Readapting to a British lifestyle
The good news is I got three A’s and a B in my final semester at Harrow International School Beijing – way above what I expected and much higher than what Durham, my soon-to-be university in the UK, required. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been celebrating.
But the celebrations made way for more serious work as August came and went and I soon found myself faced with the reality of returning to Britain to begin life at university. Leaving family behind to settle down somewhere alone can be an emotional time, and I have to admit it was a bit of a shock having to wave goodbye to my parents at the airport in Beijing. I was loaded up to the hilt with a huge suitcase, a fencing bag, a carry-on bag and a backpack ñ not to mention nervousness. What if the bags were over the allowance? If I went over, would they let me on the plane? One thing was for sure: If I didn’t get on that plane, I’d be seeing my family again a lot sooner than I planned. Luckily, I managed to make it through without any problem.
Eleven hours later I touched down in Manchester on a surprisingly bright and sunny day in England. With no significant delays and only minor grumbles about the sternness of the flight attendants on the long flight, overall it had all gone very well. Coming from an expat family, I’ve flown quite a lot over the past few years; in the words of Bob Hope, “I’ve almost been to as many places as my luggage.” Thankfully, my luggage was there to meet me at the airport, as was my grandmother to give me a lift home.
Since my classes at Durham didn’t start until the end of September, I was left plenty of time to try and get used to living on my own in Graigfechan, a village even harder to pronounce than it is to spell (the “ai” sounds like “eye” the “f” like a “v” and “ch” like a Beijing taxi driver about to launch one).
First up, paperwork. Lying somewhat surreptitiously on the table were several important forms relating to Durham, explaining what to expect in “freshers week” – the first week of term for first year students. I had never written a check before but am well practised now; among the costs were a bed linen set, university sports membership, a “freshers week” charge, and – my personal favorite – a university gown that set me back 45 pounds.
Still, I feel comfortable about readapting. Initially, I had some trouble coming to terms with the fact that you only get one dish per person and that asking to share, as I had become accustomed to doing in Beijing, is considered odd. Then again, after a Sunday roast or portion of fish ‘n’ chips, the need for more food is unlikely.
And so, while I miss Beijing and my family there, it seems I am starting to settle back into being in the UK, despite its very different way of life. With the first day of class creeping closer and seeming more ominous by the week, I’m sure by the next time I write all the fun will have begun.