x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Home for the hols with new stories and old friends

Old classmates who are now at uni are flying back to Dubai from all corners of the world. It's a relief to discover that their time at university has been as overwhelming, odd and exciting as mine. That doesn’t mean it’s all rosy, though.

University students have returned home for the holidays, and to hear them tell it, they’re thrilled, judging from the status updates with copious numbers of grinning emoticons. Facebook is inundated with gleeful photos of the Burj Al Arab, captioned with hashtags followed by phrases such as “touchdown Dubai”, “look, no jackets”, “about time” and “camel milk”.

Old friends of mine who are at uni are flying back to Dubai from all corners of the world, too, and meeting them was bound to get emotional. The drama of our reunion would suggest that we were long-lost sisters, separated for decades, rather than a bunch of former classmates who’d only been away for three months and messaged each other every day.

It was as if we’d never left, we declared sagely. It’s strange that we’re all at different places now, but probably no stranger than the fact that we were friends – all the way from school – despite coming from different nations and backgrounds – Hungary, Pakistan, the UK, Australia, India.

We’ve got pretty varied courses between us, too. Veronika is at Durham, UK. She is going to be a criminal psychologist, which is apt because we’ve played the role of her patients – or criminals, if you will – for long enough. She’s astonishingly good at analysing our conversations, and sees through us to call our bluffs.

Shanzeh is a future engineer at Imperial College London, no doubt having gained her skills from our masterful physics experiments as lab partners. Sara moved back to Australia, planning to do medicine; it’ll be satisfying to have someone to gripe about anatomy to. Prianka, meanwhile, is at Wellesley in the US and seems to be doing a course with a whole lot of subjects. Maybe she’ll end up as a sort of Renaissance woman.

The girls all appeared much more poised and less giggly at first, which was alarming. The levels of maturity disintegrated quickly enough, thankfully, and we were soon back to safer territory of trying to top each other’s stories of the most disgusting incidents experienced at university. I offered a graphic description of a neighbour who had festering vomit splattered all over his shower for three days, before getting it cleaned up. The account didn’t take the cake, which indicates the level of exquisite “intellectual” sparring I was up against.

Adeela, who used to live on my street, dropped by the other day as a surprise, as she’d done every day for years. She’s an outdoorsy person, and hospitality management at Les Roches in Switzerland would give her plenty of opportunities to prance about in alpine meadows, à la Heidi, if she wanted to.

The jitters of leaving for university have settled, yet being home and seeing familiar faces is comforting. It’s a relief to discover that uni has been as overwhelming, odd and exciting for my friends as it has for me. And even though work will only increase from here on, for now, we’ll enjoy our well-deserved holiday.

The writer is an 18-year-old student at Cambridge who grew up in Dubai