How black and white is the concept of home?Author's own

The phrase "going home" rekindles a warm cosy fire for some, and startles a hellish burn for others. In my first year, I would return to my hometown in the holidays to work and see my friends. But now we are scattered up and down the UK and it feels ok to have outgrown each other. I hold them very strongly in my heart for raising me when my mother did not, but home is no longer with them either. As an estranged student, Cambridge is my home. Remaining in Cambridge over the holidays came out of necessity and safety at first – now, I stay by choice.

“Cambridge is easy to navigate with two bike wheels or two feet”

When Cambridge was simply my university city, I interacted with the space differently. I felt like a tourist exploring the new sites. Yet now I only occasionally go further afield. I cannot drive, and Cambridge is easy to navigate with two bike wheels or two feet. With that, it feels homely and easy to commute across, without the toxic and suffocating feel that some small cities, towns and villages can give. In term time, it may feel like that is the case, but as soon as the chaos ends, everyone moves on and forgets. The professional gossipers in my hometown would never forget.

Cambridge has so many bizarre and magical characteristics that help me forget I ever lived anywhere else. The coffee scene is vibrant, the river is always busy with punters rowers, kayakers and faller-inners. The thought of the university emptying sounds incredibly lonely on the surface. But for me, I finally get the place to myself. I wander down Kings Parade without the impending doom that I have dressed terribly and I am undeserving of a Crushbridge. I can sing so loud in the shower and fill the fridge. The porters know me by name and I can skip through plodge without a care in the world. If anything, home for me could even be the process of everyone else leaving. This place transforms into a world that belongs to me for a short while.

I am indeed not a recluse nor a hermit. I do make plans with others to keep the crazy away. But just like me, they’ve hovered in Cambridge long enough to call it home too.

I hold happy memories in my hometown, and sometimes I have a strong urge to return. But the few times I have, I have only been left with a horrible aftertaste. Only upon returning there, am I engulfed by traumatic memories and a list as long as the reasons why I left. From time to time, my accent is pointed out, and it reminds me that I am not surrounded by people that sound like me. Small little snippets of conversation reminded me how desperate I was to feel at home again. But as the months pass by, I am more comfortable with my own definition of home.

"There is a feeling of ‘home’ moving with me if I move, and staying if I choose to stay”

Home for me now is a feeling, not a building or location. My original ‘home’ lacked so much of what a real home should feel like, and that is potentially why my concept of home may be so different to other Cambridge students. In a bubble of familiar hurt, I was deluded to feel at home. But now that bubble has popped. I can safely call Cambridge my home, but I wouldn’t feel obliged to stay as I did before. Home is a tingle I feel in the presence of those who matter to me most. I will be in Cambridge until I graduate. There is a feeling of “home” moving with me if I move, and staying if I choose to stay. The feeling of comfort and warmth is not attached to material possessions for me, after having to abandon everything I own twice. I only realised not every home was riddled with violence when I turned 18, and by that point the government dared suggest I was old enough to support myself and find my own home. It has been an emotional dredge, but I would like to think I have found home.


Mountain View

Ghost towns, or why you can never go home again

Home is taking my coat off and knowing where to hang it. Home is endless tickle fights and meaningless bickering. It’s sleeping through the night, feeling safe and sound. It’s telling them every aspect of my day until they get bored of me. It’s the relief when someone brings me white bread toast in bed after catching a mystery respiratory disease in Revs. Home is a little soft spot in the universe. Home may one day be four walls and a roof, but for now, it is a feeling.

And yet, I feel a pang of guilt when I talk about going home as if it were a bad thing. I so wish that I could say “I am going home” and mean the same thing my friends mean. Going home is calming and restorative for many after a tumultuous eight weeks and ex*ms being just around the corner. With the return of in-person exams, going home may not even be as relaxing as the idea of going home. Home should be a positive experience no matter the boundaries of your concept of home.

Be kind to yourself this holiday. Rest is productive. Go home, wherever or whatever that may be and recharge those batteries.