I’ve always been slightly paranoid about my origins and I know I’m not the only Northerner who feels this way. I was born in Chesterfield and moved up to Liverpool when I was four. When I decided to move down South for university, or, to be precise, 222.7 miles down South according to Google Maps, it was safe to say that my extremely Northern grandma was more than slightly concerned.
My parents encouraged me to go where I wanted, and had no qualms about it. Their only warning was that I would have to get the train home to visit them each time I wanted to. My grandma, on the other hand, asked me several times if I wanted to change my mind about the costs of the train fare, the general cost of life ‘down there’ (she meant London, no matter how many times I told her Royal Holloway was in Surrey) and, of course, the fact I knew literally no one at my university or in the area. My nearest family members, an auntie and uncle on my father’s side, were a two-and-a-half hour train journey away. So, I guess you could say the prospect of starting university seemed pretty daunting.
There are a lot of stereotypes about the North (which, FYI, is a completely separate area from the Midlands). The most popular of these stereotypes include: assuming we all sound like Sean Bean, (who has a strong Yorkshire accent by the way), assuming the North as a whole is ‘underdeveloped’ and assuming people from the North are somehow not as intelligent. That last one is mainly due to accent differences, particularly if a strong Northern accent like Sean Bean’s is involved.
I was nervous about going to a university which I expected to be primarily full of international students or more ‘local’ Southern born-and-raised children. And yes, it’s true I have encountered many, many misconceptions about Liverpool and endured many horrible impressions of the ‘Scouse’ accent, but, on the whole, it hasn’t been so bad after all. I’ve actually loved every minute. Maybe it’s because international students and their many different accents and cultures are definitely more of a majority than a minority at Royal Holloway. Or maybe its because, aside from the impressions that mainly stayed behind in Freshers Week, I have never felt uncomfortable attending a university so far away.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that almost every city, village and town has its drawbacks, and that’s okay. Nearly every student you meet can probably name something about their hometown they don’t like. However, after the initial jibes and stereotypes have been safely put to bed, you soon realise that your accent and your origins actually don’t matter anymore. When you meet somebody at university, you get to know them through your time spent together, and it soon becomes clear that it definitely does not matter where you come from. The only time it matters is when it can get a little ridiculous trying to find a place you can ‘meet in the middle’ while making plans with your Southern friends during summer. But even then, true friendships will last those 222.7 miles.