Dragging my suitcase into a halls building that housed more people than my entire village back in Devon felt like the much needed start of a new life. I was ready to leave the quiet life behind and start living loudly. I quickly had more friends living in a 1-mile radius than I did in a 10-mile radius back at home and the independence of living away from home in a totally different environment felt like stepping into an entirely different world.
Adjusting to city life wasn’t easy but I managed it. Soon I knew the student areas of the city like the back of my hand and I found myself thinking less and less of the small sleepy life I had left behind.
Returning home for my first reading week after just two months at university was exciting. I got to catch up with all my friends, most of whom had decided university wasn’t them. The week flew by and I didn’t really have time to stop. In my frantic week, it hardly felt like I was at home at all. I had a similar experience over Christmas. I was so busy enjoying the festivities and revising for impending exams that I didn’t really have time to stop.
Easter break was different. For the first time since arriving in Manchester I felt like I was coming home. Nothing had changed. I woke up every morning to the hee-haws of the neighbouring donkeys and fell back into the routine of taking my dog for his morning walks. I’d chat to my friends as if nothing has changed since I last saw them, picking up from where I left off as if my life in Manchester was something very separate to the life I was living in Devon.
Over the next couple of years, this feeling of separation only grew. My friends at home worked full time jobs and Manchester is a five-hour train ride away; it wasn’t like it would be easy for them to enjoy this part of my life with me through termly visits.
During my last trip home, the Christmas break of my final year here, my friend told me it felt like I had a double life. Returning home feels like pressing the un-pause button on that part of my life and coming back to Manchester began to feel like the same. As I enter my final semester studying here at the Univeristy, it feels like I am confronted with a forked road: choose the Devon life or the Manchester one.
While I have plans for further study that mean I won’t be returning home for the next year at least, the impending close on this chapter of my life has me thinking a lot about the future. Where exactly do I want to start setting up my life? Where do I want to find my dream career? Which friends am I going to choose to see more often, my southern or northern groups? Where offers the lifestyle that feels more authentically me?
The truth of the matter is that these decisions can’t be made following a formula. Simply saying ‘follow your heart’ won’t help if your heart lives on two different sides of the country.
The main advice I would give to someone feeling the same as me is to think about your next steps and main goals. What job do you want? Where is going to provide you the most opportunities in reaching that goal?
What helped me reach my conclusion was the realisation that neither place is going to go anywhere. Manchester will still exist to return to if you live in Bristol. Birmingham isn’t going to disappear because you’ve decided to stay in Manchester. All you need to consider is what next step is going to bring you the highest benefit.
For me, the village I grew up in can’t offer my dreams a whole lot. It doesn’t mean that once I am qualified to pursue my dreams that I can’t return one day.
The size of these decisions makes them feel more permanent than they actually are. This can feel confusing and overwhelming. If you remove the sense of permanence you may find, like me, that the right path presents itself to you.