The piece of paper that changed everything...
This piece of paper can only be described as a lifeline, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it! I remember that day vividly, like it was yesterday. I was going to pick up our certificates when something caught my eye on the floor. In big bold letters, it read “you can travel to the UK with 2 million franc to do a masters in London.” Some may call it a coincidence that I came across this leaflet, but even today, I consider it to be a nudge from fate!
I quickly rushed home to tell Michele about my discovery, but that’s when reality came crashing down on me. “Where are we going to get the money from?” she asked and it was a great question. We couldn’t ask our mum, she was already in debt and although our clothing business made up around 2 million, we were still about 5 million short. Despite the odds being so stacked against us, I promised myself that if I got to London, I would work harder than anyone could ever work in order to make a better life for me and my family. After weighing up our options, we decided to ask our mum. This wasn’t easy to do but I was confident that if we could just find a way, just find that needle in a haystack, then my passion would get us all through.
I’m still in disbelief that we managed to find the money, but we did! London seemed like a reality, I could almost touch the double decker buses. The day I got my passport, Michele & I were so excited, we had never seen one before! This little booklet had the power to transport me all over the world? I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think this excitement could be topped but it was when I got my visa. That was one of the most exciting yet terrifying days of my life. I knew what it meant for me to get this far and I knew what it would mean for me to fail, the pressure was on. It was now time for me to leave…
The day of my flight we packed up my things and headed to the airport, I felt like I had won the lottery. Our whole family came to see me off and I felt immense pride that I, Christelle, was going abroad to make something of myself. Michele & I had never been separated, but we both knew I was doing this for us, which brought us some peace. I had never been to an airport let alone set foot on a plane, the only way to describe it is to say that I felt like I was entering heaven! It was a surreal and otherworldly experience, the only thing linking me to reality was my feet touching the floor. My flight lasted around 11 hours, 11 hours to freak out about turbulence, reflect on my past and plan my future.
The first thing I noticed when I landed in the UK was the lights, I had never seen so many lights before! As someone who lived in deprivation of most things, I was taken aback at the fast-paced life that Brits seemed to live. I never let that get me down though as I was eager to learn everything I could and more. I was like a baby taking in the world for the first time, and there was no way I was going to have gaps in my knowledge!
If there was something to read - I read it! Any questions I could ask? I asked! I wanted to know it all. It was like all my life, I was stuck in the box and then the box was opened. I studied everything; mannerisms, how people communicated with each other, even clothes and makeup! I had naively flown from Yaoundé unprepared for the harsh British winter! The concept of seasons was foreign to me, I thought weather just changed on a day to day basis, boy I was wrong! My ballerina flats were no match for the icy cold London streets and I quickly learnt that I needed warmer clothes. As exciting as all these new firsts were, I felt very much overwhelmed, as if people could see I didn’t belong. Because of this, I socially isolated myself and just focused on what I came here to do: work, study and scrape some pounds to send back home.