Tania Perera: London has made me who I am today

Tania Perera

It is often said about New York City – but in my mind if you can make it here – you can make it anywhere. As for me, my journey is only beginning but so far, it’s a pretty exciting start to my story, if I do say so myself

I will never forget the moment I stepped off the plane when I landed at London Heathrow seven years ago. It’s not that I was a stranger to the city, quite the contrary. I was born here and visited from my home in Cyprus almost every year since, however this time I was to make London my permanent place of residence. I was fifteen years old and had just been accepted into Fine Arts College in Hampstead, where I would do my A Levels.

Following my life in Cyprus the idea of living in London filled me with excitement. In my young eyes it was a big city full of opportunities, vibrant with culture and a much-desired step towards the future, and away from my sleepy little town on a quiet island. I moved in with my Aunt and began exploring the city eagerly awaiting the start of the school year. I found myself getting lost in crowds in the West End, in awe of the sounds around me, and the seemingly organised chaos that was London.

I allowed myself to become immersed in the beautiful mess of this city and by the time I graduated from art college at eighteen, I started taking my coffee black, writing music and poetry and stopped expecting people to say thank you when I held the door for them. I was beginning to find that life here was far more difficult than I anticipated, and though the streets were full of inspiring people and places it was also, like any city, rife with tales of misery and hardship.

After graduating, I found myself facing that same question which most young people face at some point in their early adulthood; what do I really want to do with my life? Being in a city saturated with talented artists, writers and musicians, with endless choices, this may have hindered me in some ways. I felt lost and directionless, but my parents were supportive of me trying as many things as I needed to, in order to find something I truly loved and for that I am forever grateful.

I went on to study music management for a year in the hope of managing my own music career, only to find that I would rather be singing and writing the songs, not handling the structured business side of the industry. I then decided to try my hand at fashion design. I was accepted into the London College of Fashion to do a foundation year, where I could get a feel for the industry and decide if that’s truly where my heart was.

Strangely enough it was through this that I learned about my love of writing. I submitted an assignment in the form of a short story, and then forgot all about it until my results were sent to me. My teacher called me aside and I immediately began to panic. Surely my work wasn’t so bad that he needed to discuss it with me! He appeared serious and slightly concerned. Once the rest of the class had left he finally took a big breath and said “Tania, why do you want to study fashion?” I was taken aback by the question, I couldn’t figure out what he meant.

“Fashion? I don’t know, I like it I guess.” I shrugged. He paused.
“What about writing? How do you feel about writing?”
I didn’t even have to think before answering this question.
“Oh, I love to write.”
Suddenly the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks.
I love to write – I love to write.

He nodded and went on to tell me that he thought my short story was very well written and gave me the names of a few universities, which ran courses in English literature and creative writing. I got home and went straight to work doing my research. I found my dream course at Goldsmiths University. This was it. This was what I had come to London to look for. I read through the required qualifications and my heart sank. English A Level was required, and I had only done Arts A Level.

I was determined to find a way in to Goldsmiths so I rang the university. They informed me that the only other option I had was to take what is known as an IELTS test to show I had a basic English Level and then they would consider my results, along with my writing portfolio. During these few months I completed my fashion foundation and began preparing to do whatever it took to get into Goldsmiths.

Tania Perera
Tania Perera – London has made me who I am today

Finally the day came for me to take my IELTS test, my acceptance into the university of my dreams completely depended on me passing this test with a high enough score. I was nervous and exhausted all at the same time. Waiting in line I looked around me at the other aspiring students. Hundreds of young people from all over the world were nervously waiting to take the same test as I was. All of us had come to the same city, hoping that London would be the place where all our dreams were realised.

I waited anxiously for my results and eventually received the news that I passed, and was accepted into Goldsmiths University. It finally felt as though my life was starting to fall into place in London. I had found what I was looking for and the place that once felt so foreign and overwhelming to me was beginning to feel like home.

I’m currently in my first year of my degree at Goldsmiths and when I am not busy hitting the books for university, I am singing and writing songs in my own band. I often look back on my life since moving to London. It began with  looking at the city like a deer in the headlights, unable to understand how things worked in such a chaotic place, or how to keep up, and I found myself overwhelmed, homesick and unsure of who I was becoming or how London was influencing me as a person.

I now feel as though I have conquered this city. I find myself stepping in time with the surging crowds on Oxford Street and can find my way home from my favourite bubble tea cafe in China Town, in my sleep. This strange and mysterious place is familiar to me now, it’s home and I can honestly say that I never saw myself becoming this settled in a metropolis which initially dazzled and frightened me.

I have come into contact with an incredible amount of talented, intelligent, driven people with stories of success and stories of loss that I have carried in my heart with me. It is because I know that I met each and every one of these people along the way for a reason, not purely by chance. In that sense London has made me who I am today. It is often said about New York City, but in my mind if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. As for me, my journey is only beginning but so far, it’s a pretty exciting start to my story, if I do say so myself.