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Exploring the archives: A letter home from an international student

When seeing the title of this archive, the initial expectation is a heart wrenching letter of yearning for a loved one, who is so out of reach that it’s almost as if they belonged to another world. However, these archives are never as black and white as they initially seem, and instead we are greeted by the warm assurance that Lay Toon has had their tonsils taken out and their toes cured.

Nevertheless, the otherworldliness expectation of this passage still stands, and the detail with which it is written comes as an eyeopener. In the snug context of the post-modern globalised world, it’s very easy to think that something as simple as shortbread is widely understood. However, society pre-internet made the world a much more mysterious place. While being thankful for the technology we have at a Google’s search away, this can almost makes one sad at the idea that we may never be able to experience the mystery and adventure that came with visiting a truly new and unknown place.

The most interesting part of this article is the way in which the letter is signed off with “orientally yours”.
Nowadays, the negative connotations which the word “oriental” carries are in direct reference to the time in which the author as writing. Yet, did they know that this word came with such connotations: did they feel the sense of being subjected and generalised?

At least we can be assured by the unsurprising – yet equally amusing – fact that much like the people here, Heather thrives best on gin and beer.


Image: The Student archives May 1928

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