My final university exam was over. There was nothing more to do but sit back and wait for the results. I went to the campus pub with some friends who had also taken the exam, and there we met one of our lecturers, who joined us for a drink. He asked us what we were planning to do next and why we had decided to go to university in the first place. My answers were, unfortunately, not the ones he wanted to hear: I don’t know and because I didn’t know what else to do after I had finished my A levels. He was not impressed.
During the course of the conversation, he suggested that we should look into living abroad and teaching English as a foreign language. I didn’t say it at the time, but I thought it was a terrible idea. I had not moved far from my parent’s house to go to university and I didn’t like the thought of living in another country. But a couple of months in a poor job market was enough to persuade me, and around six months later I left for Ho Chi Minh.
That lecturer doesn’t know I followed his advice. He probably doesn’t even remember giving it to me. But he set in motion a journey that culminated in a book of poems, “City of the World”, focused on my time in Vietnam.