Having moved a fair amount in my 19 years of living (from Singapore to Hong Kong at the tender age of two weeks old, from apartment to village house to apartment on at least five separate occasions, and even to Vancouver for one brief summer), establishing a concrete concept of home has never been an easy task. If, like me, you were raised as a third culture kid, or perhaps if your family was just fond of skipping town frequently, you can probably relate.
Eventually, I came to realize that by far the most compelling way to make a home is by sharing it with those who are trying to do the same.
You will undoubtedly face a lot of challenges when learning to accept the unfamiliar. Embrace this, so that their cultures can be part of your new one as well. The knowledge you will gain from your experiences and interactions with other students will allow you to some day call this place home (my fellow blogger Stephen puts this much more eloquently in his last entry). For those of you coming into U of T hoping to gain more than just a degree from a big-name academic institution, which I certainly hope would be the case (remember, it’s just a piece of paper, albeit a very important and expensive piece of paper), read on.
As I divulged in my introduction post, I experienced bouts of culture shock upon my arrival at U of T. Not so much about “Canadian culture” (accepting maple syrup as a staple food group and Neil Young as a national treasure didn’t take long – I kid, but seriously), but more so the culture of independence that comes with being a university student.
There is a certain comfort that comes with knowing that the rest of the undergraduate population here knows exactly how you feel. During midterm season, there’s always a quiet, terrible sense of solidarity in the Robarts Reading Room past 1:00am. And you’ll probably see and do things with your friends that you never imagined:
We’ve all heard and seen the Hollywood clichés about roommates and fellow dorm mates. Expect a lot less Single White Female and a lot more initial social awkwardness and personality clashes. Being a good roommate and friend is always a difficult balance to strike, and after eight months of seeing the same people everyday, don’t doubt that you’ll be fighting the urge to cover your ears every time someone so much as opens their mouth.
Remember that compromise is key, but being walked over (or the walk-er over) is never okay (more about roommate etiquette later!). As I’ve said before, don’t be upset if a friendship that seemed like it was meant to be the first week of classes fizzles off by the beginning of second semester. Use your time at university to figure out the kind of people you want to surround yourself with and to understand what it means to be a true friend to someone.
Be patient, and you’ll definitely find your peeps – they’ll be the reason why you’ll take pride in your new home.
Perhaps if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find the Chandler to your Ross.