Ask The Advocate response: Finding a home away from home

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How to combat homesickness while halfway across the world

By Hammad Ali

I still remember the odd mix of feelings in me on my first evening away from home in a college dorm in Canada. I knew I was living the dream of many of my peers, yet I was unbelievably homesick. I had not made any friends yet, I hardly knew the city or campus, and to make things worse, I was starving. I headed out to find some food, not realizing this would be quite the arduous undertaking on a weekend evening.

Fast forward to 2019, and I refer to two cities in two entirely different parts of the world as home. One has some of the harshest winters in Canada, and the other is known for warm tropical weather. One is where I grew up (arguably), and the other where I try to grow up a little more (just as arguably). It was never easy, growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and then moving to Regina for graduate school. Yet, I must concede, it was worth every moment.

Three years ago, I began volunteering through the Student Success Centre and UR International with one simple motivation: I remember how overwhelmed I felt that first evening in a new environment, and I wanted to reach out to others in that same position and ease their transition. It is with that same intent I write this piece today.

Being in a new environment, away from loved ones, is hard. During the first few weeks, it becomes harder with all the schoolwork. If a high school student from Canada finds this transition to college life hard (and rightly so!), imagine how much worse it is for international students! It is okay to feel overwhelmed! But know that you will make this place into home too.

Reach out to people in your class, participate in social and co-curricular opportunities and, in general, get involved. One thing you will realize is that college is what you put into it. Isolating yourself is just as easy as meeting new people and contributing to the campus life. Volunteer, play a sport, go to concerts and movies, and find a group of people to study with. Before you know it, it will be summer, you will be home, and realize (to some dismay) that you are missing “home” in Regina!

Of course, if you are too overwhelmed and cannot focus on school, please do not hesitate to get help. If you have been taught that seeking help makes you weak, unlearn that and find out how much courage and strength it takes to ask for help. Drop by the school counselling services, or the URSU student advocate, and share your concerns. At the very least, speak to your friends.

Do not feel ashamed and bottle it in. It happens to the best, and you owe it to yourself, your loved ones here and back home, and all those future newcomers you will get to help to feel better

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