Photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
“I’m from Salisbury, a small city in the South of England. I moved to Bristol when I was 18 to study ancient history, with little idea of what kind of degree a job actually requires. After a while, what I was studying felt irrelevant and wanting to study something more pertinent, I pursued a master’s in international development and security. I studied Yugoslavia as part of my course, so I applied for an internship in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I had initially planned to be there for six months, but ended up staying for five years.
Bosnians are extremely welcoming, funny, and interested in why and how you’ve ended up there, as well as your opinion on the country. I loved talking about football and politics with the locals, two topics which always provoked debate. Bosnians are very open and upfront, which was initially a cultural shock; in the UK we often skirt around issues, particularly with colleagues. You always know where you stand with a Bosnian, a quality which I very much admire. My best friend there told me: “Before I met you, I used to think all Brits were really stuck up.” I hope I changed his mind!
Living abroad certainly teaches you to appreciate other peoples’ points of view. Growing up in a small city in the UK, I had always felt detached from stories of war on the news, and I certainly had no reference point when I became good friends with people that had suffered genuine horrors during the conflicts in the 90s. I think the experience helped me grow as a person, but I could never pretend to even remotely understand the horrors that they had been through.
I would have stayed longer had the opportunity to move to Thailand not come up. By then, I’d fallen in love with Bosnia and Herzegovina. I had made a lot of friends, both Bosnian and foreign, and had found my niche in the city. I felt very comfortable there, but I think that was part of the problem – I felt too comfortable. The three cities that I had lived in prior to Bangkok have a combined population of less than a million, which pales in comparison to that of Bangkok. The sheer size of the city is daunting which made me feel a little lost for the first few months. Thailand is certainly an extremely beautiful country, but I think I’ll need to be here for a long time to fully understand it.
I do miss my friends and family. When something happens in the UK, Brexit being a prime example, all of my friends get together and talk about it – being away from home often makes me feel detached. The UK is still home for me, and I feel very lucky that I am able to return whenever I want, but I feel that recent issues have highlighted very real divisions in the country. I didn’t think I’d be a migrant in the long-term; I always imagined myself settling down in the UK, but now I’m not so sure. However, I’ve learned from living abroad never to make plans.”