I have no sense of direction. Never had and don’t have any illusions of acquiring it in the future. During my first days in London, we decided to go and explore our new neighbourhood with my roommate. Our plan was pretty simple – get out of Regents Park straight onto Baker Street. Walk down the road and get back before getting lost. The plan worked well until we decided to turn right and look around a cute little square. 100 meters off, we got lost and panicked. Thank God, that we have GPS and Google Maps nowadays – I can easily pass for a seasoned traveller with their help.
A few weeks into our stay with the host family, we got introduced to one of their other sons. While the youngest one was like a cuddly IT teddy bear, his older brother was someone who caught attention of two teenage girls from the very beginning. After a chat with his family and, of course, tea, it was time for him to go and for us to sulk about such a brief meeting, when his mother suggested that he shows us how to walk from Chalk Farm to Regents Park’s Inner Circle, so we could walk to our classes instead of always taking a bus. She was the kindest woman, who instantly earned our gratitude.
As neither my new roommate nor I lived in London before, we had no idea about Camden. Imagine two clueless teenagers emerging from a tube station and diving right into that psychedelic parallel dimension. Multicoloured shops selling multicoloured things; I’m saying ‘things’, because I had no idea what some of those were. I was probably too busy staring at a giant boot sticking out from a building’s facade, so I did not notice when the crowd parted and gave way to a guy all in black leather and metallic spikes. After bumping right into that gothic novel character, part of me was in shock and another part wanted to ask where he bought those amazing bracelets.
On my flight from Kiev to London I was joined by another 17 year old destined to achieve academic heights in a far away land. Dana also just graduated from school, was enrolled on the same Business English course and set to live in the same hall of residence. I’ve never met her before, but all those arrangements were made through the same company, planning education abroad, and they thought it would help us get used to the new place, if we become friends.
“Thank God, I’m out!”, were Dana’s first words as we said good bye to my dad and her mom in the airport. “Finally, I can do whatever I want, without listening to all that nagging! And I could use some change of scenery, for sure”. That sentiment required a cup of coffee and a cigarette as soon as we were through the passport control. Within the next couple of hours we managed to get to know each other a little and I starting having a hint of a doubt rising inside me, whether we would indeed just hit it off and be best mates, sharing a room and all. To say we were different would be to put it mildly. We were quite the opposites.
“If you want a child to learn how to swim, throw him in the water. If you want a child to learn how to live, send him away.” This was one of my father’s most favourite sayings. I guess, I’ve got to feel lucky that that wasn’t the approach he took while teaching me to swim. However, the second part was implemented just as promised. At 17, shortly after graduating from high school, I was sent to London to study. This is how my journey begun, from a Ukrainian town to one of the world’s largest cities, from a confused adolescent to finally finding my own two feet.