottish couple - only to learn two days later that we were surprisingly granted a self-catered studio in Ifor Evan Halls, in Camden. We couldn’t refuse that offer for many reasons, mostly financial security, although we were really disappointed not to experience an authentic flat experience with locals. But mail being mail (i.e. archaic and inefficient), we received that letter one day before the reply date – sending our acceptance form cost over $80.


London by Anne Gauthier

Later on that week, Zoom Airlines (yup, that was our airline) went out of business. I learned it on the news in the subway on my way home after work. I can’t say I had a positive reaction to this news, considering I started crying and thinking I was obviously doomed and that these were signs telling me not to go and what had I done to deserve this.  In other words, Monica flipped out. It was just too much to take, too much stress to handle for such a big life change on such a short notice. I didn’t even want to go anymore at that point,  and it wasn’t even because of a dreaded possibility of cold feet, but simply because nothing  worked out as planned. That was seven little days before our departure.

The flight we finally bought departed from Burlington (two hours away) on to New York and then to London. That’s the only flight we could afford as direct Montreal-London flights sold for around $1400 at that time. I didn’t exactly have that kind of money lying around in my sock drawer.

Having all the details finally figured out (I might have even prayed at one point), I luckily managed to find (and maintain) my inner poise and go through a somewhat uneventful final week. I could definitely feel the ambiance changing though, slowly becoming more nostalgic even though we hadn’t  gone yet.


London by Anne Gauthier

Our friends organised a little celebration before D-Day at a little bar we liked on the Plateau, in Montreal. Celebration there was indeed. I’m not exactly sure how it finished, although I do remember the unarguably strong smell of beer and the sentimental atmosphere - but on the other hand, it was very exciting to know that most of them would come and visit.

My last day in Montreal was a horrifying shopping frenzy. Money belt, additional luggage, Sterling Pounds, passport cases, carry-on emergency kit, everything. I wasn’t even jet-lagged and yet I was already exhausted.

Later on, ze last dinner came around – everyone gathered at my mother-in-law’s house, some smiling, some having Puss in Boots eyes. A card was given to us. Everyone we loved signed that card with sometimes funny, sometimes tender words that either way made me cry the hell out of me and realize how much I would miss them, something I hadn’t really thought of before.

The night before we left was probably the strangest night I had in my life - although I was weary, I just couldn’t sleep at all, yet again torn between sadness and anticipation. I really had not idea how I was supposed to feel. I woke up from a semi-sleep at 5AM and sewed a Canadian flag patch to my backpack, listening to the morning show for one last time. I finally managed to turn off the TV, took a deep breath and got ready to embark on this new, gigantic adventure.

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9 Responses to “The Little Story of Me Moving to London: Part 1”

  1. Anonymous

    13. Jun, 2010

    Wow, quite an adventure :-)

    It’s interesting to see all that went through your mind during the few weeks preceding the departure!!


    Reply to this comment
  2. Glyn

    15. Jun, 2010

    I came here from the Trip Advisor website and will definitely be back to read the next chapters.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Manon

    16. Jun, 2010

    Can’t wait to read the next chapter !

    Reply to this comment
  4. Marie

    16. Jun, 2010

    Thank you for your comments - Chapter 2 is on the way!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Veronique

    10. Jan, 2011

    Oh… C’est si mignon! Il n’y a rien comme l’adrénaline du “néant”, quand on ne sait pas à quoi s’attendre. C’est stressant, mais grisant aussi. C’est notre drogue, j’imagine… :-)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      10. Jan, 2011

      L’adrénaline est une drogue, en effet… je recommencerais demain matin. :)

      Reply to this comment
  6. Gray

    20. Feb, 2011

    Yay, you flew out of Burlington! I’m surprised at the price differential, though. I’d be willing to bet it’s cheaper to fly out of Montreal now.

    Reply to this comment


  1. The Little Story of Me Moving to London: Part 2 « Eurotrip Tips - January 10, 2011

    [...] This chapter is the first of the series The Little Story of Me Moving to London – check out Part 1 here. [...]

  2. The Little Story of Me Moving to London: Part 3 « Eurotrip Tips - February 6, 2011

    [...] chapter is the third of the series The Little Story of Me Moving to London – check out Part 1 and Part [...]

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