I still remember the first time I said goodbye to my Mum. We stood in the middle of the bustling ‘St Michel’ metro station in Paris, crying in each others arms. I had left my little town in the North West of England to go study in Paris for three years.
I still remember the moment we went separate ways and walking down the metro stairs on my own. An overwhelming feeling of loneliness suddenly hit me… “I’m on my own for real now,” I said to myself.
I got on the metro (having never used the metro by myself before) and hoped it would take me to my new home in Bastille. With red eyes from crying, I walked into the metro carriage finding it so strange that no one was talking to each other. If you go on the train in the North West of England, it’s pretty common to initiate conversation with the stranger sitting opposite you.
Anyway, I of course began telling a lady (in very broken french) how I wasn’t sure where I was going and how I had just said goodbye to my Mum for the first time. The lady actually proposed to walk me back to my apartment so I got back home safely. I realised that Paris wasn’t such a cold city as it was painted to me and that I would make my own impressions through my experiences. The city suddenly felt less lonely and daunting.
However, the problem with homesickness is that, with time, the feeling can come and go. I found it so difficult as Christmas approached, bringing the gloomy, shorter days and chilly nights.
One of my favourite films is called ‘Brooklyn’; a film about an Irish immigrant living in America. The film resonates with me because it captures the essence of feeling so far away from home. Time really can be a healer for homesickness. However, in my opinion, there are also many different coping methods to help you through periods of feeling homesick.
Join a sports group, a music group or some kind of hobby where you will meet people
If you don’t currently have a hobby, maybe now is the time to stretch your wings and find one. Walking into a room or in my case, walking onto an athletics track full of people I don’t know, can feel out of your comfort zone. But the more times you do it, the less daunting it becomes – I promise.
Joining an athletics club in Paris was the best thing I ever did. Even when I felt unmotivated or had got a grade I was unhappy about, running always made me feel 100% better afterwards. Running, trying to breathe while speaking a foreign language really tests your language skills! But more importantly, I felt like I was part of a community and it was a way of integrating into society.
In Montreal, I found a netball team which has even opened doors in terms of job prospects. It feels like I have another family who looks out for me here.
While I was living near Quebec City, I volunteered at a local charity during my free time. Helping organisations and communities out can be so rewarding. During times of feeling down and homesick, I realised that there are so many people in the world who don’t have the same opportunities as me. It made me want to make the most of every second.
Basically, just try to get out of the house
I’m so bad at this at the moment! I’m currently searching for jobs and the temptation to sit in my PJs all day drinking tea while bingeing on ‘Friends’ is so real! But grab a book and go to the park or coffee shop for a break. I find going for runs and stumbling across this view is a mood booster!
It’s strange because after 4 years away from home, I seldom felt homesick. I would sometimes look at pictures and feel nostalgic but I never felt that gut feeling of homesickness. In fact, I was adamant that I would never feel homesick again.
But after spending 10 months at home in the UK, moving back to Canada has had its struggles. It can be difficult to talk about homesickness as you get older as it tends to be viewed as a juvenile feeling. I know I made the conscious decision to move back to Quebec but I have had moments of feeling homesick recently. The point being that it’s okay and totally normal to feel homesick even at the age of 23! I love my life here in Montreal but it would be great if I was able to fly home for the weekend and give my family a hug!