Alessandra's accommodation at universityAlessandra Rey

Content Note: This article contains discussion of panic attacks and anxiety

A Londoner through and through – that is what I thought was indubitably true about myself. Living in London since the age of two and comprehending the abundance of accessibility, resources, grandeur, history, and opportunities that London has to offer instilled this mentality within me: London is the place to be and will forever be my home. For me, London was always the place I thought I would reside in; London is perceived and perpetuated to be the ‘hub’ of everything in the UK, and it has always felt that way to me, until recently… There are ample examples of happy memories that I have accreted residing in London for essentially the entirety of my life, but concurrently, a myriad of scars and unhappy memories too; memories I find so overwhelmingly difficult to return to or think of that are forever embedded in certain aspects of London.

Before embarking on the university/city move, I was acutely aware of certain fears and memories I had that were synonymous with certain places. When I was around 14 years old, my mum and I moved from one part of London to another, specifically because I was so fearful of leaving the house and running into certain people. There is still a certain place in London that I find so distressing to return to, that in rare cases in which it has been unavoidable, I have had panic attacks while there. With that being said, I didn’t comprehend the gravity of how deep the anxiety and the feeling of presentiment was for me, that when walking in the streets of the city in which I have always lived, the city which I have always loved, I was continually looking over my shoulder.

“I thought that I would be elated to return to London, a place I perceived to be indubitably ‘me’”

However, what I thought was more pertinent was the exceedingly beautiful and happy memories I had also made in London: strolling under the twinkling lights of Covent Garden in the evening with one of my best friends, or swaying back and forth on the swings of Crystal Palace Park. I thought that the task of acclimating to Cambridge life would be a difficult one; that I would hopefully enjoy the term time life and business of the university, but that the concept of ‘going home’ would bring me such joy. I thought that I would be elated to return to London, a place I perceived to be indubitably ‘me’. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Though I do miss my mum, my best friends in London, and the close physical proximity to them that living in London provides me with, I don’t miss London at all. I communicate with my loved ones from home daily, and London really is only an extremely short train journey away. I now don’t perceive London to be my home at all. I’m overtaken by my love for Cambridge and what it represents to me.

In the 8 weeks that I have lived in Cambridge, it has become my sanctuary. With Cambridge being an overwhelmingly ‘student’ city, and feeling somewhat enclosed, I feel a little separated from the outside world here – but in the best way possible.

When strolling about Cambridge (or most likely running late to something) I don’t feel instilled with a fear, a gnawing paranoia, or nerves filtrating throughout my body, I feel absolute contentment and joy.

Sensorily, I find London sometimes a little difficult as well. Everyone is always rushing to be somewhere, nervously running late, or barging past each other. There can oftentimes be overbearingly loud sounds, brightness, and abrasive behaviour. Of course, this is not only applicable to London, but I do find it less common in Cambridge, which I enjoy. I personally find Cambridge to be the perfect middle ground of city life, accessibility, and busyness while concurrently maintaining a calm, secluded and beautiful atmosphere.

“I truly feel at home and I have found an internal peace in living here in this city”

I also know that the friends I have made here have undoubtedly shaped my perception of the city. In the short time I have known them, I have never been happier, never felt so accepted, and never been so calm. It has become the part of my life that I would describe as overwhelmingly and consistently positive. I still can’t believe that this is my life and that I am so happy. I truly feel at home and I have found an internal peace in living here in this city.


Mountain View

My heart-shaped life

Someone said to me, frustratingly I can’t remember who, that Cambridge (in comparison to London) is a place in which “you can actually see the stars” and I find that to be, not only literally true, but a perfect metaphor. Cambridge has sifted into my life shining and glistening beacons of light and luminosity amidst a blanket of darkness. Having this sanctuary that I feel tucked away and safe in, has helped heal my anxiety about London which, although not completely eliminated, has certainly become ameliorated a little, since being here. This city, too, has provided me with such joy in so many other ways. I am grateful to call Cambridge my home.