A 'Czeched' in ticket to the UK

by Karolina

I was born in the Czech Republic which is also where I lived for about 10 years before we moved to England and my whole life went downhill kind of in a good way like a really good drop on a rollercoaster although at the time I wasn’t very happy about is as all I was focusing on was the sheer panic of such a big change.

In the summer of 2013 my brother and I went on a summer camp. It lasted 2 weeks and every morning we were taught English and the rest of the day we had a brand new group activity that added up to a camp competition. I vividly remember sitting in our car on the way back home. I was still very excited about the events of the last few days. Our team ended up winning the competition and I happened to be the one to complete the last task we needed to secure our victory. On top of that, I got excellent feedback from the English teachers. Looking back, I remember that my English was relatively decent compared to the average 10-year-old in the Czech Republic but the idea of moving to England was something that wouldn’t even cross my mind. I mean I could barely have a conversation let alone have all my lessons or ask for assistance in a shop all in English. As I sat there in the car, my smile slowly turned to tears as my mum explained all the upsides to moving away from our family, our school, my friends and generally what I considered as a very successful social life when I was 10. I think the thing that stopped me from completely going out of my mind was my mum’s reassurance that it’ll be just for one year and then we’ll go back (except that wasn’t true but more on that later).

So, a few months later we packed some of our belongings and on the 8th October 2013 we flew to the UK (I’m pretty sure we flew to London Luton airport – not that that’s relevant in any way). At the time my Aunt had lived in Oxford for a few years now so that was our destination. We lived with her for a bit before we moved in with a family that rented us two rooms.

Within about a month we were all settled into our new home and despite being utterly terrified, I was going to school for the first time. My mum walked me to school and we talked to the head teacher. Even though I introduced myself with the Czech pronunciation of my name (the way everybody said my name my whole life) she asked how to pronounce it and only gave two options for the answer; the British versions of the name. That was quite daunting. My life just turned upside down and now my name is changing too? But I just figured it’s better than everybody struggling with saying my name. When I first entered the classroom, the first question was what my name was. I automatically said my name (my actual name) I was really anxious and wasn’t really thinking, however, nobody really seemed to have an issue with it so I thought “Well that’s convenient!” and moved on. Later on we had an assembly and the head teacher was making announcements, one of which was that there were two new students in school (me and a younger boy). When she pronounced my name wrong, a lot of the people from my class shouted my actual name in correction so since then that’s the name I use and nobody seems to have too much trouble with it.

When lessons started, I had absolutely no clue what was going on. Now, when I have trouble with school work I like to use the phrase “might as well be in a foreign language.” The reason I love saying that is because there was a time when all my school work actually was in a foreign language and I still remember how challenging and perplexing that was. (I also like saying “might as well be written in Greek” when referring to maths or chemistry as both of those subjects often use letters of the Greek alphabet such as pi or delta). The first week I carried around a piece of paper with “I don’t understand” written phonetically on it because that was still a bit too advanced for me and I kept forgetting how to say it. The only subject I slightly understood was maths. 6x3 equals 18 in any language. Plus I was good at it. The maths level we were at in the Czech Republic was higher than here so for me it was just a refresher of the basics but even when we started learning new stuff I still enjoyed it so I put an effort into it.

Now we have been in the UK for about seven and a half years which is considerably longer than 1 year but I’m happy (well, I’m a depressed A level student having to deal with the mess of covid so I’m not happy in general but what I mean is I’m happy with the decision to move to England even though I didn’t seem to have much say in it). I now prefer English to Czech and my primary school love of maths fuelled by its international aspect turned into a passion. I have a got a conditional offer to study maths at Warwick University and provided everything goes well, I would like to get a PhD in mathematics and work in research so I got a pretty exciting (well, exciting to me) job aspirations out of this. Not to mention all the amazing friends that I have here in England without whom I probably wouldn’t have made it through 7 years away from my family or through a fairly difficult time in my life when I got depression.  

Karolina

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