I fell in love with Sheffield. There’s no doubt about that.
It wasn’t an instant love though; I didn’t turn up on the first day of freshers in 2017 and experience love at first sight. I spent my first semester at the University of Sheffield homesick, missing London, my family and my school friends. I was shy with cripplingly low self-esteem, and I wanted nothing more than a solid group of friends that I could explore Sheffield with.
Whilst my start was a little rocky, over time, my love for Sheffield grew and grew. By the time I was starting my third year I was head over heels in love with the city. I loved all the parks, I loved sitting on the hill in Crookes Valley Park in summer with friends, laughing at the students swimming in the dirty water. I liked running around Weston park in the mornings, stopping to look at the ducklings swimming in the pond. In first year, I enjoyed my weekly shop at Tesco on Ecclesall road simply because I got to walk through the botanical gardens.
I felt a calming sense of happiness on day trips into the peaks with my housemates. I felt so grateful to live somewhere so close to stunning countryside. Whether it was swimming in the reservoirs in summer or showing my family the views from Mam Tor in the middle of winter, I just loved it.
I look back with fondness on the messy nights out. I miss singing at the top of my lungs whilst running down West Street, the failed attempts to get to the front of the bar in Pop Tarts and even the freezing walks back home at four in the morning. I felt safe in Sheffield, surrounded by students who were just as obsessed with the city and the uni as me.
I could probably write a dissertation on my love of all the independent coffee shops. I wish I could just pop into Cawa in Broomhill right now, have a cinnamon bun and mocha and catch up with a friend. I miss the cutesy shops in Sharrow Vale, the wonderful Peddler Market, and all the amazing brunch spots.
I was heartbroken when national lockdown was announced last March and I begrudgingly left my home, and my wonderful housemates, to spend 3 months locked-in back in East London. It felt like some sort of cruel joke to be ripped away from Sheffield in my final year, knowing that I wouldn’t get to say goodbye properly.
Sheffield helped me grow up. It built my confidence, made me realise I am super extroverted and actually capable of having lots of friends. I experienced my first relationship in Sheffield and I made the most amazing friends.
So why am I so terrified to return? Clearly, I’m a bit obsessed with Sheffield, yet the idea of going back makes me nauseous. I keep saying to friends and family that one day I’ll move back, or that I might even return soon to do a Master’s degree. But in reality, I’m not sure I ever will.
I’m scared that the version of Sheffield that I fell so head over heels in love with won’t be there if I return. Was it actually the city that I loved, or was it my friends, or wonderful housemates, that made me like it so much? If I returned, and they weren’t there, would it feel alien to me? Would I feel unwelcomed, alone and empty? Would the huge student population make me feel invigorated and safe like it used to, or would all the students irritate me and make me feel like an intruder?
Will the parks feel less special now? Will the gloomy weather and the dreary high streets put me off? Will the city remind me of the relationship I had in Sheffield that came to a crashing end soon after I left?
I have no idea. But at the moment I’m too afraid to find out, and thus I’m reluctant to move back to Sheffield for a very long time. I don’t want the wonderful three years I spent in Sheffield to be tarnished or ruined by a less exciting reality.
I think, for now, I’ll keep the romanticised version of peak district adventures, tasty brunches, and hilarious nights out.