The beginning of the end, and other clichés

By Kat Hind

It’s happening. You’ve finished exams, graduated or decided to leave university life forever and self-fund your one man play. Either way things are pretty fantastic in these sweet seconds of living in the moment. Then comes that ominous silence called decision time, *add expletive*. What comes next? What are you going to do to carry on this feeling of ecstasy? This feeling, in my opinion, crashes into nobody more than a year abroad student. It may be narcissistic, in fact it most definitely is, but knowing the end is upon us and that on your return you will be in the same graduating year as the ones you once sneered at as they replaced you as freshers, while your original year are now adulting – well it’s daunting and depressing all in one fell swoop.

It’s never easy to say goodbye, to admit it’s the end. With a holiday it can be a relief as you knew it wasn’t a long term thing. It was a one week stand, a hook-up that you didn’t want to last forever. The sunny glow can only last so long and then you’re relieved to be on your way back to your real life, in fact your real life feels slightly cosier for the whole affair. With the year abroad, however, the aim is utter immersion. You want to create a new home, a new routine: you’re living abroad rather than just holidaying. You start to get accustomed to the way of life in this new faux-home. You make new friends, find a local gym, a local cafe and a local watering hole. Just as Durham so quickly became a home away from home a month into first term, so does France, Spain, Germany or Russia.

How then do you accept the end? Just as graduates may feel, this wave goodbye is bittersweet. You’re obviously looking forward to the future, but it’s hard to let go of the past – that being said I suppose it would be easier if you’d had a horrible year of flea-ridden accommodation, no hot water and out of order street harassment (interestingly all of these happened on my year abroad and yet still I maintain it was an incredible experience).

In order to ‘let it go’ a plan of action is always best. In grief, organisation can help comfort the soul. Not too long ago I left the beautiful country of Jordan. After just three short months it was time to return to the glitz and glamour of the United Kingdom. Before leaving I made my bucket list though. This list was not filled with classic tourist haunts – sorry Petra, you are beautiful but this was not that kind of thing. It was a short list, after all I only had three days to get it done and dusted, and included things I’d kept putting off because they were either in Amman where I was living and ‘I could always do that tomorrow’ or they were activities my friends had told me I just had to do.

The list was threefold;

1) Visit the black and white mosque

Up on one of Amman’s beautiful mountains stands an equally beautiful mosque. Striking in any panoramic photo for its uniqueness the black and white mosque, or Abu Darweesh, is exactly what it says on the tin: purely black and white. It reminded me of a chessboard, or perhaps something out of Alice in Wonderland, as it was so stark and intense amongst the yellows and beiges of the regular Amman skyline.

A few days before departure I headed up the mountain to meet a very good friend and tick it off my closure list. It turned out to be my favourite day in Amman. Upon arrival I found my group building a kite with some local children. Half an hour later and after a few up close photos of the mosque we headed off with our handmade kite to a random field, with a random shopkeeper and one Turkish chicken. Best of all…it flew! If there was ever anything more romantic than flying a kite, as the sun set, and symbolically saying farewell to a city with good friends in tow then I would have to bow down in awe. Kite flying = an excellent way to greet the end.

2) Order from Queensburger

Much as Durham has Urban Oven, Amman has Queensburger. 3am and on a rooftop, like any true Jordanian I was able to phone Queensburger and order a free delivery of pepperoni pizza. My address? The roof. Amazingly, and true to legend, they found me. Food is always a fantastic memory to have of a place, albeit perhaps not cheap takeout food, but if you have fond memories of a cuisine you never truly have to let it end. Bring the country to the kitchen and fry up some falafel chez toi.

3) Acquire a street sign

Whether legally or not so much, I was always so jealous of the many houses I saw with authentic street signs from around Amman as part of their decor that I just had to have one. I suppose it’s again the need to not let go of somewhere fully, to hold onto a part of it that drove me to the street with a flat-headed screwdriver. My sign will stand proudly in my house next year as I marvel at the one vaguely daring activity I undertook over the year.

In short, this is a long winded way of saying don’t let the dream end. Keep it alive through sheer grit and determination. Whether it’s a trip back to Durham once every five years, or a long distance pen pal halfway across the world, the things you do to say goodbye to a place aren’t really serving this purpose. They’re done in a desperate attempt to forget the flea infestation and remember the amazingness of it all. Why bother letting it end if you can keep holding onto it, even just a fraction of it?

Photograph: Jia Wei Luk

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