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When I arrived in England

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tabitha M. Lee
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Prior to moving to RAF Mildenhall, I was stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, so I knew from experience that foreign countries can have unique differences. But I was unaware of what I would face when I moved to England.

When I got off the plane, I expected to be able to understand everyone I talked to -- I mean, they do speak English after all. When I approached the customs desk however, I realized I was wrong. I had to ask the gentleman to repeat his questions several times before I could understand what he was asking me. At that point, I began to appreciate the challenges that lie ahead for me.

Once I arrived on base, Right Start was my first priority. At RAF Mildenhall, this is a two-day course that offers insight about inprocessing and what to expect as a newcomer.
On the first day, there were briefings by base leaders, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, housing, and other organizations that had information useful to me during inprocessing.

The second day consisted of an overview of driving rules and regulations and ended with the exam to receive my license.

Honestly, I wasn't sure if I even wanted my driver's license. Driving on the opposite side of the road was intimidating and seemed like an extremely hard challenge to overcome.

My husband told me just to think, "left, left" in my head and I would be fine. The truth is, I never realized how much concentration it takes to drive. Once one aspect changed, it was like learning to drive all over again. I had to remember to leave space on the passenger side of the vehicle so I wouldn't hit the curb and to look to my left first, for oncoming cars, when pulling onto a road. With my concentration spread so thin, I found myself forgetting simple things like using my blinker.

Because driving here made me so uneasy, I decided to take the AcciDON'T driving course offered though the 100th Air Refueling Wing Safety Office. It was very helpful. Through in-class instruction and behind-the-wheel driving with the instructor, I gained confidence in myself. I even did the treacherous five-way roundabout twice that day, which I never thought I could do.

Once I was able to drive myself places, I was eager to explore, but intimidation brought me to a halt again. It was a scary thought to venture out in another country that I wasn't familiar with.

I remembered from the A&FRC briefing during Right Start that there was a bus tour I could attend to get accustomed to the local ways.

The tour went to Bury St. Edmunds, where I shopped at the local market, practiced talking with the locals and learned how to order food at a pub. After this trip, I felt more secure about venturing out to explore England.

If it wasn't for these and similar programs, it would have been harder for me to adapt to my new lifestyle.

Coming to a foreign country was challenging and intimidating, but I am glad I didn't let that stop me. By seeking out newcomer programs my base had to offer I was able to get to out and get to know my new home.