Winter break was a month ago and you’ve probably gone back home for the break. But if you’re an international student like me, your home might be an ocean away. You made the ridiculous decision of packing up your life and moving to a place that’s very different from what you knew. And somehow you chose Vancouver. But now you’re back in school and home is still on your mind. You feel sombre and you have this itching of wanting to book a plane ride back home. If you’re an international student and you’re having the symptoms I just described, you’re going through what I would call the UBC International Student’s Stages Of Grief.
Stage 1: Weather
You’ve landed and Raincouver has already lived up to its name. If you grew up in a place near the equator, you’re already dreading the wind chills slapping across your face at high speeds. It takes longer to put on clothes, layer upon layer upon layer upon layer. You shiver with memories of the warm sun, feeling so distant. Then the snow comes, and you’re afraid of drowning on land if you breath in any more of that frozen rain.
Stage 2: Time
It’s 4:00 p.m. and how the fuck did it get so dark so fast!?
Stage 3: Being an Adult
You go back to your place in Vancouver and you now have to go back to cooking for yourself. The smell of your mom’s cooking haunts you in every strand of that instant ramen.
Stage 4: Small Talk
You’re at the grocery store and wait, why is the cashier talking to you?! Why does he keep asking you what your plans are? How should I know!? Why do people keep talking to me?! I don’t know you! Why aren’t you ignoring me?!
Stage 5: Food
Everything’s expensive, nothing’s spicy and the portions are way too big. The oversized Hargow taunts you as you bite into it and your mouth barely reaches the other side of that dumpling.
Stage 6: Your Accent
The moment you start talking to Canadians, your accent is lost. You find yourself saying ‘eh’ unironically. Your Canadianized accent feels stilted and you don’t know how to be expressive without sounding like a valley girl. You miss your regular accent.
Stage 7: Acceptance
Despite all of the things you miss, you did move here for a reason. Constant hot weather does get boring after a while. There’s more opportunities here. You get to really figure out who you are and be yourself without all of the cultural and societal pressures you grew up with. And even though the small talk is strange, the people you meet at UBC will be the loveliest people you’ll ever meet.
If you’re a local and you have international students in your life, let them know that you’re there for them and give them the space they need to talk about the food they miss for 3 hours. Always keep in mind that the grieving process is different for every international student. Remember, you’re never alone just far, far away.