Kat McCann is a 28–year–old journalist – originally from Lisburn. She left Northern Ireland six years ago to pursue a career in journalism and now lives in London.
I left Northern Ireland because unlike most of my peers I actually stayed in Northern Ireland to study first at university for both my undergraduate degree and masters – after that I was ready to experience living and working somewhere else. Additionally, my chosen career path was journalism and I wanted to get as much experience as possible – which I knew I needed to get a paid job. While it was possible to do that closer to home I decided to take an internship working for an English magazine in the Canary Islands for nine months before moving to London and starting my first contracted job as a journalist.
My initial experience of living away from Northern Ireland was difficult – I lived in a small fishing village called Arrieta in the North of Lanzarote.
No one spoke much English and the culture was very different to what I was used to. That being said, it was also very exciting to be in new (hotter!) surroundings and meet new people. I built relationships there that I still have today, almost five years on.
Although I enjoyed my time in Lanzarote, I knew it was never meant to be permanent, and I had always wanted to live in London, from the first time I visited the city. I think it was when I was 16 – I just loved it – and I knew it was one of the best places to be to get a job in journalism.
Despite having lived away in Lanzarote I was excited but apprehensive about moving to London. I didn’t really have any friends in the city and I had to find a flat very quickly. This meant moving into a flat with five rooms and no living room for six months which was fun but far from ideal.
Luckily my new workplace was very sociable and I didn’t feel lonely for long. In the first few months I enjoyed exploring the city – going to museums, galleries and seeing new areas – it was never dull and I was glad I took the chance.
It only started to feel like home after the first year and a half – when I made proper friendships and moved to a new flat – with a living room!
Around this time just when I started to feel more settled, I was also diagnosed with a serious incurable condition called Ulcerative Colitis – an autoimmune disease which attacks your large colon – it was hard to be ill and so far from home. I partly blamed London for making me ill – no one knows what causes Ulcerative Colitis but it has often been linked to stress. I considered the fact that maybe if I had stayed at home or lived in a less stressful place that I would still be well.
After quite a dark period in my life with the illness I seriously considered leaving London and moving back to Belfast but I decided to stick it out. I had built a life for myself here and I didn’t want to throw that away. So I ended up moving home for three months to recover and get myself better. Once that happened I decided to move back and I’m glad I did.
Since then, I’ve been promoted in my job and now I’m moving to a new flat in a new area of the City which I am very excited to experience. I’ve also met someone, who I wouldn’t have if I had decided not to come back.
Coming home is something that has always been in the back of my mind, but for now I feel like I have too much here to give up. I will probably return to Ireland eventually – maybe Dublin which is also a city that has always appealed to me.
I love Belfast – the city has changed a lot since I left six years ago and has so much going for it. I really enjoy coming back and experiencing the new pubs and restaurants that the city has to offer. There is a real buzz around the place. I feel like it is a lot more exciting than it was before and I’m always telling people to visit.
I don’t know if it is the whole film industry thing, or the Game Of Thrones attraction, or the regeneration around the Cathedral Quarter but I love coming home and I can really appreciate the friendliness and openness of the people there – it is very different to London.
The lower cost of living in Belfast is attractive too – particularly compared to London which is extortionate at the moment I am happy where I am but it’s definitely a consideration for the future.