As thousands of students make their second trip back home of the academic year, families across the country will be welcoming sons and daughters with welcoming arms. Cupboards will have been stocked with goodies, the washing machine prepped for a term's worth of odd socks and junk moved so students don't realise their room has become a glorified cupboard whilst they've been away.
But coming home from uni isn't all about home comforts and Mummy's cooking, it's about returning to the streets you grew up in again and embracing your home town in all its glory: warts and all.
Like a lot of people, the city I go to university in is bigger, cooler and has a lot more going on than where I grew up. Studying in Sheffield is amazing. There's something to do whatever you're into: clubs and bars for all tastes, museums that engage you in the city's industrial past and beautiful countryside just minutes away. Oh and the small matter of a few musical legends. Living in Derby is not so amazing. There are a handful of almost good clubs and bars, a huge shopping centre that killed off a lot of independent shops and they've put some nice grass in by the river path for the skate kids to enjoy on their lunch breaks. Back in the 1700s Bonnie Prince Charlie marched all the way from Scotland, got to Derby and gave up and went home.
But no matter how rubbish or boring your home town is you cannot help but love it. It holds some of your greatest memories and is home to some of your best friends.
Yes there might be very little choice for a night out back home. But that smelly little dive is where you've been going since you first turned 18 (or first got your hands on a sixth former's ID). You've probably made some terrible decisions in there, but they run hand in hand with amazing stories. The bouncer might greet you with a friendly nod of acknowledgment, or a look of terror, all depends on how your Christmas night out went. And once you're all into the club you'll buy the same drink you always do, go to the same dance floor and dance to the same playlist that the DJ has been whacking out since 2012. All before stumbling out the doors at 3am and into your favourite takeaway to round things off.
It's not got the fancy cocktails and exciting little niches that your university city might have but it's home and you're likely to know or recognise nearly everyone in the club, so it sort of turns into one big unofficial uni returners party.
In the cold light of day your home town might lose the quaint appeal its streets had the previous evening, and after three hours of being hungover with everyone else out at work or school, being anywhere but your home is all you need.
All it takes is call from a similarly fragile-headed friend and you're back to an old haunting ground. Sunny days might lead you to parks you've been visiting since you were too young to even go on the swings, or if it's cloudy you might head to the pub. The pub will undoubtedly be terrible, with a few crazy old guys propping up the bar and terrible music choices on the jukebox, but you'll have your favourite spot and you'll more likely than not have been to school with the person behind the bar so catch ups and gossip will be top of the agenda.
Gossip back home is just so much juicier than at uni. At uni rumours are usually who are sleeping together and who that is upset because of this. But everyone seems to know everyone in hometowns so gossip covers a diverse range of subjects. You might overhear something about someone's Mum at the supermarket. Or that geeky kid from your form might have suddenly fallen in love, got engaged and popped a sprog.
A lot can happen whilst you're away studying. People and buildings change and move on, you change and move on, maybe that's why you see you home town in such a new light when you come back from the bright lights of the big city you study in. But when you're sat round a sticky Wetherspoons table despairing about how there's nothing to do and bitching about an old classmate that just walked you'll take a look around the faces at the table and they'll be people you've known for years, and will know for years to come.
No matter what you hometown is like, you can't help but love it. You enjoy it with the people you love most and it is home to a lot of memories. You could never really hate it that much, in fact you could find the whole place quite endearing if you tried hard enough.Suggest a correction