Due to rapid globalization, the concept of getting education, even if it means going away from home and living in hostels, has become common. Developed means of communication, easy access to institutions and very catchy ads have increased the trend of studying in far away places from home towns.
The population of students living in hostels has increased many folds and we now also have private boarding houses to cater to the need. Also many students and working women prefer hostels over their crowded, dysfunctional homes.
Mashal, a Bunnu student doing her masters in a Peshawar university said though there are times she wishes she were with her family and studying in her home city; the drawback, however, it was near impossible to study at home with all the noise and other distractions. There was always something or the other going on and she could not even make her timetable, she added.
She explained a lot of activity at home was subject to the convenience of elders which made studying difficult and at times even frustrating. Mashal said that her younger siblings were also the cause of disruption, as they were playful and it was almost heartbreaking to turn away such cute things when they come so loving to you.
Mashal said that she enjoyed her independence in the hostel. "Unlike home, sleeping late at night and waking up in the afternoon is not a problem and there is no one to nag me all day", she said and added, "Apart from general rules and regulations there are not many restrictions in hostel which makes it a pleasant place to stay in.
Mashal told me that some students preferred staying in hostels even during vacations because they hated going back to their villages where they do not have the freedom that they have here.
Sadia, a student from Mardan is studying in University of Peshawar and lives in a hostel inside the campus. Unlike Mashal, Sadia finds life outside the confines of home difficult to handle. She is the youngest of her siblings and therefore the most pampered at home. She finds managing things on her own beyond her and misses home a lot.
Mahrukh is a student of Jinnah College for Women and hails from Bannu. She is very determined and wants to prove to her family that she can make it on her own. Mahrukh is from an uneducated family and wants to change the way of life of her family. When she came to the city she was scared whether people would accept her. Now she is confident and attributes it to her life in hostel. She has found family in her friends and she says she won't go back until she makes something out of herself. She wants to make her parents proud and wants to give them a better life; a life that they cannot afford.
Zarmina is another girl who likes being away from home. She belongs to Nowshera and is not very fond of her hometown. The reason that she likes it here as there are fewer restrictions or fewer things which irritate her in the hostel.
Sehrish is from Swat and has been living in a hostel throughout her years of education. She did not make an effort to hide her family problems. Her father passed away when she was a toddler and since then her mother and siblings were living with her fraternal uncles. She complained that live at home was unbearable because her uncles refused to give her mother any money and there was always screaming and shouting going on. It was impossible to do anything, let alone study. Sehrish said that living in a hostel was her only escape and as much as she wanted to be with her mother and siblings, she hated going home even on Eid.
Faiza's story is the story of every other girl who is of marriageable age. She left her village in Charsadda to live in a hostel in Peshawar. Even though commuting was not difficult for her, she wanted to live away from her family. She was sick and tired of her parents nagging her about marriage. At first she went in to depression because of the way she was being treated at home but then she decided not to waste her life and joined an NGO here. She said she was better off away from her family, rather than being tortured emotionally everyday. She is at peace with her life now and says that living in a hostel has broadened her horizons and loves the fact that she is not dependent on anyone.
While life may not be easy for women who live in hostels, it seems that they think they have made the right decision for themselves by staying away from their families. It is not that they do not miss home, but they are striving to make life better for themselves. As they say, no gain without pain.