I consider myself to have two lives. In one life, I reside in a semi-detached cottage in a rural village with my family, with chickens living in the garden, an overly vocal cat called Dudley and a bus on Sundays that was only introduced this year. In the other, I live in the middle of a growing city, with everything right at my doorstep, and an endless array of activities and social opportunities.
It’s the strangest sensation to come home after a semester at University, whether it’s for the Christmas, Easter, or summer holidays; or just for some light relief after exam period. You feel in limbo; it takes a while to settle back in. In my case, life slows right down. It takes three times longer to get anywhere back here; there are no lectures to go to; no meetings to run to and no deadlines. My social life is reduced, and I tend to feel restless, or at least I did in the first two years until I finally got used to it.
Allow me to briefly introduce you to my home back in Kent. I live in a small village that can only be described as, for Hot Fuzz fans, Sandford-esque. There are no murders, or warped neighbourhood watch teams, but everyone seems to know everyone’s business. It’s quiet – a far cry from being in the middle of the student-populated area of Portswood, Southampton.
The area surrounding my home village, complete with Kentish Oast Houses
However, as quiet as it is, I do really love my home. I live in the beautiful countryside, near a river and a country park, and my house has a lush green garden which is heaven to sit in on a hot sunny day. The food is better at home, naturally, with the fridge fully stocked and dinner not consisting of the same meal rotated twice a week. I am around my friends from school and, most importantly, my family.
It’s not just the alteration in location: little things change when I come back from University too. Everyone has to move out of their designated places on the sofa when we watch a film, since I’m back to take my place, à la Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. My family must alter their routines and habits slightly too to accommodate the return of the wandering student. My room must cease to be a storage area for laundry, paperwork and lost items, and the cupboards must be restocked with numerous types of cereal (which happens to be one of my weaknesses).
Nevertheless, there are things that I have at University that home cannot provide me with: an unlimited social life, slightly more control over when and what (and how much) I eat, and the ability to do things that aren’t the norm - like staying in pyjamas all day during essay period. However, I am in no way smothered here and am given as much independence as I wish. It is the separation from the lifestyle and people that you have become accustomed to being around every day for the last year that renders you feeling limited and lost. It’s quite a shock to suddenly feel so isolated in a place that, before University, was your whole world.
I may have painted this separation in a negative light - but in reality, it’s just another part of what makes life at University so special. Your life expands, you experience new things, and opportunities pop up everywhere. I may feel slightly isolated when I first come home, but I do not feel at all trapped. It merely serves to allow me to appreciate it all the more – and gives me a chance to relax.
Many of you will be starting university in September. You will soon call university ‘home’, causing confusion in phone calls and a pang of sadness in the hearts of mothers everywhere. But it’s an exciting time. Let’s face it, once you’ve graduated and got a job you’ll probably have just one life, one routine, and one home. Make the most of the ability to come back for TLC, some home comforts and space away from the humdrum of student life, safe in the knowledge that you will soon return to that busy lifestyle and state of independence that makes University so incredible.