As the add-drop period ends, the 2019–2020 school year is officially in full swing. This realization can be daunting for many students, especially those starting their first year at McGill. For these newcomers, reality is likely sinking in as the excitement of starting post-secondary education is replaced with the pains of the frosh flu; evenmore, settling into life away from home can feel exhausting. However, it is important to remember that students everywhere have experienced homesickness, and that there are several ways to alleviate the yearning for familiarity.
For most students, residence life can be intimidating, and it is often easier to hide in your dorm room than to get to know those around you. Luckily, McGill floor fellows are there to break the ice and start the conversations for those feeling too shy, so it’s a good idea to attend residence events and floor gatherings.
Lily Zhang, U2 Arts and current floor fellow in McConnell Hall, emphasizes the importance of attending these events.
“After the first few weeks of school, it is easy to look around and think [that] everyone has established a group, but rarely is that the case.” Zhang said. “I encourage anyone to come to my floor teas and other events because they’re a great opportunity to find people you click with and to feel less homesick [….] Being open to new experiences is definitely the best thing you can do for yourself.”
Residence events are the perfect way to meet other first years who are all experiencing the same uneasiness. By making connections with peers, you can start to feel more comfortable around campus and the city. This can be especially beneficial for international students, for whom adjustment to university life in a new country can pose different challenges: Adjusting to the cold weather, an unfamiliar language, or even just new foods can be daunting. Vincent King, U3 Arts, found that getting involved in student societies with other international students was a great tool in adjusting to life abroad.
“After growing up in the Caribbean, moving to Montreal was definitely an adjustment,” King said. “I think [that] taking the initiative to find communities like the CSS [Caribbean Student Society] and Alpha Epsilon Pi was one of the best things I could’ve done. It helped me spend time with other students that could relate to my situation while making new friendships and memories. It’s like having a bit of home here at school.”
Although it is important to get outside and get involved, it is also vital to have a place of your own to return to. Decorating your dorm room can seem like a trivial task. However, it can greatly ease symptoms of homesickness. Putting up pictures of home and surrounding yourself with mementos and personal items often helps make a dorm room feel less temporary. Additionally, some students find it reassuring to hang up a calendar with dates to return home for holidays marked. Planning visits or phone calls with family and friends, in moderation, and having scheduled trips home to look forward to further helps curve homesickness.
In allocating a set amount of time to keep in touch with life at home, one can shift their perspectives and actually use homesickness to their advantage, a strategy that Ciara Corbett, U4 Education and former floor fellow, found to be quite helpful.
“I’ve always tried to shift my feelings of homesickness to feelings of gratitude because [being homesick means that] I have something worth missing,” Corbett said. “Homesickness is common across the board [….] It’s okay to miss home, but try your best to take advantage of the new things university has to offer and, ultimately, the time will pass.”