I had a very stereotypical post-gap year experience on visiting home for two and a half weeks this month: I felt like nothing there had changed in the slightest and they couldn’t possibly understand all the changes I’d been through!!!11 Well not quite. I felt as though nothing at home had changed, and any respects in which I might have changed vanished, and I was back to being a half-child again, living with my mother and step-father in between university terms, occasionally visiting my father’s house out of guilt and then just abusing him. Living in Korea has of course made me much more adult, but all my adulthood vanished on returning home.

When I visited friends in London before catching my flight back to Korea, insecurities came flooding back from my undergraduate days. These were insecurities about (a) my academic abilities and (b) about my ability to get on with and enjoy interesting things in my life rather than getting hung up on worries. Has one always to be on guard against such insecurities rising up in old contexts? Can one surpass them to the extent that they feebly croak to the surface in such contexts, no real threat? I do hope so.

I also found Britain quite lonely; indeed, lonelier than Korea. My old habits of not spending money in Britain meant that I wasn’t really willing to fork out on expensive British intercity travel and the truth is that most of my friends have left my hometown. Admittedly a bunch of them are university students and it was termtime so they were out of Sheffield, but there’s still a sense in which they’ve moved on from that home town. As for London, where most of the people I know from university are, it’s just a bit too big and expensive for me to have been comfortable roaming around seeing people. I realised that I only had a very short list of people who I felt comfortable asking to put me up, and all the other people who I would have wanted to meet in the day or the evening turned out to be much harder to pin down than I expected. I was quite disappointed by some people’s reluctance to commit to appointments; I thought I was more valued than that by a lot of people I knew at Oxford.