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So you’re coming to Canada this September? How to cope with geographical boundaries
By Erin Pehlivan, York University

     Living abroad in a new culture is an exciting time, but it can be terrifying, especially if moving alone. The stress of adapting can take a toll on our personalities.

     Sometimes anxiety, culture shock, isolation and depression pile up when you are trying to concentrate on your studies. This means that it’s time to start going out and finding new ways to interact socially with others.

     It’s too easy to stay indoors all day, especially if the weather is bad or if your classes do not meet every day. It’s important to get out at least once a day, whether it’s for a walk, for groceries, window shopping, or to the library.

     One idea is to find a place of conversation, such as an interest store like a music, book, or video store. Breaking the ice is hard, but once you get a conversation going, your mood will improve.

     Moving beyond the classroom in your spare time is an important part of living and studying in Canada. Although you are expected to study, it can be very isolating. Try to find students in your class to review materials together for an upcoming exam.

     Another way to meet people is at student clubs, organizations, and activities hosted by the school. You may be surprised at how many international students exist at your host university.

     Feeling a part of something can help strengthen your bond to the city, town or country that you are living in. Activities such as volunteering or fundraising for a cause you strongly believe in will improve your mood and connections to other people. Not only will you network, but you will feel accomplished for participating.

     It’s easy to feel depressed or isolated when you are away from home, so it’s important to be socially interactive in your immediate environment. And of course, keeping in touch with your friends and family back home will help you get through tough times. Send them your phone number, address, or skype user names so they can contact you easily.

     Keeping in touch with family and friends will combat homesickness, especially when immersed a foreign culture. Reading online newspapers and magazines from home is a good way to feel up-to-date on what’s happening back home. Listening to music and bringing photographs of your friends and family will ground you.

     While in the local culture, it’s helpful to travel around, making weekend trips and museum/sight visits. Feeling like a tourist in your own town can make you feel like you are actually in a new place that is worth many special moments. Keep a journal to record your feelings, both happy and sad, about your new environment.

     Making friends with locals will help you combat homesickness. If they offer to have dinner or invite you to their house, you should not decline such a new opportunity. Plus, you can try some local cuisine this way! Joining interest groups, clubs, community groups, sports teams, and more, can widen your social sphere.

     By the same token, you may feel attached to friends of your own ethnicity when you are studying abroad. Although this can be comforting, it’s also important to meet new international students from other parts of the world other than your own country. It will help improve your insight about people from all over the world. It is easy to cling to your own type because they understand you the most, but be careful with this. Canada is a very multicultural nation; it is generally not difficult to meet many types of people from all over the world.

     Keeping busy will help you forget about feeling detached from your home. Organizing bills, opening a bank account, researching a yoga studio, practicing your sports skills, and book shopping are some examples of keeping busy. Pay attention to flyers posted around campus. Organize a party or a night to go out with fellow students, because this will boost your confidence. You will get to experience a new style of dancing or music, too!

     Remember that homesickness is normal, but it is your responsibility to combat it. The last thing you want is for your emotions to ruin your special time in another country. It might sound impossible, but you can very well meet friends within a few months in a place where you didn’t have any connections before.