Foreign Correspondence: Leaving the Land of the Free

Written by Caitlin Marks
– Edited by Daisy Roberts 

You’re packing your bags, organising your room, deep cleaning everything. As the smell of bleach begins to spread and the stench of student clears, it finally fully dawns on you, you’re moving out. This room, that has housed all your belongings, been privy to all your secrets, comforted you through both emotional and mental breakdowns, is no longer yours. Now empty but for the memories you will take with you when you leave.

Austin, Texas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dramatic as that might sound, packing up your university abode is a huge moment every year. Not only because you’re finally finished your deadlines, and your exams, and you’re another year closer to finishing your degree, but because things have to change. The majority of people have to fly back to the nest. Going back to your family home after a year of living alone is, on the surface, a dream come true. You may think, finally someone to do my washing for me, to cook for me, I’m going to be so spoiled because they’ve missed me. This may be true for the first week, but then comes the eventual realisation that you have grown up somewhat. The realisation that you enjoy cooking your own meals, or eating when you’re hungry instead of at the designated family dinner time dawns on you. You find that you don’t like having to plan every night out down to the letter, so that you’re able to answer the barrage of questions your parents ask about where you’re going, who you’re going with and how, and when, you will be getting home.

For most people the transition, from the exhilarating freedom of university to the relative lack of independence that moving back home brings, is a frustration to say the least. Now imagine that you moved to a different country, completely on your own, and that you have spent the best part of a year over four thousand miles away from your family. A very long way from their opinions on what you should and should not be doing. You’ve taken less than appetising buses across state lines to spend two weeks with a friend you’ve met a handful of times. Imagine you’ve swam and tubed the rivers, jumped into one of the most dangerous areas of natural water that Texas has to offer, kayaked crocodile infested waters, all without a second thought. All these experiences and adventures, some planned some on a whim, were divulged to parents long after the fact, I watched their faces transition through pride, fear and excitement as they listened.

On a year abroad, everyone tells you to experience everything you can while you have the time, to not waste any opportunity even if it seems a little dangerous. The stark contrast between living this way and resuming normal life at home, where plans are made based on other people’s agendas, jobs and banalities, feels constricting to say the least.

All of these thoughts flittered through my mind as I flew from Austin, Texas to London. Retrospection and post-travelling blues aside, I realise that there is no reason why I, or any student returning from university, should be satisfied with falling back into our pre-university roles in our family. Each year that we spend away from home changes us so much more than we realise. Each time we come home, we have more to offer the world and more to offer our families. We should appreciate this and demonstrate the maturity we’ve gained. You can’t hope that your parents will look after and coddle you, but then also expect them to afford you the level of independence you’re used to at university. If you want your parents to see who you’ve become at university, to see how worldly you have become and how independent you can be, show them who why they should. Cook them your favourite meals, tell them about the things you’ve been participating in and what you’ll be working on in the future. Engage them in politics or newspaper headlines, show them your passions. Allow them to appreciate who you are and see you in a new light. Show them that you have grown as a person and just maybe they’ll treat you differently to how they treated the child they sent out into the big, bad world of university.