Written on 3 July 2016, in Oxford
After six years and two degrees, it’s finally time to come home. I have now spent a quarter of my life in Britain, chasing the elusive European identity that always felt just out of reach, hanging in the air like a mist that tickles the skin yet cannot be grasped. I suppose this vague sense of displacement is fated for all children of immigrant families, those born in one place but raised in the spirit and memories of another. When I first arrived, then in Scotland, the happiness I felt to finally be where I belonged — in ‘Europe’! — was so overpowering it bordered on delirium. I was just a stone’s throw from Prague and Vienna, cities that have always had my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt like part of a larger community — intuitively understood by the strangers who floated past me on the street and sat beside me at cafés, in virtually every city and every country I went. It is true that the pace of life is different here, with an appreciation for the aesthetic that is seldom found in America. But live anywhere long enough, and you begin to notice the cracks in the facade. Once the superficial pleasures of daily life start to grow familiar, grievances inevitably follow.
On 28 January 2016, Oxford’s Oriel College announced that it would not be removing the statue of Cecil Rhodes — a British imperialist and benefactor of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship — that has been at the centre of a student campaign demanding its displacement. The decision was made following a private consultation process undertaken by the college that found “overwhelming support” for keeping the statue and revealed a risk of fundraising losses upwards of £100m.