I woke up that morning and I was soooooo nervous I was sick. And then I cried and cried as it was time to get in the car which was crammed full to the gills with every little thing I could possibly want or need. My sister who would have been about 11 at the time gave me one of her teddies, a doggie to sit next to me in the car and look after me on the way up. But all along I knew I wanted to go, I knew I needed to go.
We stopped at a service station and had sausage sandwiches and Dad bought me some chocolate. I was fine until it was time to get back in the car and then i got a bit anxious again.
Eventually we arrived in Stoke. And it was raining. Hard. We got my keys from the students union and did other various little things like registered for the doctors. Then we went accross to the halls of residence which I would come to call home In the kitchen there was an exotic looking tall skinny girl and she asked “Are you Emma?” That was Kim, my carer for the day.
My parents took some stuff into my room and left me in the kitchen with Kim to unpack my food and get to know her a little. She had called me earlier in the week to find out when I’d be arriving but had spoken to my parents as I’d been out with a friend for drinks for her 21st. So one of the first things Kim asked me was if I’d had a good time then and had I gotten really drunk? I told her that no, we’d only had one or two drinks each as the friend in question was pregnant and so wasn’t drinking. So within five minutes of meeting Kim we were having this huge conversation about what we would do if we found ourselves pregnant at that point in our lives. It was a little surreal.
Another girl came into the room, this was Patty who was one of my housemates. She was from Spain and I was trying to explain where Oxford is. Kim eventually said “you know, near cambridge” which was sooo not true but i was just relieved to have an answer that satisfied everyone else in the room. Kim and I went into my room and she helped me to put up a big friends poster on my wall and did a few little bits.
My disability support coordinator came in and said some of the other girls who would be my carers were in the cafeteria accross campus and my parents insisted I go meet them. It was still raining and I didn’t have a coat at that point and I got soaked. I didn’t say very much when we were in the cafeteria and was pretty uncomfortable. Eventually I asked Kim to take me back to my parents.
Kim left us for a while and my parents showed me where they had unpacked various things and we chatted some. Then Kim came back and said she’d be in the other room. My parents left at that point and I cried and cried once more. Kim knocked briefly on my door and came in and said “I want to hug you, can I hug you?” I could only nod yes briefly and lean against her drawing comfort from the girl I had met scant hours before as I cried out my feelings for a few minutes.
Eventually i changed into dry clothes and we went into the kitchen where everyone who would be my carers and the two other girls they would care for were along with my coordinator. I remember little of what was said only that I used my walker to get in there and that I really thought one of my other carers looked like Billie Piper.
After the meeting Anna took over as my carer for a little while and she made me a pizza to eat. We had a flat meeting where my main recollection was that a big rule was “English is spoken in the communal areas” I would later learn that I was one of maybe five english students living in that hall and everyone else was from overseas.
We went to the Students Union eventually and we all sat around a big table having a few drinks. It was hard to talk in their as it was so loud and i wasn;t very comfortable. I drank a couple of smirnoff ice’s and texted a friend from home. Eventually another girl, Sam, said she wanted to leave and i was very pleased to go.
Everyone else stayed up for a while after that but I got myself ready for bed and then curled up with a book I’d read time and time again. Anna came down to check I didn’t want to be with them but I’d had a long and stressful day and needed time to myself. After a few minutes of reading those familiar words in that unfamiliar place I fell asleep around 11:30 proud of myself for making it to uni and excited that the next morning truly would bring the first day of my new life.
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