Although my stay in that country was not of considerable duration, it marked the commencement of my perception of the world and became an irreplaceable distant homeland.
In my junior high school’s British and American culture class, I witnessed Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Madame Tussauds for the first time through a documentary broadcast. From the small window of the television screen, an entirely unfamiliar world across the ocean unfolded before me. To this day, I vividly recall the vintage lecture theater with its lofty ceiling, creaking scarlet wooden floor, and a gathering of naive and inexperienced middle school students. Among them, I sat with eyes wide open, brimming with curiosity and earnestness.
That became the initial window through which the world revealed itself to me. Henceforth, whenever I was asked about my aspirations, I would assertively declare, “I shall journey to England. I am destined to pursue my studies in England.” I shall visit Buckingham Palace, the abode of Queen Elizabeth, and acquaint myself with the individuals who converse in the refined accents of London. I shall traverse the Cam River in Cambridge, read a tome in Shakespeare’s birthplace, and revel in the resplendent nocturnal panorama from the London Eye. Despite the distant and unattainable nature of Britain at that time.
During the winter vacation in my second year of high school, the school organized a winter camp. Finally, I set foot on English soil and resided with a host family in Cambridge. For half a month, I dwelled with the landlord’s family of five and their two feline companions. Timorously, I participated in activities organized by the Cambridge language class. The teacher at that time bore a striking resemblance to Hagrid from Hogwarts, and his image remains etched in my memory. In the first class, we were tasked with composing a short piece describing our favorite dish. I chose to write about egg custard.
Yet, as a young and cautious individual, I refrained from wholeheartedly immersing myself in the experience. The team leader had warned us against venturing into the London Underground, lest we become lost within its labyrinthine passages. Even when a few girls playfully floated along the Cam River with their poles, they implored the team leader to summon a professional crew to return us. Nevertheless, this experience left an indelible mark on my heart, further fueling my anticipation of one day commuting by bus to attend classes from the doorstep of the UK, accompanied by the morning mist. I yearn to explore the profound heritage of Oxford and Cambridge, catch glimpses of the aristocratic life within Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, and visit every scenic spot in London that I have thus far witnessed only on television.
Upon graduating from university and confronting the moment of choice, I framed the UK with a blend of anxiety and joy, thereby transforming my dream into reality. As an international student, I arrived in the quaint town of Leicester and embarked on my personal odyssey.
The most captivating aspect of Britain lies in the fact that, regardless of the relentless passage of time, the imprints of history accumulate upon every street and brick. Years later, one discovers with relief that nothing appears to have altered in these surroundings. Stroll along the New Walk, the most autumnal path in Leicester, and listen to the resounding cheers of the rugby field. Wander into the vibrant Christmas market, immerse yourself in Shakespeare’s epitaph, and witness a fireworks display on the banks of the Thames. These experiences engender a profound sense of security, as if all regrets have been given the opportunity to be rectified—they patiently await your return.
In summary, the quest for “Britain” weaves through several pivotal junctures in my life. Once I attained a semblance of maturity, I studied English at a foreign language school, pursued English language and literature at a university, and eventually set foot in the UK itself, subsequently exploring even more destinations across the globe—an anticipation that continues to ignite my spirit.
What role does the Queen play in all of this? I often recall her benevolent smile, her perpetually impeccable attire and makeup, her presence at numerous significant occasions. She even made an appearance at the inauguration of the small library at the University of Leicester as a mascot, nodding her head and waving her hands in the streets and alleys. Moreover, her visage graces the coins that circulate in everyday transactions, arranged in order of age. Even when I embarked on a solo journey to Canada, trepidation failed to overpower me. The swans in the park, the fruits adorning the roadside, and every leaf have all been treated kindly by her, so why should I harbor any concerns?
That which is familiar will inevitably undergo transformation. Over the course of many years, people come to accept these changes while preserving the historical memories within their hearts. Yet, there was a time when these hearts were tranquil, and that time constituted their true homeland.