Day 217 - Alex (2nd person I approached)
August 05, 2014 - I had an easier, less journeyed day playing host and tour guide to my friends visiting from out of town. We made dinner plans which allowed time for me to meet a stranger before sitting down to dinner, thus hopefully avoiding looking for a conversation at 11:00pm. Good thing too, because it’s 11:15pm and we just got home from the restaurant. Hosting visitors requires one to vacation afterwards. Kidding. Sort of.
Alex was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, on a quiet, treed pedestrian avenue. I approached him and asked if he’d chat with me. We talked a little bit about what I was doing and why. Alex was agreeable and willing to chat, telling me he thought the project was a great idea.
Despite being born and raised in Manchester England, Alex has almost no accent whatsoever.
“I have one brother who is three years younger than I am. We got along okay as kids. As we’ve gotten older, we've become more and more different as people with different ideas and interests. I haven’t spoken with him for a number of years,” said Alex. He went to primary and secondary school in Manchester. In the British school system, a student can finish school at age sixteen, having completed general studies. Or they leave at sixteen having done what are known as ‘O’ (ordinary) level studies. These culminate in a final examination for each subject studied. Students who have done well at this point can then leave school, or stay for another two years. With further focus in chosen subjects, the additional two years culminate in examinations for ‘A’ (advanced) levels.
“I stayed on for my A levels because I needed to do that in order to go to university. I wasn’t particularly good at school but I did what I had to do to get to university,” said Alex. I asked if he wanted to go to university because it was something he chose, or was it expected by his parents?
“I went because I wanted the experience of being a university student and the lifestyle. But I also knew I didn’t want to work in retail all my life and that I needed to go to university to get a good paying job.” Alex studied Philosophy at the University of Birmingham.
“I was interested in the works of Nietzsche, the German Philosopher, and others as well. I knew I wasn’t going to get a job with a Philosophy, but it was a subject I was interested in,” said Alex. Living in residence at the University of Birmingham was the student life experience that he had been looking for.
"I liked student life and the fun. School wasn’t as fun, but I graduated with an undergrad degree in Philosophy,” he said.
After graduating from university, Alex supported himself working a couple different jobs, and looked for a longer term opportunity.
“I did a couple of things but nothing that lasted more than six months,” he said. A year after graduating, he had done some research regarding an alternative plan.
“I looked around and found out there was an opportunity to go to Korea and teach English. It was a change of scenery, a chance to travel and a good paying job. My parents have always been supportive and frankly, I think they were just happy I found work. I’m fortunate to have the parents I do. We get along well and they are okay that I’m travelling and doing things for myself,” said Alex.
He moved to Daejeon in South Korea, a city that earned its name as ‘Asia's Silicon Valley.’
“It was a culture shock even just to be in a city with so many people, coming from a smaller city in England,” he said. Alex told me that the school at which he taught English was so fond of any accent other than one that sounded American.
“I learned to talk without an English accent and it just stuck,” he said. Alex spent three years in Daejeon.
“I had settled into a routine and enjoyed living there. I worked with some incredible people there, who were mostly from America. I also met my girlfriend there. She was teaching English as well, but not enjoying it in the same way that I was. When the time came for her to come home to Vancouver, I decided to join her,” he said. Besides his loving feelings toward his girlfriend, he also was excited by the prospect of life in a new city.
Alex and his girlfriend have been in Vancouver together for just over a year now.
“I was looking to go back to school and the day after I arrived here, I started an intensely condensed Master’s degree in Publishing at SFU (Simon Fraser University),” said Alex. I asked what he thought about attending university in Canada compared to university in England.
“In truth, I found it to be more professional here in Canada in terms of the services available to students. The commitment to ensuring students received a good product, and had a good experience. There also was a lot of post-graduation support. In England I felt when I was finished that my relationship with the school ended. At SFU, they followed up with networking opportunities. They supported me in finding a job and in getting the names of graduates into the hands of potential employers.” During his one year publishing program there was internship component. Alex worked at UBC (the University of British Columbia.
“Where I was interning we spent most of our time printing academic books for the university to use,” he said.
While Alex has completed his course work, he still has one final report to submit before getting his completed Master’s diploma.
“I got a job working in a locally based book publishing company,” he said. The publishing company is recognized, in part, for their commitment to environmental protection and practises.
“Vancouver is an amazing city,” said Alex.
”It’s beautiful and there’s so much to do here. Sure it rains, but it rains in England as well. I’m excited to be here.” Alex starts his new job next Monday. #notastranger