When I first decided to come to ISH, I feverishly poured over the student blog, seeking any insight I could into what life on the other side of the world in this old mansion would be like.
I was particularly comforted by Katherine’s blog, who spoke in joyful, vivid terms of her time at the house. She recounted one moment where she and her fellow residents were gathered around the piano singing and she felt this moment of pure joy.
I had that moment yesterday, under very different circumstances. A handful of us were out in the garden, soaking up the new spring sunshine. Someone suggested music, and then the Beatles and then we were all singing along to ‘Let it Be’. I smiled and laughed and felt at peace. Then reality hit, and I almost cried.
As you’ve probably heard, the world is shutting down. Everyone is retreating to their home countries to ride out the wave. I’ve had to make the heart-breaking decision to do the same. My final days at ISH were supposed to be a celebration in May. Warm weather, my family visiting me, trips to the Mall to marvel at the colours.
None of that will happen now, but I don’t want my time blogging to end on a similarly sad note. ISH has been the greatest decision I ever made. Mundane things – breakfast, brushing my teeth, going to the grocery store, studying – have been made into incredible memories because of the people around me. Even now, my fellow residents are the ones holding me together and making me smile.
So what will I remember? Not the uncertainty of these last few days.
I’ll remember the walks around the neighbourhood, usually to the local dog park to spy on puppies.
I’ll remember the smell of Sunday dinner cooking at the house and the jokes we would make week in and week out about the menu options that Sunday (“Could it be salmon today?”)
I’ll remember the movie nights, particularly singing along to Mamma Mia or loudly correcting the inaccuracies in National Treasure (“No that’s not where the Washington Monument would be in the background if you drove South-West from the Mall, listen to me, I’m a local.”)
I’ll remember mornings working on the front desk, greeting each person as they left for their day and trying to see if I could remember every name and every place they were heading (“School, embassy, non-profit, embassy, World Bank, embassy.”)
I’ll remember sitting in the Great Hall, sometimes alone and just soaking in the incredibly rich history of the place we are all so privileged to call home.
ISH is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In these uncertain times I find myself thinking how privileged I was to travel and live abroad and to connect with people from all around the world.
To the ISH staff, I will never forget your generosity and diligent care.
To my fellow ISH residents, you never knew how much you made each day for me better than the previous one. You are family.
To future ISH residents – I hope when you arrive, the world is a little less chaotic. But if things remain uncertain, know that you are in the best possible place. You are home.