I remember the exact moment when they told me I was going to spend one year in the UK. I was electrified, scared and probably million other things at the same time. I know that people can’t often understand what it’s like when you have a dream and then you see it becoming reality. And my dream, the biggest one I have ever had, until last September was to move to the UK. But, most of the time, dreams that come true have this very annoying flaw of being different from what you expected, and this is more or less what has happened to me.
When I landed in Leeds, on the 15th of September (a couple of hours late, but sometimes you don’t really care), it was cold. I remember that because they had told me, I mean, everybody knows that England is very cloudy and rainy and sad. The fact is that, in that exact moment, I started feeling a little bit alone, but I told to myself it was just the weather and everything was going to be fine. Very fine, indeed.
The day after was my first day in the city, and then I totally fell in love with Leeds. I don’t know if someone who has always lived here can understand how different things are from, let’s say, Italy. Buildings are taller and looking at their style, I have to convince myself that they’re not a church or something like that. Let’s talk about The Halo, for example: seriously, guys? When they told me it’s a club, I stared at the person for about five minutes before coming back to my senses and understanding what’s the key to survive here: not to make assumptions, ever.
It was the same with the people. When you are twenty-something years old (I’ll be kind to myself and not get too specific), you think you know what it means to be polite— the basic rules of social life. Then you move to England and you learn new things, things that would have sounded totally crazy if someone had told me just one month ago. Taking the bus, for example: how do you buy your ticket? Why do you have to queue to go in? Or buying loose vegetables at the supermarket: how can you know how much you have to pay for them? So I found myself looking at people, spying on their mannerisms in an attempt to catch what was the right thing to do. Then, during my first couple of weeks in Leeds, I felt like I was acting exactly like Harry Potter in the scene where he is at King’s Cross for the first time and has no idea how to pass through the magic wall to Platform 9 and 3⁄4: I was a muggle, if you could say that, trying to fit in a totally new world.
But when lessons started, I was ready: I knew how to take a bus and how to buy loose vegetables and I could even go around alone without getting lost. So my adventure began. Now, after two months, I can say I don’t feel that alien anymore, but I’m still getting used to some of the strange things I see.
The University is the coolest thing ever: you have the Union and all the societies and lots of spaces to study or even hang out with friends. It’s great, really, to be in a city where you can actually live the University and it is not just a place to go for classes or seminars. You can even take a coffee between classes, going to one of the many cafés in Campus. Though it doesn’t compare to Italian coffee…
That’s one of the most curious things I’ve noticed living in Leeds: there is Italian stuff everywhere! Italian food, above all. I can see why you like Cappuccino so much, but I will never forget a girl’s facial expression after I’d told her that it’s meant to be drunk during breakfast. She was amazed, as if I had just revealed to her the biggest secret to becoming “the perfect Italian-like girl”. Here’s another one: if you go to Italy, you won’t find garlic bread in supermarkets. I know it can be shocking or unbelievable to someone, but the first time in my life I’ve heard about it was when I went into Sainsbury’s. I have to admit that lots of things you can buy in Leeds are very good and, above all, very similar to the “original” ones, but I’ve been missing pizza so much! It doesn’t matter how many times people tell me how good Domino’s is… I want a pizza, guys— a real one. All in all, food is not a big problem and I’m even getting fit thanks to my half an hour walk to University and back every morning (by the way, why is everyone so surprised that I like walking?).
So two months have gone and I’ve been to London and Stratford and many other places. Now I’m here, reading an incredible amount of stuff for my essays and preparing for Christmas. I still miss Italy, sometimes: my friends, my family, my places (you know that we are quite sentimental, right?). But holidays are close and in this period everything is happier. Which gift do I want to find under the tree? Feeling at home, perhaps, and that I’m in the exact place where I’m supposed to be.