O Canada: The Unofficial Guide to Homesickness

Homesickness is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how many amazing people you meet on your exchange. It doesn’t matter how many incredible things you see. It doesn’t matter how much fun you’re having or how busy you keep. If you’re away from home for long enough, you will get homesick.

It took about 7 months out here for me to start feeling it. No, it didn’t hit me like a freight train knocking me into a pit of depression. No, I didn’t lock myself in my room, turn the thermostat to below 0 and then cry tears of maple syrup while carving the national anthem into my wall.

The homesickness is pretty subtle, but it’s there, despite how much I’m enjoying this experience. It’s actually much less about Canada itself than it is about the people there that I left behind. I think the fact that I already go to university across the country from most of my friends and family has prepared me a bit and kept me from from experiencing the worst effects of homesickness. However, it hasn’t made me immune.

Symptoms                 

Here are few behaviors that are usually telltale signs of homesickness.

1. Talking about your country – A lot

Talking too much and too frequently about where you’re from, especially through comparisons, not only shows how much you miss home, but it also makes you sound ethnocentric and unwilling to adapt. Imagine having a foreigner visits your country and in every conversation they throw in a comment like “Yea that’s nice and all, but there I’m from we have…”

2. Too much Facebook

This is a problem for us no matter where we are, but being across the world only accentuates that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) we feel when seeing pictures our friends having fun doing all the things that we should be there with them doing.

3. Negativity

Luckily, this is one I’ve hardly experienced at all. There’s too much here that I enjoy for me to feel any bitterness whatsoever. However, I do have a couple exchange friends who are not happy at all and they’re just counting days until they get to go home.

Treatments

There is no cure except coming back, but there are a few treatments that might help the symptoms.

1. Keeping in touch –Facebook creeping only makes you feel worse, but actually talking to people from back home is one of the best things anyone can do when they’re homesick

2. Doing what you did before

Although it’s recommendable to adapt to your exchange country as much as possible, it helps to maintain some aspects of your pre-exchange routines. Doing so reminds yourself that things aren’t so different. I still play basketball, watch mostly the same shows and have PB&J sandwiches every morning, no matter how weird they consider that here.

3. Create a bit of Home

Meet people from your back home. Make some food from back home. I’ve been on the hunt for gravy for a long time, and after coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist in Spain (they don’t even have a word for it), I had to make it on my own. I was finally able to make some sweet, calorie-dripping poutine for an international potluck.

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Canada = Calories

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Pretty much the only other Canadian in Madrid (happens to also be from U of T)

As for my prognosis, I think I’ll be fine. Like I said, I absolutely love it here, and I’m even starting to consider coming back next year for an internship. But man do I miss Canada, as I’m sure any exchange student misses home too.

Until next time,

Jonathan K

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