I can’t believe that less than nine months ago, I arrived in the UK and London for the first time, in awe of the city’s night lights and the famous landmarks that I’d seen countless of times in the movies and in television shows. Coming out of Heathrow after a dreadfully long immigration queue with two huge bags of luggage, I was ready to begin a new chapter of my life 6,736 miles away from home.
The first things that went into my bag then were the essential documents (school certificates, offer letter, etc.) and all my winter clothing (long-sleeved shirts, jeans, tights, stockings, jumpers, down jackets, trench coats, etc.). Then more difficult decisions had to be made. Which books (I eventually decided on a notebook, a scheduler, my Bible and two biographies I’d been meaning to read), which short-sleeved shirts and shorts and how many to bring, shoes (I’m sure all the girls can feel my pain here, especially the high-heels which are so annoyingly difficult to pack) and of course food! In the article Three Chopsticks, Calvin Trilin noted that, ‘culinarily, [Singaporeans] are among the most homesick people [he has] ever met.’ No exception from this stereotype, I was more than happy to allocate some precious luggage weight to packets of instant malt chocolate, my favourite instant noodles, and some uniquely Singaporean sauces and pastes.
After that first ordeal, I thought I would be an expert on packing now, but it turns out that packing for the second time in my uni life is not any easier. I was fortunate to be in Bankside House, a hall which offers residence during the winter and Easter holidays, which meant unlike my friends from other halls who had to pack up and vacate their rooms during the holidays, packing up my things strewn all over my single en-suite room was never a concern to me.
As I’m returning home for the summer break in just two days, I have to pack not just suitcases of clothes and items to bring home, but also boxes of things that I want to leave in the UK as I will still need them next year. Here arises a double dilemma, for I not only have to decide what I want to bring home and what I want to leave here, I must also make a decision on what things I should keep and what things I should throw. Packing might not be a big problem for some of you, but as a hoarder, packing is one of the things I really dislike.
Packing decisions should honestly come as no surprise to me, as I have been well-trained by budget airlines’ strict restrictions on carry-on luggage (ah the miserly seven kilograms). I found these ticket stubs as I was clearing out my drawer, which reminded me of my various travels in the UK, Italy and Amsterdam. These mere pieces of coloured and inked paper should really by chucked into the waste-paper basket as I no longer have any use for them, but at the same time they represent such good memories and serve as reminders of an exciting freshman year.
I have decided to keep them in an envelope and bring them to my new apartment which I will be staying in for the next two years. I’m still not quite sure what I’ll do with them, but I might stick them up on my wall or a cork board (if my artistic skills do not fail me).
Bankside House is one of the few halls on the south of the river, which has been a unique experience indeed! While the location is occasionally inconvenient when I have to been to visit friends who mostly stay north of the river, staying just opposite the Tate Modern and a few minutes’ walk away from the South Bank has its own benefits. My hall mates and I have often moaned about the long walks we take to school and to meet friends at Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, etc., but when it was time to move our boxes to our new apartments north of the river, there was a strong sense of nostalgia for the abundance of culture and bustling activity (see: skateboarders, buskers, artists and many more) along South Bank (both in the day and night).
On the other hand, there are things that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t pack into boxes. Okay, to be fair, they aren’t things – they are people. Strangers who have become fun-loving friends and confidantes, and who have been an integral part of my growth as a person.
The small apartments in Central London can only fit so many people, so now I won’t be just three doors down the corridor, or two floors apart from my friends. Still, I believe that the friendships we have forged are not merely circumstantial, but ones that can last despite our busy schedules and not being able to see each other as often. Perhaps learning to make time for one another will teach us more about friendships as well!
I can also definitely be assured that the embarrassing memories will never be forgotten. I am certain that the stories of how I scratched the car rims of the rental car on a road trip and had to pay an exorbitant amount of money, or many other unimaginably stupid things said and done, will be brought up as conversation topics even twenty years down the road.
At the same time, I’m very excited to be staying in a lovely apartment with one of my hall-mates and one of my course-mates and I’m sure that will bring new, fun and possibly amusing adventures of its own!
So it turns out that while packing is not the most exciting or anticipated activity, finding unexpected items and making certain decisions on what to keep has allowed me to reflect on an eventful freshman year. Of course in retrospect there are things I wish I had done (travelled more, explored more of London, etc.) and things I hadn’t done (or done so much of), but it has been a truly great year of exploration, growth and maturity.
I should get back to folding clothes and finishing all my snacks (so I don’t have to pack them) now, but before I get caught up in necessary trivialities again, thank you LSE, and thank you London, for a wonderful nine months! I’m heading back to the tropics for my yearly dose of Vitamin D, but I will be back to face new challenges and opportunities soon!