I was born and raised in a small village on the outskirts of Sheffield. In fact, out of the three houses I have lived in throughout the past 18 years, two were on the same street. I thought I knew what home was. Home felt like it was that house, on that street, in that village, in that city. But since moving away, I have realised that home is just a feeling.
When it came to looking at universities and their surroundings, I knew I wanted to move away, but I also knew I wanted somewhere where I would feel settled, where I would fit in. I craved that feeling I had at home; the feeling of safety, the feeling of acceptance and welcoming. I did know for sure that I wanted to move away – I craved a fresh start, a new beginning. Living on the same street for 15+ years comes with its pros and cons. Of course, the familiarity is nice, it is comfortable, but there comes a point where you want to see new faces and get to know new places.
I came to look around Derby a few times before I moved here in the September of 2018, not just for Open Days and Applicant Days, but for overnight stays and wanders around the city. I wanted to know what I was ‘letting myself in for’. With so much going on in the first few weeks of uni life, I feel this was a great thing to do as I already knew Derby somewhat when I arrived in my first week. I knew where to get a loaf of bread and I knew where the Wetherspoons were (spoiler, there are two bang next door to each other). It made settling in a little bit easier.
My Mum raised my brother and I to see home as the people around you. It didn’t matter where we lived, whether that was on a specific street or in a specific house, as long as we had each other. That was, and still is, the most important thing. I knew that if I had my two people there, nothing else mattered. So when it came to moving away to university, the thought of leaving my “home” behind petrified me to an extent. Yes, I was so excited, but I was very apprehensive too. But my Mum also taught me another thing – she taught me to take every opportunity that gets thrown at me, and not to be held back by anyone or anything. She constantly reminded me that she’ll be back in Sheffield, cheering me on. She also reminded me that I can go back whenever I please, and that we can FaceTime all the time. Which we do, a lot.
With all of that in mind, I settled in almost instantly. Yes, there were hard times, evenings where I would think, “what have I done?!”. But it all came back to the same feeling. The feeling I had created for myself, here in Derby. A huge pivotal part in my journey so far was when I came back to Derby for the night during the Christmas break. I had a work commitment, and I decided to come back to my flat for the evening. As the train pulled into Derby and I saw my new (ish) city, I felt like I had come home. I had left Sheffield, 45 minutes prior, but it didn’t feel like I was leaving something behind. Like I mentioned, I have lived in Sheffield forever. For some reason though, that didn’t feel like home anymore.
That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my family. Or my friends. Or my dog. I take them with me as I navigate this uni thing. Quite literally – my mum comes to Derby all the time as she loves it so much here. I know I will always be a “Sheffielder” deep down, and my family house still feels like a home regardless. My new room is decorated with pictures, older ones and more recent snaps too. There are ones of people who are physically close, great people I have come to know because of being in Derby. But there are ones to remind me where I came from too. I like the mix of the old and the new. It reminds me that I am surrounded with people that make me feel at ease, wherever I end up in the world.
As my taxi drove down those newly familiar roads, on that cold January night, I sat back and thought about what home meant to me now. Was it the building I was heading to, or was it the house I had just left? I smiled to myself as I realised, home is within me, and it is just a feeling. I can take it wherever I please.