Letters from the dorm: going to university means leaving one home behind, and creating a new home abroad

By Hilary Lok, Durham University
By Hilary Lok, Durham University |

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Winter in Britain can be terribly cold, but it can represent a fresh start.

Walking through the security gates at the airport and waving goodbye to my loved ones is by far the hardest thing I have to do to earn my degree. Two years ago, I never thought that I would be “that girl” sitting alone at the gate, tearing up as I waited to fly who-knows-how-many miles away from home again.

To fresh-out-of-high-school me, going abroad for university was the adventure of a lifetime. I couldn’t wait to finally – finally! – escape my parents’ control and all of their rules and opinions. Leaving meant a sweet, long-awaited victory – who had time for tears?

But the first time I walked through immigration, it hit me like a sledgehammer. I wasn’t going away for a holiday, I was leaving to start an entirely new life abroad.

For all of the arguments my parents and I had (and still have) thanks to my radical teenage sensibilities, they are still my parents. But suddenly they were no longer just a shout away anytime I needed some unconditional love.

This was a shocking realisation, but it has made me appreciate all the little things at home even more whenever I’m lucky enough to fly back for the holidays.

Being abroad is a bittersweet experience. And if you are in your first year of university, then going back abroad for the second term is even harder, after spending Christmas at home.

Returning to the cold, British winter after being with my cats and family in Hong Kong is really quite a change.

If you’re like me and suffering from the lack of sunshine right now, chin up, dress warm and eat well.

I’m lucky that I have made friends who invite me to dinner and bake cakes with me. They really help this Hong Kong girl acclimatise to the bleak British weather.

These are the things that get me through these chilly months, and these are the reasons why, even though my home is 10,000km away, I’m still sort of “home” right here in Durham.

It’s hard to be in two places at once and call both of them home. But if you have trouble adjusting to that, remind yourself that you are incredibly lucky to have one home that is so hard to leave behind and another one you look forward going back to.

Edited by Sam Gusway