When I was 22 I packed my bags, flew to the other side of the world on my own and embarked on three years of new friends, new experiences and a whole lot of fun. I was going on my OE (Overseas Experience) and thanks to my grandfather who was born in Wales, I gained an ancestral visa which at the time gave me four years in the United Kingdom. I’m not sure what my parents thought, but as they waved me goodbye at the airport they probably didn’t think I’d last longer than six months away from home. It was three years before I eventually returned home with a bigger appreciation for life, new found independence and a boyfriend, who is now my husband.
So why do so many young Australians and New Zealanders make the temporary move to the UK and what do we gain from the experience (apart from all those hangovers)?
Loads of travel
I wanted to live in the UK because I was eager to travel around Europe and being based in London was the perfect spot for me to do that. Just a short few hours on a plane or train and you can find yourself in some of the most spectacular countries in the world.
There are a huge number of festivals and events in the Europe that don’t even compare to festivals in Australia and New Zealand. Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Oktoberfest in Munich and ANZAC Day in Gallipoli were just a handful of experiences that I had the privilege of attending and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
Break out of your comfort zone
I’d always been shy growing up and I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. When I moved to London I only knew a couple of friends there at the time so it forced me to go out and meet new people and make new friends. Living in a house with eleven other antipodeans definitely broke me out of that comfort zone and I know that some of the people I met will be my friends for life.
I wanted to gain some independence and prove to myself that I could accomplish something on my own. What better way to do that than travel to the other side of the world and fend for yourself? Finding a house, a new job and paying my own bills made me appreciate my money a lot more.
There is the potential to earn great money in the UK and when I returned home I saw my bank balance triple in size because of the exchange rate. Sadly that’s not the case anymore, with the exchange rate being much lower, but the potential is still great to earn big bucks (as long as you don’t spend it all on travel and booze).
The above reasons as well as the fact that New Zealanders and Australians are a curious bunch means that thousands of young ones each year are still flocking to the UK for their OE. Despite our countries being two of the most picturesque and appealing places to live in the world the prospect of gaining invaluable life and work experience in a country that has over 40,000 pubs is just too great to resist.