Assistant LifeStyle Editor
Up until my graduate year of high school, I had always imagined my upcoming trips to campus to be a pleasant ritual of a ten-minute car ride, give or take the time to brew a cup of tea, orient myself with the local headlines or some other blissful sounding way to start my morning – like a sun salutation in an all white yoga suit. Of course, I can safely say now that the expected ritual I once imagined turned into a four-hour flight across the country, with five bags of luggage and quietly weeping parents in tow. Home is now a three-hour time difference away and has left me with a vocabulary of apparently province-specific words, like “pinner” (something small and meager) and “LG” (stands for “little girl”; a young person who dresses like an adult). Ah yes. It is the beautiful land of British Columbia that greets me every winter break, the odd reading week and each summer. It will always be my one and only home.
And yet, how can it be? A home is a place of safety and comfort and can extend beyond the walls of your residence. It’s a place where once foreign landmarks, be it a touristy statue or that mailbox on the corner of your street, have distinct memories engraved into their structures. It’s a place complete with relationships that leave you feeling loved and respected.
By this logic, Hamilton has been a place I can call home since only a few months into first year. I remember arriving back home for winter break and saying to my family, “That jail cell sized dorm of mine is just like home already.” First there was the string of defensive remarks contesting how I could even have our home and “jail cell” in the same sentence, but then came an instinctive understanding from my parents who’ve also found a sense of home in spots all over B.C. and Ontario.
Finding a home takes time though, no matter where you are. The beginning of first year can feel as though you’re getting suited up for a new life so quickly you haven’t had time to let them know that one foot is bigger than the other and you won’t be able to fit now and this whole thing is just not going to work and put me back on that plane.
But then life slows down again. And one day you’ll wake up realizing that this city is the perfect fit for you, hugging you just like home did.
Okay, once in a blue moon does it happen that dreamily. Yes, some people may have experienced a transition as dreamy as waking up and considering what’s around them home overnight, but others had to work for it. I had to work for it. And I feel as though most people do too. But today Hamilton has opened my eyes to a home I never once imagined growing up, and fuels each return to BC with a renewed recognition of the totally applicable clichéd, “Home is where the heart is.”
Speaking from personal experience, I’ll leave you with some tips on what worked for me in tackling homesickness and finding love for a place far from home.
1.Explore your city as much as you can, and as soon as you can. Knowing the quirks and secret gems of a city you once viewed as nothing but a foreign land of different fast food chains is both liberating and adventurous. It’s as though you share a personal relationship with the city itself. Sharing your favourite spots with a visiting friend or family solidifies this notion, as you guide them through art galleries and coffee shops unique to your new home.
2.Make wherever you rest your head at night look like a place you could call home, even if it doesn’t feel that way just yet. Even though my dorm may have always looked like a jail-cell to my parents, and likely yours as well with those white brick walls and grimy window, a dorm can feel like a cozy little sanctuary. And it should feel this way! (See B8 for some ideas on how this can be achieved.)
3.Try calling your family on the way to class if your phone plan permits. Those ten-minute phone calls can fit in an impressive amount of catching up and are key to feeling as though you’re not simply building a new life and forgetting who’s thinking about you from back home. Make sure to slip your home address to a few family and friends too, because, you never know, they might decide to brighten your day with a little package of bath salts and chocolates.
4.Visit a friend’s home nearby. Sometimes just going through the motions of living in a family home can provide a comforting sense of positivity that you’re not that far off from going home again, or allow you to appreciate the quirks of what makes your house back home. Even if it’s not your own, clean bathrooms, home-cooked meals, and fresh sheets can drill themselves into your psyche that you are cared for.
5.When the holidays come around but you can’t make your way back home, an empty house can appear to be the perfect place to catch up on some sweet, much needed rest. But don’t overestimate the amount of alone time you’re able to handle. I once made the mistake of choosing to spend Thanksgiving on my own rather than visiting a friend’s house, only to very quickly realize that the images of myself singing and baking cupcakes were meant to be replaced with a suddenly echoing house and creaks in spots I thought were uninhabited (re: attic). After recognizing that I am no ghost buster, my sleeps were blissfully uninterrupted by paranormal activity at a friend’s house nearby.