Fitting everything I thought I’d need for my first year of university into a handful of boxes, bin liners and one trusty blue bag from Ikea, I remember moving into my university accommodation with the unshakeable feeling that I’d left something behind. As it turned out, I had forgotten numerous things – my ID among them – but I nonetheless felt that Southampton was missing something that made it home.
That feeling stayed with me for much of my first semester. I struggled to make friends, I rarely agreed to go for nights out and avoided participating in anything university-related outside of my relatively small contact hours. I often ask myself whether I regret the failings of my first semester, and I have finally come to the conclusion that I don’t. The choices I made defined my experience, and for once I feel as though I made the right decisions; if I had chatted to everyone instead of focusing on establishing a few significant relationships, I would never have made some of the best friendships of my life; Southampton has given me a fiercely loyal but questionably paced best friend, as well as a friend who is genuinely nocturnal, and another that openly admits to having a Mexico fetish.
Had I joined lots of societies, I would probably have felt satisfied with my attendance to events and socials, and I probably would not have pushed myself to run for positions on the committees of the two societies related to my academic discipline. I am passionate about the roles I have taken on, and I’m excited to see the new directions they will take me in.
Finally, if I had gone out all the time, I fear I would have gotten bored of it all before finding one of the gems of Southampton – the Mexican parties. I’ve made countless new friendships and strengthened numerous old ones amidst the Latin music and free tequila.
While I may not have gained as much from my first semester as I would have liked, I’m sure those I’ve spent it with will agree that this second semester in Southampton has been a blast, and I’d do anything to go back and do it all again.
On that first day in Southampton, my big sister commented on the strangeness of being able to move a person’s life from one place to another with relative ease. It’s true that I certainly wasn’t lacking in books or films or cooking utensils, and it’s true that my whole life seemed to fit on the back seat of one fairly average sized car. However, a testament to what was missing back then can be found in some of the objects I realise I’ve acquired upon unpacking my life again back in London: that old Ikea bag is filled to the brim with books and films I’m sure weren’t originally part of my collection, and I have a fairly thick envelope dedicated to new drawings and paintings. I’ve also gathered around 11 new hot chocolates, most of which were gifts from new friends who have discovered my age old obsession. Most importantly, I have a box of mementos from strange happenings in and out of Southampton.
I have photos from Mexican parties, photos from Christmas, photos from the times I visited my family. I have train tickets and concert tickets and tickets to balls, and labels from beer bottles, and collages and letters and poems I’ve been sent. I have a box of things that mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than the people who were present when I acquired these things, and that is exactly why these things are so important.
Spending a year away from home was a massively daunting experience, and the first 12 weeks I spent in Southampton did little to ease my concerns. But these last months have been some of the most amazing of my life, and coming back to London feels a little bit like I’ve left something behind again. My heart no longer lies in London, nor does it lie exclusively in Southampton; like all those seemingly worthless trinkets I’ve gathered, my heart is scattered between people and places and moments in time. Home is not a place but a feeling, and I can only hope that feeling continues to grow throughout my time at Southampton – and beyond.