Aliya Arman reminds us what it’s like being home for Christmas for the first time, and how the excitement soon wears off.
I never really understood the saying ‘there’s no place like home’ until I realised the luxury of having heating, fast Wi-Fi, working hot water, and hot meals for free. As much as I love being at university, and living in London, there is a limit for how long you can keep up wearing two jumpers, a hoodie, thick socks and a hat to keep warm. Once you get through your final lectures and seminars, and saying bye to friends, you start feeling excited to return back to your home town. All I was looking forward to was going back to the South Coast and catching up with mates on university/work/ gap year stories; walking down the seafront with my dog; and visiting all my favourite spots again. It’s Christmas, I feel festive, nostalgic and ready to celebrate in a city that I’m proud to call home.
But the rose-tinted glasses soon come off. The realisation that your essay deadlines are coming up hits you. The wait until the second instalment from student finance becomes unbearable. The glares your mum hits you with when you refer to your university house as ‘home’. The struggle to organise a date with your friends on a day where you’re both free. The whinging from your family to tidy up your room becomes tiring. After overindulging from the day I arrived (did I mention how great it is to not eat pot noodles like it’s one of your 5-a-day?), all the way until the end of the crimbo limbo to the start of 2017, I soon realised that the boring, uneventful city I was so desperate to leave on results day is still that same boring, uneventful city.
In my head, spending 4 months at university meant that there would have at least been some changes to my home town, to the point where my family would have to tell me all about the exciting new things that had happened whilst I was away. Maybe there’d be a new shopping centre? In reality, it’s more like walking through town and bumping into your college librarian; vaguely wondering if that boy you just walked past was the same boy who was in your maths class in Year 8; and noticing that a shop on the high street has gotten a new sign. Everything was as painfully ordinary as I had remembered it to be. It felt as if I only left for the weekend. But there were some perks to being back at home, like now going to Spoons and being grateful of the fact that I don’t have to pay extortionate prices for drinks like in London. Or that I didn’t need to take a tube every day because everything was within walking distance again.
Maybe it was because my brother and I had fallen out after a heated game of Monopoly, but I started thinking about how the first semester in my first year at Queen Mary has been a lot better than I ever anticipated. It’s only once I left Mile End that I really understood why I loved being there – it’s the independence, friendships, nights out, and memories that came with it. Christmas gave me time to reflect on all the weird and wonderful things that had happened in my first term, and appreciate them even more. Even though I do love being at home, the next four years of my life at university will undoubtedly be the best, and I’m excited for what 2017 has in store.
Image: Ross Angus/flickr