I met Mikeila Li on Instagram when I asked for information about moving to North Wales. Her response was so heartwarming I didn't just want to include a short quote but instead thought her wise words would resonate with lots of people. Moving to a new area, from a different country, newly married - it makes me quake! Mikeila has clearly thrown herself into life in Wales and her advice is very sound.
From Canada to North Wales
I was born and raised in Canada. I grew up in British Columbia, which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the Canadian provinces. To the coast of the Pacific ocean, to the tip tops of the snow-covered mountains, BC has all a nature-lover could ever hope for.
My husband Tony, is a engineer. He was born in China, but moved to Canada when he was 11. Soon after we were married, he was given the opportunity to do his masters and PhD in physics through the University of Huddersfield. The university has a little lab in a building owned by Glyndwr University, in the St Asaph business park in Denbighshire, North Wales. So, we decided to move there at the beginning of January 2017. Neither of us had been to Europe at all before this.
Tough times to start
The first five months or so in Wales wasn't great. I was extremely homesick, and lonely (missing my young siblings and all our family connections back home) I was only 20 and both of us felt very lonely, and very set apart from everything we had ever known. We were both swimming in completely new territory; attempting to figure out married life, as well as life in a new land. People I met kept boasting about the beauty of North Wales, but I didn't see it at that time. All I thought was beautiful was my British Columbia. It took me quite a while before I started to open my eyes to what was around me.
What do we feel now about living in North Wales
Fast forward a year and three months later, and I am so incredibly thankful to me living in North Wales. It still isn't as beautiful as Canada, in my own mind, but it has it's own beauty. A unique beauty that I hadn't seen before. I am not only an outdoorsy person (I LOVE plants, maintains, flowers, wildlife, and my favourite way to enjoy these things is through hiking), but I am also a history lover! I'm majoring in history in university at this very moment! So, of course, North Wales is the perfect place to be! Surrounded by nature, and all of the long, ancient history, just waiting for me to discover. I can't stop reading books about Owain Glyn Dwr, Llewelyn the Great, King Edward I, and the ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd. I am trying my best to learn Welsh, so that I can keep up with a three-year-old, who I have made friends with. He speaks what people around here call "Wenglish", so in order to keep up with him, and understand the other half of his speech, I'm having to learn Welsh. But I'm loving every second of it. I have even mailed books to my parents and sister back home in Canada, so that they can learn some Welsh history and legend with me. Perhaps they aren't as keen on it as I am, but I don't mind. I am just loving soaking up all of the culture.
How did it change
Very shortly after we moved to St Asaph, we started attending Llanelwy Community Church. A VERY small Baptist church, that ran their services in English (yay!). We soon found community there. Honestly, if it weren't for that church, we would probably still be super lonely, and struggling to make connections. The people in that congregation taught us so much and helped us through so many things. Since both Tony and I are relatively new to adulthood, we need A LOT of help and guidance when it comes to figuring out adulting. People in the church helped us figure out government forms, helped us find our way around, and even came to the aid when we got a flat tyre down a back road, late at night! We would be so lost without these people.
Something else that really helped me was my parents and sisters coming to visit in September. I was able to show them around North Wales (plus York, and Ireland, which was so fun). That instantly made it better because now, when I tell my family about things that are happening here, they already know a bit about it. They have been here and seen the places I talk about. It can relate to them. That is so special, and so helpful.
How can others help do what we've done
I would say to someone who is maybe feeling like I felt when I first came here would be: immerse yourself in the culture and community. Get involved in things that will take you out of your comfort zone, and help you experience life, and feel a part of what is going on. For me, that was the church, as well as helping out at a toddlers group that happens every week on a Tuesday morning. That group connected me with mum's and families in the area even though I'm a not a mum yet myself.
Also, I started taking violin lessons with a lady who teaches primarily Welsh folk music. I have been paying the violin for 10 years now, but I have NEVER played folk music, so that was completely out of my comfort zone, and ability when I first began. But I actually enjoy it so much more than playing classical, and it has grown me and stretched me in so many ways! Because of these things, I feel so much more a part of the community, and while I am still homesick a lot, it isn't half as hard as it was before, and I am enjoying my time in this country so much more.
It's temporary but forever
Even though we are only going to be living in Wales temporarily, I feel now that there will always be a part of my heart that is left here when we move back to Canada. And I will always make sure to have a few Welsh touches around our home when we do move back. Some slate coasters, maybe a little flag. Perhaps I will bake Bara Brith for everyone back home, and make it a regular dessert (pudding, as they say) in our household. Who knows. But I do know now that part of my heart will always be in Wales, and Wales will always be in my heart.
Please do pop by and say hello on my instagram page and if you're thinking of moving here let me know so I can answer any questions you might have.