My first few weeks of study at the University of Saskatchewan have been somewhat surreal. Adjusting to being immersed in a new culture has had its challenges, but this experience has helped me learn to become more creative, as I battle homesickness and embrace change.
At six weeks in, I’m starting to leave the so-called honeymoon period of my year abroad. Our home institution warned us that this would happen — they did a good job scaring us before we’d even left.
The excitement of the first few weeks, although I can still feel it, has been somewhat replaced by the impending doom of midterms, which have crept up scarily fast.
We were also promised a fair amount of culture shock. Unless this is still to come, I think this stage was less obvious for me than for a lot of other international students, though of course, there are differences, and perhaps even more than I thought there would be.
The more time I spend here, the more I start to realize the subtle differences between cultures that you only notice when you live in a place rather than just visit it. One of the big things I learned to appreciate about Saskatoon is how willing people are to help you out or give you a ride somewhere, which is something that just wouldn’t happen at home.
I think, now, my current state of existence is simply one of adjustment. Though I am recognizing more differences, the friends that I’ve made have helped me adapt to a different culture and make being here feel more like home.
In fact, there are many similarities between Birmingham, West Midlands, U.K., and Saskatoon. The reaction I get when I tell people in other parts of Canada that I’m living in Saskatoon is much the same as the one I get when I tell people in other parts of the United Kingdom that I’m living in Birmingham: “Why there?”
One of the main reasons I love being in Saskatoon is for its incredible music scene — I love supporting local musicians in Birmingham, so it’s nice to find a similar scene here. In amazing, intimate venues across Saskatoon, I’ve seen some great shows. I’m thankful for meeting people who have introduced me to the talent that exists here.
Of course, it hasn’t all been easy, and the homesickness is real, but you just need to find ways of making yourself feel more at home. Stay connected to your roots, whether by finding other students from your home country with whom you can reminisce about Wetherspoon’s — a chain of incredible British pubs — or by introducing new Canadian friends to British television shows — like The Great British Bake Off — so you have someone to get excited about them with.
It has helped me immensely to reflect on my time here and the changes that I’ve noticed in myself. I have learned to be more open about new situations, because on exchange, you don’t have a choice — everything and everybody is new. However, as positive as my experiences have been so far, winter is coming.
Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk