The loneliness of the long distance student
A stage by stage account of how being alone in the bubble makes you go batshit crazy
We all know the Long Distance Student: their accent is slightly off, they’re still struggling to decipher what’s British banter versus what’s your genuine opinion on Theresa May.
When 8 weeks of hell, or education, comes to an end, they’re the person you ask to store your PlayStation/drying rack/skiing helmet for you while you spend the next five weeks enjoying home-cooked meals and regressing to your former dependent and whiny, 18-year-old A-level-obsessed self.
The Long Distance Student is left with the memories of friendship and some mouldy mozzarella that you generously donate from the back of your gyp fridge, alone in a ghost town of a college to rot. And in case you’ve forgotten about them, here is a brief stage by stage guide to the torment they’ve suffered this holiday.
Stage 1: Creeping Regret
You don’t want to go back to Sweden for the holidays. Why go home where tea towels are clean and meals are cooked for me when you could spend the next 5 weeks putting off going to the library and eating raw broccoli covered in hot sauce?
This all makes perfect sense in your week 5 blues-infested brain. At that point you were already somehow 6 weeks behind everyone else and thought forcing yourself to stay in Cambridge over the holidays, with nothing but the library and an occasional Sainsbury’s trip to fill your days, would be the most productive way of preparing for exam term.
Then everyone leaves. You get a little bit too chatty with your bedder. The tourists invade. Regret fills your every cell.
Step 2: Loneliness, Pain, Despair
This iswhere it starts to get weird. We’re talking getting excited when a tourist asks you to help him count his change in the line at Sainsbury’s because it’s your first full social interaction in the last 24 days’-weird. This is ‘cry hysterically at your boyfriend over FaceTime for 2 hours because he didn’t answer your Snapchat of a head of broccoli’-weird. We’ve reached ‘spend 20 minutes trying to decide which colour highlighter to use and become so confused you start questioning your entire existence’-weird.
It’s getting too weird now.
Stage 3: The Recovery
Your parents visit. You take your mum to Fez. You eat a normal meal. Once they’ve left, you almost feel like a full human being again. You decide that enough is enough: you buy 5 Innocent 1 litre smoothies to make up for the lack of vitamins you’ve consumed during the last 30 days. You develop a decent revision routine.
It lasts two days. You even start taking walks outside during study breaks to relieve your mind – and find that even more stressful because there are tourist and obnoxious spiky buildings everywhere and Cambridge won’t leave you alone. You take a train to London and try to return to normalcy.
Stage 4: Complete Mental Breakdown
A week later you return to Cambridge expecting to be refreshed. There’s only about 128.5 hours left until everyone comes back – not that you’re obsessively counting. You should be fine. Wrong. This is the end. This is where it goes from weird to psychotic.
This is the point at which you, mid past-paper, black out for 55 minutes and, once you’ve regained consciousness, find yourself with a bottle of hair dye in each hand, spraying L’Oréal Casting Crème Gloss in colour 503 all over your head. A shampoo and a rinse later you are left with purple hands and, having made no progress on the past paper, end up half-crying, half-laughing on the ground.
You have fully lost all hope of ever being normal again. When full term begins, your friends will no longer recognize you (and not only because of the accidentally purple hair).
You are a shell of your former self. And you are ready for Easter term.