When I applied for my UK Working Holiday visa I did so through a Canadian company called SWAP. The company then in turn transferred me to their UK partner, BritBound. I wasn’t given any further information other than I was to attend an introduction meeting when I landed in London.
I had no idea who or what BritBound was. Just around the corner under the bridge from Putney Station is Hurlington Garden Studios. It’s the correct address but I was still lost. Asking for directions I was told down the hall and the last door on my right. Further and further down the corridor I went until I came to the last door.
I’m greeted by the friendliest Australian bogan you’ve ever met. The sign says BritBound but Australian flags, southern crosses, kangaroos and boxes upon boxes of fosters decorate the room. I must the wrong place. Somehow I think I’ve been signed-up for some kind of program aimed at getting Brits to Australia. They take my name and I quietly sit down. Maybe I should just go along with it.
It isn’t until another kid like me comes through the door that I catch on. I am in the right place… it just happens to be Australia Day. More and more kids enter and eventually the initial meeting takes place. Informative, but just as entertaining the Aussie walks us through life in the UK from mobiles, banks, taxes, flat sharing, oysters, and most importantly… the social calendar.
When immigrating to another country… even if you do speak the language it is critical to do your research to set up your new life. What is often overlooked is how important having a group of like minded people is. This is my second time immigrating to a new country so I am well aware what toll it can take on your psyche. What was missing the last time I immigrated, this time I found with BritBound; A community.
Slowly overtime I started to make friends with people from all walks of life… in New Zeland. Nearly everyone I met was Kiwi (save for an Aussie or German for good measure). We’d get together and do a BritBound event such as a pub night or Cards Against Humanity. They introduced me to Rugby, rant about John Keys, NZ films that weren’t Lord of the Rings, meat pies and lamingtons. I in turn dragged them to Canada Day.
At times a photo of the northern lights over the mountains would pop up on my Facebook news feed and I’d miss home. Or I’d loose all my money to paying a bond on a flat, and I’d question why I was even in London in the first place. Instead of looking at flights back to Canada I’d look at what events were going on at BritBound and give my mates a call.
All to fast, my two years in London came to an end. While I miss the city for what it was… I was heartbroken to say goodbye to everyone I met along the way. That’s what Britbound was to me, and so many others who came before and after. A group of people so close they became family.