12 March 2015

The city that became home

Doris Xu is an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney Business School. She is currently in the United States as part of the Washington DC Placement Program, offered by the Business School in partnership with the United States Studies Centre.  

I closed my eyes.

Next to me, my roommate’s speaker was playing the acoustic album from her favourite artist, Above and Beyond. A door away, one of my flatmates was finishing her House of Cards Season 3 binge on Netflix. In the kitchen, the other was cooking her dinner, the aroma of food filling the room through the half-opened door.

When I first arrived at Room 803, it was empty. I could hear my heavy breathing from dragging my luggage from the taxi to the lobby, and my footsteps wading across in my wet UGG boots. But not anymore.

Over the past nine weeks, we have filled in the blank space of eerie silence. Our wardrobes became full, our beds made (at least in the first week) and class notes piled up on the table. We no longer kept to our own desks or rooms. We popped around wondering what each other was doing. We shared food and desserts and complained to each other about how fat they were making us, while scraping the bottom of the pan for the brownie crumbs. We planned trips, to Philly or to the zoo, or when we felt like we really needed that dress down the road.

At work, I learnt the doorman’s name, although still having trouble pronouncing it properly. Our workstations, once clean and tidy and bland, now decorated with sticky notes of reminders arranged by colour, on the drawers, on the boards, next to the computer. Research and meeting papers lied on the desk, ruffled as often used. We eyed the kitchen or front desk for new treats, be it greentea chocolate from Tokyo or sheep cupcakes in celebration of Chinese New Year. We gathered around the conference room to have lunch, where stories from all over the world came: from midnight taxi rides in South Korea to Spanish wine festivals.

Over the past nine weeks, I saw snow for the first time, then had my first snow day. Cheers had erupted from room to room on the 8th floor, as we consecutively found out about the office closure due to the snow storm. The next morning we headed to Dupont Circle, making and throwing well-formed snowballs. We attempted at building our first snowman, before giving up after making the lower body, realising we couldn’t put the upper body on and ended up building a snow penguin.

 It’s A Snow Day!

Over the past nine weeks, I squealed at my first glance of a baby panda, who was clearly having a Monday morning; yawning, covering its eyes and turning on its face back to dreamland. Over the past nine weeks, I laughed as my colleague and I shared stories about our childhood, our embarrassing moments and silly promises. Over the past nine weeks, I learnt the difference between a motive and a theme in music, and watched a play about Mary the Queen of Scotland in the Shakespearean theatre.

Some time over the past nine weeks, I started calling Room 803 home.

Some time over the past nine weeks, I broke out of my shell and started to be myself again.

On Friday I took one last look at my room, my side completely empty and clean, just like the first day when I first arrived.

I closed my eyes.

Because I didn’t want to cry. But tears fell anyway. Through tears conjured from moments shaped by laughter and delirious happiness, I knew.

All those memories, captured in the snow flakes and the -10 temperature, would stay with me forever.

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