Roommates

27 07 2008

Did you have roommates or companions? Tell about them and the things you learned living with others.

Well, this isn’t the one that I thought I would be answering, because I realised afterwards that the last entry wasn’t a ‘real’ entry either. However this ties in with the theme of FIRSTS that I had earlier.

My First Year at Uni

I was sitting on the bed when I heard the knock at the door.  I paniced.  There was some kind of party going on out there in the living room but I was tired and sad and …not really dressed for a party. I opened the door, hoping that they wouldn’t notice my funny pyjamas or the fact that I’d been crying.

A lovely girl stood in the door way, a piece of chocolate cake in hand. She pushed back her long curls and tucked them behind her right ear with long slender fingers. She licked her lips nervously and her large eyes popped in her oliver skin.

“We know you’re tired,” she said. “But we thought you might like some cake.”

I couldn’t place her accent. I smiled, thanked her and then she left.

This was my first night in my new home. The one I  had waited for so many years to find. I lived, for one year only in fact,  in a student residence in Glasgow. We had two flats that shared the same living room in which Irish, Scottish, Northern English and Southern English were mixed with Malaysian, Indonesian and Sri Lankan from Singapore. That year taught me a great deal about living with others, prejudice and cultural differences… and not always from the people that you would think.

As the supposedly ‘rich’ southerner, I was the only student completely entitled to a student grant. I was lucky – they still existed back then. In fact, my parents had the lowest income and I came from the ‘lowest’ background, the first in the village and the first in the family to go to University. This ‘class difference’ was a struggle for me back then.

We lived with friends who had to deal with arranged marraiges and family expectations, who could not meet men unless they were chaperoned and who would not dare to do so because news would filter back.  Who needed to cover their head if a man entered the flat. With different cultural understandings of hygiene. Learning about Ramadan and Diwali.  Muslims, Hindus, Catholics and Protestants together.

My own judgements were challenged. I watched the little rich girl who had always had a servant to cook for her, learn how to cook from her mother in a weekend and become one of the greatest culinary hosts I have ever seen. A mother who had had to leave her one year old son and husband behind in a far away country because her company wanted her to acquire an MBA. A lady who could massage with her feet.

I learnt a great deal that year.  Not in the seminars or lecture theatres, nor from the books.  But I learnt the best lessons there are and I learnt about friendship.

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