For all students it is easy to become embroiled in self-pity at being separated from family, friends and the entity that is ‘home’, but, for the majority, this hallowed place is but a train journey away. Most forget or simply neglect to acknowledge just how much more difficult the university life is for those international students who find themselves without all of the above and with a vague sense they have been abandoned in an alien country.
Crossing the Lines comes as an insightful and at times emotional read. The product of the International Student Short Story Competition, held by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, the book is a collection of fourteen memoirs of differing degrees of writing talent, though largely this is high, as expected.
Mainly autobiographical, each entry aims to give an insight into the past experiences and feelings of the writers, and quite often a glimpse of what may be in their future. Some pieces, such as Danielle and The Conversion are more accurately described as stories and as a result are perhaps lacking such a personal response. However, the allusions to drugs and disease respectively within the pieces reveal a sense of danger and constraint, born perhaps of the isolation and barriers experienced by the authors. Contrastingly, pieces such as Chinese Seasons in the Heart of England and Shards, written by one of our very own, David Molloy from Australia, beg a more emotional response and although the latter is particularly fragmented and disconnected, it turns out Shards is an accurate title for the author’s style of embedding memories and imagery. This gives insight into the displacement international students often feel: “I felt at home but then it occurred to me that perhaps I was feeling like home never existed in the first place”. (Final Year Crisis – Adji Hafiz Sjadzali).
For native readers it can be amusing to perceive what is most unusual about the United Kingdom from another’s perspective. This knowledge is surrendered in most of the pieces, the most common items of scrutiny being the unreliable train service, Cornish pasties, snow and the great love harboured in all Brits of that elusive sunshine. Crossing the Lines is a solid source of inspiration for creative writers with the ability to remind us just how much bounty there is to write about on our little island.