A Blog Abroad Part 3: Home Sweet Coventry

04/28/14   |  
Julia Pankiewicz

It finally happened! After 5 long months I am back in the UK, valid work visa in hand, and have rejoined my team here in Coventry. As much fun as it was living at my parent’s house and wearing sweatpants every day for nearly half a year, I have to admit getting back into a routine and seeing the people and clients I work with face-to-face has been a breath of fresh air.

In addition to my daily work, the past few weeks have been spent trying to establish myself as a contributing member of a completely new society. Despite a huge list of similarities, there are a ton of differences between life in the UK and the US. Trying to get anything set up without a local phone number or a UK bank account is impossible, but being able to get a bank account or phone number as someone with no history in the UK is also difficult. It’s the perfect Catch-22. Luckily, PlattForm UK helped me out in a lot of areas, such as vouching for my criminal-free past, verifying my legal status, and confirming I did indeed have a job and a place to live.

I am also getting used to a lot of little differences in daily life, and as they say, experience is the best teacher. My first week in Coventry, I got terribly lost because my walking directions said to take the first exit at the roundabout, which is on the left in the UK. It was only after about an hour of wandering around I realized my mistake and was able to backtrack.

Learning the metric system and actually using it is another challenge. I’ve had to throw out a few dishes because I prepared them incorrectly. I also ordered a 400 gram jar of my beloved salsa from the grocery store and was very disappointed to see it was about the same size as a coffee cup (I went through it in about a week). An American expat friend of mine living in London told me before I moved to make sure I brought a pair of US measuring cups with me, so I did. They are total lifesavers.

Driving guide beside cappuccinoThe latest personal project I have embarked upon is learning how to drive. I have an American driver’s license, which believe it or not, is legally valid in the UK for a year. However, given the massive differences in driving, I am going down the route of learning to drive via more ‘formal’ channels. I am in the middle of studying for the written part of the exam, and my co-workers have taken to teaching me to drive a stick shift in the parking lot at work. Since 90% of the cars in the UK are manual transmissions, it’s almost a requirement to know how to drive one. We recently made it all the way up to second gear, and I’m not stalling the car anymore (well, not as much, anyhow).

There are a lot of exciting projects going on at the PlattForm UK office. My first week back, I joined several of my colleagues for The Student World fair in Dublin, Ireland. This was TSW’s first trip outside UK borders, so I was very excited to be a part of this new endeavor and see Ireland for the first time.

As far as other projects go, I am currently working on the materials for our first ever ‘Digital Media Summit’ with our partners at Coventry University. We are all getting together for an entire day to discuss how PlattForm runs digital campaigns, what our capabilities are, and ways we can better work collectively.  I will also be doing some additional research for several new company initiatives that are rolling out soon. The rest of this year is going to be very busy, but I am very excited to be a part of it!