A young lady sat on a bench in a London square with grass and fallen leaves behind her

Some reflection and a poem by Mahek Malik Khoja

In 2021 my dream of attending the IIS came true! I was thrilled! And now it is almost time to say goodbye.

Living in London for almost two years has exposed me to a varying and fascinating culture. I am not just referring to other students here from different countries, but also the variety of languages spoken, the various culinary traditions of others I’ve lived with, and the ways in which they celebrate their culture through music and folk dances.

My cohort of STEP students is extremely diverse: we come from eleven different countries! In the beginning cohesion took a little time, but we found platforms to enjoy each other’s traditions and cultures.

During my time in London, I have also met different cluster mates: I welcomed and said goodbye to many of them, which provided me the chance to learn a great deal about them, their contexts, and the places they come from. Here, I came the closest to having a real human library experience.

In Victoria Hall, our residence, I, an Indian, share my cluster with three wonderful individuals. They are from North Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan respectively. Although English is the language we use most frequently for communication, there are occasions when we just blurt things out in our native tongue in the hopes that the other person will understand us. It doesn't always work, but when it does, we experience a distinct level of satisfaction. Somehow, humans will always find ways to communicate irrespective of the differences they share. And it turns out that something is shared by all our languages. We all refer to soap as “saabun” in our own tongues! I still recall how amused we were by this discovery!

It is true that even if there are many people around you and you may occasionally feel lost, you will always have some people to lean on. There will be people who become your friends and serve as your comfort zone, with whom you can share your joys and sorrows as well as some inside jokes, and who will stick with you no matter what. Eventually, you will always find your “saabun” to laugh at in the end.

I presented the following poem in an Open Mic event organised by the IIS Student Services team who make sure that the students here do not forget to have fun while engrossed in studies, and create opportunities to mingle with students of different courses (GPISH and ISMC), and get free pizzas.

You leave your home to chase your dreams;

You stifle a cry and all your screams.


Don't worry, you will find many like you;

But amongst many you will hold on to a few.


They may be crazy, irritating, and flawed;

They will also be the first one to always applaud.


In your success, they will find their gain;

In your hardships they will feel the pain.


Again, when the time comes to leave your “home”;

Do not forget how much you have grown.


Alone, with friends, and some life lessons;

You may have been through hell, but also heavens.