Grace Burton: Home really is where the heart is, and I left mine in Aberystwyth

YOU CAN NEVER go home again, or so it’s said.  When I came to university two years and three months ago, I cried. When I came home for Christmas three months later, I cried. Something about Aberystwyth put me in a chokehold that year, and it doesn’t seem to want to let up any time soon.

Something about Aberystwyth put me in a chokehold that year, and it doesn’t seem to want to let up any time soon.

“Something about Aberystwyth put me in a chokehold that year, and it doesn’t seem to want to let up any time soon.”

I wouldn’t want it to seem for a second like I don’t love my family, and I’m led to believe they’re quite fond of me too. This aside, in all the times I’ve made the journey back home from Aberystwyth, I’ve never managed to shake the sensation of having a rock in my stomach as I watch the town fade into the distance. Admittedly, that feeling of dread may have something to do with the dubious pleasure of being a patron of Arriva Trains Wales for the next three hours. Most of it, however, is down to missing the town and everything it represents more by the second.

‘Aberystwyth fatigue’ is a sensation familiar to many a third year student, and perhaps even some of the more jaded second years. It’s not uncommon to feel envious of those that have gone as far as – gasp! –  Birmingham on the weekend and have come back telling tales of chain stores, coffee houses and (-can you believe it?) motorways. More and more people start finding excuses to get away for a day or two, and the cabin fever sets in as you realise there’s months until you’ve got a valid reason to leave the bubble. Then we all get back home and within days social media feeds are filled with people longing to get back to Aber.

Is it Aberystwyth itself that’s so enduring? Or is it the freedom many of us associate with it? Maybe it’s the top quality learning spaces offered to us for the bargain price of £9000 a year? I can probably rule out that last hypothesis, but in all seriousness, not everyone I know seems to be quite so fond of their university towns and cities as almost everyone I know is of Aberystwyth.  I’m sure everybody has had a near-identical conversation with their friends at home about what everyone “even does all the time” in Aber and has haughtily reeled off a pub-related statistic. I know I’m not alone in being quick to speak disparagingly of Aberystwyth, but even quicker to defend it when someone else does the same.

It’s the contradiction in almost everything about Aberystwyth that made me fall in love with it. Isolated yet bustling, simulatenously desolate and beautiful and a populace divided between students and those who resent us with every ounce of their existence. For me, it’s Aberystwyth’s ability to make me feel simultaenously significant – not being able to walk down the street without recognising a handful of people – and insignificant – that feeling of minuteness I’m sure we all get watching the sun set from South Beach never gets any less overwhelming – that epitomises everything I feel about Aber.

I don’t even want to think about how big that rock in my stomach is going to be when I do finally leave for the last time, even though I don’t know when that might be. All I know is home really is where the heart is, and I’ve left mine in Aberystwyth.