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Around the World: Combatting homesickness

By Sebastian Vasquez Gutierrez, September 14 2021 —

No matter their background, most students feel homesick in one way or another — some of them more than others, depending on how big the transition is into university life. For domestic students, that feeling maybe doesn’t show up since they are in a similar environment, and often maintain their existing support systems. Being with their family and still living with them makes a massive difference in terms of the experience they have entered university. On the other hand, international students face enormous adversity and leave almost everything behind to start a new life. Their family, friends and their entire lifestyle.

Those first days alone in a new country are hard for international students. If you live in residence, it is an easier transition since you will be with other students who are in a very similar position, but despite this, it can still be a very lonely process. 

On top of all of this, adjusting to a completely different culture is not easy — many traditions and festivals that people celebrate in their hometown are not celebrated in Canada, so the feeling of assimilation into a foreign culture can be overwhelming. However, there are many ways to manage these negative feelings in a healthy way at the beginning of your university experience, and throughout the rest of your degree. 

Acknowledging Your Emotions:

During the first few days on campus, you will feel many different things such as nostalgia, missing. Acknowledging that you’re missing home is very important — it is nothing to be ashamed of. One tip that helped me was bringing something from your hometown. There is a quote that says, “home is where your heart is,” so if you have something that reminds you of home during those first days when emotions can be overwhelming, it can make all the difference. Personally, I wore a little Colombian flag that I carried on my wrist during my first year, and anytime I felt homesick I just looked at my wrist and instantly felt better.

Talking to yourself about these emotions is also a good strategy, you are going to have many emotions and dealing with all of them is important. For instance, sadness and depression are common since you are away from your loved ones, however, know that you are going to meet many different people and have many experiences during your degree. Feeling out of place is also a common feeling, especially the case where the culture is very different. It can feel like you don’t fit in with the people on campus, but there are many different people from all around the world and getting to know different cultures is a great experience.

Stay Busy and Get Involved: 

Something that all university students keep hearing multiple times, to the point where it can get a little annoying, is that we should “get involved.” As much as it gets tiring to hear, it is one of the best things you can do to find a sense of belonging on campus. Attending activities and joining clubs, especially cultural clubs from your home country, are great ways to hold onto the world that you left behind, and also meet people from your culture’s diaspora. Classes will definitely keep you busy but joining a club will allow you to explore what you truly love and create a support system for your life while studying abroad.

Don’t Compare Yourself: 

You probably see other international students having the time of their lives while you are still missing home and feeling sad. It is normal to take your time and shake those feelings away. We are all different and deal with emotions differently. It is normal to see people getting through emotions faster, so take your time and don’t compare yourself. We all have different ways to deal with our emotions, and homesickness hits each student differently. You may miss a festival or food from your home country, and knowing that you won’t have that for a reasonable amount of time is a hard pill to swallow, but it helps knowing that we are not alone and help each other feel a little less lonely.

Around the World is a column about the international student experience and a platform for the voices of those students to be heard. It aims to raise topics often avoided and issues often unspoken about as they pertain to international students at the University of CalgaryThis column is a part of our Voices section.

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