I have finally packed my 8 months of life into these 6 boxes. Here’s to wearing the same set of T-shirt and FBTs for the next 36 hours. I am really excited to reach home and see the familiar Changi Airport control tower as the plane lands, but I’m also having a flurry of mixed emotions at the same time. I can’t believe time has flown by so fast once again. The days pass so slowly, but the weeks and months pass ever so quickly.
I will always remember my first day moving into Schafer House because it was honestly a pretty rude shock to the UK university experience. Although the contract for the flat started on 19th September, I moved in only on the 20th because I wanted my parents to send me off to the airport — explaining my late arrival (and implicating poor Weixuan in my decisions). Corridors were therefore already lined with people and alcohol, partying with loud music.
As I dragged my 32kg suitcase to my building (Block C) I freaked out realising… that there’s no lift. I took more than 5 minutes to singlehandedly lift my suitcase to the 3rd floor with my hand carry luggages… and there were already (tons of) people partying in my flat. My new flatmates leapt out to welcome me, introducing themselves to me as I looked totally lost with my thousands of luggages and my inability to enter my room as I continued fumbling with my keys. I was not exactly ready to socialise at that point in time because I just wanted to rest after the tiring flight, awkwardly addressing myself as Ping and not knowing how to sustain a conversation with them; they had probably done up all their self-introductions to one another prior to meeting this lone Asian. Everyone was already acquainted by my point of arrival and I wasn’t sure how to squeeze myself into that table they were playing cards on… of course with alcohol. For some context of my alcoholism or the lack thereof, I flush on cider so that’s how pathetic I am. With loud music blasting in the background, I took a total of 3 to 4 hours to unpack and beautify my room, while my flatmates continued with their partying and probably moved to the club after their session of pre-drinking.
That was the start of being alone and while it was exciting, it got really difficult at times. Although Aloysius willingly came over for dinner most of the nights, I opted to snap out of that routine to properly get my life in order — I did not want myself to be dependent on anyone anymore. I was looking through all my Tumblr posts and there were many word posts ranging from “homesick” to “homesick again”. When the sky gets darker, the night truly gets harder, except that it happens much earlier in cold and long winter nights. Nostalgia can literally kill when sunset occurs at 4pm and you spend much of the day alone in your own room in darkness. For a Christmas baby who should love the holiday season associated with “jolly good times” I am so much more thankful for summer and longer days.
For the entire freshers’ week, alcohol events were constantly ongoing. Schafer House reeked of alcohol for the entire week, consisting of drunk alcoholics and freshers in clubbing attire. Unsurprisingly, I retreated into my room every single time being the true Asian I am, and ended up very much detached from the whole freshers’ scene. I just could not embrace the drinking culture which is obviously rampant in UK universities. You gradually have an “acquired taste” for alcohol in the words of my seniors, but till now I haven’t really been able to appreciate it.
(Sidetrack: Flatmates are talking about how much they enjoyed “last night”, something I never said this whole academic year).
So gradually I found myself things to do and stopped wasting time on thestudentroom reading about how to meet new people if I could not drink alcohol, if I were not close to my flatmates and if I were not invited to parties. I laughed over how Flatmate #2 brought her boyfriend home every Friday and engaged in Christian Grey inspired sex, to the point of recording voice clips of her terribly load moaning like DUDE can you keep it down. You don’t truly understand who and what exactly I was neighbouring until you have heard it. I laughed at the balls of Flatmate #1 when she pasted a note on Flatmate #2’s cupboard asking her to freaking wash her dishes to “respect” the rest of us. I talked to Flatmate #5 on an occasion to find out that her aunt and uncle were also in the Navy, she laughed when relating how he was involved in a ship crash… In months to come, Flatmate #2 and Flatmate #4 would also leave Schafer House as they leave university for personal reasons, only to be replaced by two new flatmates who were already in Year 3. Student accommodation can be scarily transient: one day they are there, and the next moment someone different would occupy the same room. I did not even get the chance to bid them goodbye.
It was also in this tiny heck of a room that I started becoming drawn to Korean culture again (in UK, wow HP), wishing to pick up the Korean language along with the rest of the world; I also started experimenting with new dishes as I watched countless cooking videos. During the Spring term I managed to set into place a daily schedule which was religiously led up till the examination period (ironically), charted weekly to-do lists and weekly meal plans. I ran thrice a week in the mornings of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday/Sunday depending on when I was free, did one online Korean lesson every two days, and played the piano for at least 15 minutes every single day on top of academic commitments in the form of readings and looming deadlines. I am honestly quite surprised by the level of discipline I had just to have more productive days, I was getting sick and tired of long winter nights of doing shit.
As of tomorrow I would be bidding goodbye to this room after Flatmate #2 and Flatmate #4, which has served me well, given me good ideas, sparked off motivations for new forms of learning and fed me really well with the occasional sleepovers and group dinners. Solitude is precious and it has given me a lot of time to think and reflect on myself, my past experiences and anyone or anything I have been thoroughly unhappy with, especially as my block is separate from the larger blocks. I truly appreciate this alone time I know I will never get back home, but I think I still prefer the noisy family.
Bye Schafer House, thank you for the past 8 months 🙂