Foreign in London: Alex

Hi, my name is Alex and I came to London at the end of August 2011.
6585I finished university in Romania in Geography of Tourism. I did a master’s and I found a good job as a travel agent. The job was in the field that I studied which was nice. It was an office job. I was learning a lot but in Romania even with a job you can’t afford to live in a rented house so I was living with my parents. I was 24 years old so it wasn’t that bad.
6564My ex-boyfriend at that time had a sister living in Italy and another one in London. We wanted to leave Romania so we picked UK because we both speak English and we thought it’s going to be easier.
A friend of his was living across the street from a pub. When I arrived to London we first went to his flat to leave the luggage and then we went straight to this pub for a pint. It was the first place I have been in London and it turned out I will be working in that pub for the next four years and a half.
2045At some point… I think it was about three months since I have been here, my ex-boyfriend and I broke up. I had about 3 pounds in my account and I didn’t have a place to sleep. There were lots of people that helped me – surprisingly – because I only knew them for a few months.
Most of the friends I have in London now, I met them through the pub. All my life was there.
We were having fun and we felt comfortable, like a family. It was fun and that’s why I stayed for 4 years and half, and also you get in a routine were you lose yourself. When you work in a pub you work late shifts, you finish late and then you want to drink because you were serving people the whole day and in the end you need a pint. You stay up till 5 in the morning. Go home. Sleep and then wake up, take a shower and go back to work. It’s a different lifestyle which is hard to get out of, and quite easy to get into. It’s fun but I knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. Plus time passes really fast… A problem with everybody in London I think.
4146Once I was in the pub on a morning shift and I was feeling a bit frustrated. I was cleaning the candleholders and thinking “What am I doing with my life?” I decided I want to do something I am going to be passionate about. The idea came with forensics science. You are doing something that’s going to make the world better, I know it sounds a bit pretentious but you are helping to solve cases and catch bad guys. Justice. I applied but I thought I would never get in. But they said yes. At the same time I found a part time job as a receptionist for a private student accommodation. Of course I quit working in the pub.
2030Now… Now I am on my last year of studying. Still working part time as a receptionist in the same place. With the people I was really good friends I’m still managing to stay in touch even if we don’t text every day or every month. I see them and it’s like we didn’t see each other from yesterday. It comes naturally. With others I’m a bit sad we lost touch but it does happen. People come and go and you are busy as well… but I think the good ones just stick with you. No matter what happens in life. It’s like socks in a washing machine. Some of them get lost on the way while some others stick to the tumbler.
2026I think that life gives you things even if you don’t see it and then when you have all these things together you kind of need to make that step, even if it’s scary. So if you want something hard enough, you have the power to make it happen.

Behind the Rainbow: Katie

My name is Katie.
I am from London ish. I grow up partly in Romford and partly in Mitcham and then I left London when I was 18.
I went to University in Warwick and lived in Coventry for six years. And then I lived in Cornwall for two years. I moved in there with my ex girlfriend. I had this idyllic picture of living in the country side and doing loads of writing and being inspired but I had a job where I was driving a lot and on the road a lot and so, connecting to the country side, it didn’t happen. There wasn’t enough there for me plus the relationship ended and I just thought: it’s the time for me to go back to London.
3112
When I came back to London I said to myself: “One thing that I want to do when I’m here is get a gay social life”, cause I didn’t have that. So I thought I like sports, so I decided to look up gay sports teams. I found a softball club. That was my first door opened in the gay community.
I started to really understand and I’m still learning what an LGBTQ community means. How important it is and how important the place of that kind of community is to people who don’t have access to LGBTQ life anywhere else.
3411I realised I fancied women when I was about 14. Once I realised, I was like: ok, this is alright. I didn’t have a problem with this but I understood that other people might have a problem so I didn’t tell anyone for quite a long time. I wasn’t ready to talk about it either.
When I was 16 I started to tell some people. My friends gave me a really safe space. I was very lucky. They took me for who I was.
I told to a couple of teachers. My mum. Mum… mum didn’t have a problem with it but at the time I think she thought “I wish you weren’t”. Now it’s not a problem at all. It was just a shock to her. She needed some time to adjust and process but that was cool. She had her time and then she was fine about it. My parents always have been supportive with me and my siblings. Finding our own path. Making our own decisions.
My grandparents… they were the hardest because they were just… my grandma was obsessed with when I would get a boyfriend… classic grandma. So having to cover that up, that was the hardest. Especially when I had a girlfriend. Eventually I told them. They accepted it straight away.
3008
At one point my life got bad cause I got cancer. I was married at that time. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this relationship. Towards the end it became… I guess what people call “emotional abuse”. When something like cancer happens to you and you survive it you make decisions about choosing happiness in your life.
So I left and this was two years ago and we are now divorced. I came out better than when I started. I am managing my time and my schedule and putting my health first so… after a lot of stress… I come out alright in the end. If I didn’t have cancer and hadn’t left my marriage, definitely I wouldn’t be in this place now. It inspired me to take the decision to pursue my creative side which is writing.

I am proud I have such amazing people in my life. We have been in and out but we have cultivated incredible friendship. I have so much love in my life. I am proud of putting myself first in the last two years. I am proud I am doing my writing now and it’s starting to get traction so It’s a long process. Anything creative tends to be long, writing in particular. Things don’t happen overnight. Persistence and perseverance are really important. I understand that in a way I never did before.