Finding My Feet Again In England
This article was originally published on 2nd July 2012, and appeared in both the print and online edition of The International Telegraph.
Finding My Feet Again In England
Student Brittany Stewart, 17, reflects on coming to terms with her Australian present and past in the UK.
So I “barrack”* for an AFL team, appreciate a good pavlova and have tried (badly) to master the art of surfing. It’s taken four long years for me to feel this way about Australia, my adopted country, but it certainly feels something like a home now.
I was only 13 when I arrived, and now nearly 18 I can look back at my time here in a different light. A part of me will always be English, but really the majority of my memories are now based around Australia. I’ve experienced some important milestones: growing up, finishing high school and now starting university.
I certainly hadn’t always planned for it to work out this way. The first two years I embraced Australia, but there was no doubt in my mind that for university I’d “go home” to England.
But the more time I spent here, the closer I got to people and the more my mind started to fill with doubt. In those two years, I hadn’t even been back to England on a holiday. What if things had changed? What if I didn’t feel the same way about England as I used to? What if I moved back and realised I’d made the wrong decision?
Going back to England for the first time in 2010 was certainly an emotional journey. The weather was uncharacteristically sunny, the shopping that I had missed was just as good, friends and family were still there and most things were just as I had remembered. The ties I felt to England were just as strong as ever, except something was different. It was now no longer the only place I had ties to.
It wasn’t intentional, it just sort of slipped out. It was an innocent conversation, an easy question about how my trip was going. “Great”, I said. “Although it’s so different to back home.” I stopped as soon as I had said it.
The holiday had finally made me realise something. Now, I was the visitor to England – a foreigner to all the things that had once been so familiar to me. It had taken a trip back to my old life to make me fully appreciate my new one.
Despite my change in attitude, my initial plans of returning to England for university were now impossible anyway. As I had been educated the two years prior to university outside of England, I would be considered an international student. In those circumstances, it just wasn’t practical for me to go back, so my plans for the future had to be altered slightly.
After completing the International Baccalaureate and getting into my first university preference studying journalism, I celebrated by travelling with a friend around Europe. It was only my second time back to England and this time it was by myself, without family by my side. Despite my strong homely feelings about Australia, something just felt right as I flew into Heathrow – a reassuring feeling came over me, like I was returning to something familiar.
The trip was eye-opening in so many ways. Travelling to Paris, Berlin and Rome and then back to England with a friend meant a great deal more responsibility and freedom than a family holiday. It was the first time my two previously separate lives – my past in England and my present in Australia – had collided.
It was only when this happened that the reality began to sink in. I wasn’t completely over England. Being back, seeing family, visiting familiar places caused old emotions to resurface. Before, I could pretend that my lives spent in England and Australia were completely separate, and I think this had helped me cope emotionally. Now, they were merging together, colliding and I was forced to confront something that I had not really thought about for a while – that I was still unsure about where exactly I considered home.
Being back in England, I felt at home but also like a stranger at the same time. When the time came to leave, I was looking forward to returning to my Australian life but the tears that came when the plane finally took off took me by complete surprise. I still have those days where I feel torn and wonder what life would be like if I’d never have moved to Australia. If given the chance, would I trade one for the other?
It’s taken a long time but I think I’ve finally reached a conclusion I’m happy with.
I don’t think I will ever just be one or the other: English or Australian. There are times when I feel so proud to be both. Other times I just feel torn between the two. Now I’ll be a dual citizen and maybe that’s the best thing for me.
Having lived on the opposite sides of the world, I’ve finally realised I don’t have to choose between the two or feel restricted to one place for the rest of my life. Although it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, perhaps emigrating overseas was the best thing that could have happened to me.
* Australian colloquial term meaning “to support” such as a sports team