By Aisha Sembhi
Several students are blessed to find ‘their people’ early on during their university years, and a select few within this group are able to understand the elation that comes alongside living with these friends. I was lucky enough to experience such a thing – living with my best friends during my second year gave me a newfound sense of confidence and security, allowing for the full indulgence in what is considered the typical university experience of late nights and later starts.
And then, the universe decided we were enjoying ourselves too much, and decided to introduce a pandemic to our timeline, confining us to our homes. What now?
The beginning of this academic year has certainly been a personal period of reflection over the last two years, forcing me to relearn my idea of ‘fun’. I’ve come to realise that, whilst my second-year had felt jam-packed with event after event, the only real social time our household shared was either wholly related to our academic endeavours (mid-lecture chats, pre-seminar panics, and hours-long library sessions that we utilised as an excuse to catch-up), or in preparation for a night out. I found myself slowly morphing into a routine that consisted solely of turbulent evenings and mornings in recovery, unable to do much beyond getting out of bed.
Socialising only under stressful or chaotic circumstances is something I have no intent on romanticising. However, the reality is that it was a routine I, like so many other university students, understood as the norm.
And yet, without really meaning to, my housemates and I have successfully found worthwhile replacements during the lockdown. The unintentional creation of household traditions has allowed for us to create social time that is entirely separate from academic-related stress. Thursday nights are dedicated to our movie of choice and a takeaway, whilst weekend mornings are for coffees and catch-ups in the kitchen.
Other less consolidated traditions include attempts to find alternatives to our individual hobbies and interests that have been cancelled, including college sport. What started out as an ironic suggestion to do Zumba in the living room has evolved into my housemates and I following YouTube workout videos, half tackling it with seriousness and half being unable to concentrate because we’re laughing too hard.
Perhaps more revitalising is the realisation that socialising within the household does not have to be limited to these pre-arranged activities. Afternoons follow us with our laptop’s downstairs, sprawled across the communal living spaces, enjoying the silent company we did not know was possible beyond the Bill Bryson Library as we engage in individual study. In the evenings we share the kitchen space, enjoying a meal as a household before engaging in heated FIFA tournaments or pointless YouTube marathons.
What are intended to be five-minute coffee breaks between lectures turn into hours-long chats in the living room over anything and everything – political persuasions, religious and spiritual beliefs, childhood stories, and beyond. For the first time, I see my living space as a peaceful environment, one in which I can immerse myself and live comfortably.
This is not to say I do not miss the chaos of last year. There is something so irreplaceably hilarious about hearing of housemates’ one-night stands and bonding over a hangover after midday. However, the substitutes have provided more amusement than I could have ever imagined. In no way has this pandemic been a ‘blessing’, as so many are insistent on. But it has forced a reconsideration of my idea of fun, and ultimately, this reflection has been positive.
As it turns out, I truly enjoy the plainer aspects of socialising. I am yet to decide if the gravity of this revelation is depressing, or if the simplicity of it is replenishing. Most likely, it is a bit of both. Either way, I am grateful for its occurrence, and even more so for my housemates.
Image Credit: Aisha Sembhi