The end of year holidays is a time for joy and celebration. Despite this, I find that the holidays can also intensify my feelings of loneliness. Living as an international student in Canada and being almost 12 000 km away from home, seeing other people get together with their loved ones would make anyone feel even more alone.
However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Everyone should still make the best of their holidays as we have all earned that break after working hard the entire year. Here are some things I do to help me navigate homesickness during the holidays:
Home is where the heart is. It is only natural we’d start to miss our family, friends and pets back home. Understand that it is only normal to feel this way, instead of trying to fight those feelings or taking it as a sign of weakness. Take some time out to reflect on those feelings (I find that keeping a journal is especially helpful for this). Taking a moment of reflection can help you process your emotions, and you’ll be less likely to dwell on it which gives you more time for fun stuff!
Now that you’ve already (briefly) wallowed in your sadness, it’s time to make some plans to keep you occupied. It can be tempting to fall back to our normal routine, as it is familiar and comforting. But with the extra freedom, the holidays are a perfect opportunity to switch it up and try something new. You can use this time to take care and work on yourself in many ways. Try partaking in a new hobby, or finally start tackling that bucket list of new things to try. Or even use this as a chance to take yourself out on a solo date, and plan a day as if you were showing somebody else the newest spots in town. In need of new places to discover and explore? Check out Lauretta’s blog on Vancouver’s Hidden Gems.
What are some things that remind you of home? It could be a homemade dish or a familiar scent that brings you back to your hometown. Whatever your comfort things are, make sure you bring some of it with you to uni. Or instead of a material object, it could also be an activity that makes you feel at home. I personally like to learn dishes that my mom frequently cooks at home, one of them being a pork rib dish cooked in broth called “Ba Kut Teh.” I also like completing puzzles because it's something that I would do together with my family back home. Home comforts can really help with the feeling of homesickness, so think about what really soothes you when you’re feeling down and start trying it here.
Go to some holiday themed events to lift your spirits up! There is just something about gathering with other people who are all excited about the upcoming holidays. Head down to the local Christmas market or take a stroll with the brightly colored lights in Van Dusen. One of my personal favorites is walking my dogs along the lights at Lafarge Lake Coquitlam. Even though the feelings of homesickness occasionally kick in, activities that bring people together during the holidays can really cheer me up. Seeing other people partake in these activities and enjoy themselves really reminds me to celebrate and make the most of my holidays.
It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and thrill of the holidays, but it is important to remember what comes first, spending time with your friends and family. Make sure you keep in touch with your family while overseas by scheduling video calls and sending text messages every day. That way, you don’t lose touch of what is happening back home. What matters most is showing our appreciation and gratitude during the end of year holidays, so don’t forget to check in with your loved ones back home, you’ll even be able to tell them about the new things you’ve been trying out this holiday season.
Feeling homesick is a feeling I am all too familiar with. But always remember you are not alone, and that there are other people who might be feeling the same. This is your sign to go out there and have some fun! Whether you are trying out a new activity or working on old hobbies, taking care of yourself always comes first. Lastly, don't forget that there are student services such as SFU Health and Counselling that you can reach out to if you are having a hard time. Instead of fighting sadness, recognize that it can be a normal feeling during the holidays, and from there, you can take the steps to overcome it.