I have been away from home and studying in UK for three years. I spent one year in Leeds and two years in Edinburgh. Now in my fourth year, I am in Philadelphia, US. I can still feel my anxiety and insecurity when I first arrived here two months ago.
It is a historical city with diverse ethnicities. Skyscrapers are located in the heart of the city, with old buildings clustered only a few blocks away. When sun sets, the city appears unrest –dim street light, few pedestrians, tramps. wandering on the street. I missed Edinburgh. I missed those peaceful nights when I took a walk across the midnight meadow.
My life is much confined to the campus of University of Pennsylvania. Whenever I have a short break, I am eager to escape from my dorm and studies, traveling around, relaxing and indulging for a while. Till now, I have visited New Jersey, Washington D.C. and New York.
Washington D.C. is the capital of US. It is the cleanest amongst the three. In the northwest of D.C., there is a district called Georgetown. Stores arranged neatly on the both sides of the streets. They are pretty bungalows, selling clothes, cupcakes, make-ups… A busker singing Taylor Swift added to the pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in the small town. I felt as if I was back to UK.
For me, New York and Philadelphia are not places for living but to earn some Money in the hustle and bustle of city life. The charm of the country that attracts so many people around the world flooding into it is the illusion that, here, every dream can be justified and realised if people strive for it. Living is fighting for the future, accompanied by overwhelming psychological pressure. It is a place where I will temporarily reside but will never settle. I missed Edinburgh. I missed the time when I took a walk alone to the Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat just to watch a sunset from the top of the city, calming down, relaxing and refreshing myself — a form of escapism for me.
I have a roommate from Belgium, but she is ethnic Chinese. She finished middle school in Belgium and came to US afterwards. She spent three-year high school in Massachusetts, one-year in UCLA and then transferred to Penn recently this year. We are persons with distinct personalities: She is super-rational while I am dominated by my emotions. She loves logics, physics, philosophy which I am rarely fond of. Still, we chat, attend events and go to the Philadelphia Orchestra together, while she never talks about her inside feelings with me.
One day, when I was near mental breakdown because of the course load, I found her on the sofa in a low mood. She revealed herself to me for the first time. Wandering from cities to cities separated her from family and closest friends. As they know little about her state of lives, she felt a barrier to communicate with them. She acknowledged the fact that she may never meet a person that will know her and will be ready to support her. And No where, can she find a sense of belongings, even back to Belgium.
Since a child, she has been used to controlling her emotions opposed to expressing herself. She does research, has a stable and full GPA…She sets time for her negative emotions and forces herself to get rid of them in order to back to work efficiently. Even though the topic is heavy, she talked in a light tone as if she was talking about other people’s business. Unlike what she appears to be, she is a girl of affectionate nature, sympathetic, and most considerate towards others.
I saw my own shadow while looking at her. We are passers-by.