Ask Pawan: I’m not engaged in school since coming back from winter break

Dear Pawan,

I’m having a really, really hard time feeling engaged in class. We’re only a few weeks into the semester and I really miss my family back in my home province. How do I avoid booking a ticket back there to skip school?

The beginning of the semester is the make-or-break time for your academic drive. Your semester can start with a bang, where your professors come out of the gate with engaging and impact content. Or it can start with a slog, where you lament the restful weeks of December break. It seems like you’ve landed on the latter and are looking for a reason not to tune out a few weeks into the semester. Hopefully I can convince you otherwise!

Passion project

My first point may be a controversial one: every subject has the potential to be exciting, so it’s really a matter of accessibility. Imagine being your professor back when they were in their undergrad, when they were faced with a course that they didn’t think was worth their time, but something clicked and they decided to take it on as their life’s work. Put differently, my criteria to measure whether a class is worth taking puts less weight on the content than on the professor because I find the content being said matters less than the passion of the educator.

Unfortunately, that also means that a dry professor can kill good content. When you find yourself in this kind of situation, I find the best practice to be immersing yourself in the syllabus and divining what the course is actually meant to be like from it. Does this mean you’re teaching yourself instead of having the person you’ve paid many dollars teach you? Yes, but it also means you’re less liable to catch that next flight back east.

Smelling the roses

Missing home is a totally natural thing to do when you’re a few thousand kilometres away, but it’s also something that can make the school year a bit more hard to bear. If you’re anything like me, you call home a few times a week but still feel like you should be there to have the calm, casual interaction that builds lasting human connections. It’s hard to mimic that feeling when you’re in a different part of the country (or world!), but remembering the things you have in Vancouver is something that grounds me.

If you can think back to living in your family home, you’ll remember some of the small things you’re missing right now — impromptu conversations, household tasks to help a family members out and all the other things that make up casual interactions. These little interactions are the culprit for that feeling of ‘missing out.’ By the same token, that also applies to right now! Cooking dinner with your roommates, running into friends by the Chem Building and doing this week’s Ubyssey crossword are part of the little things that you’re going to miss when you eventually head east of Blanca for the last time.

If you love, hate or are apathetic to this campus, the life you’ve led in your time here has been strongly linked with the little interactions you’re having with the folks who inhabit it. With that in mind, try to be a bit more mindful of where you’re heading to, on campus or around Vancouver — that little bit of awareness of all the awesome things you're doing might help fend off the yearning for back home

In the moment

In my experience, being away from family really, really sucks — especially in the weeks after you’ve just seen them. You think back to December break and remember all the fun times you had watching holiday films, sipping warm drinks and opening presents, if that’s your thing. But as I think a little harder, I also remember some of the more tedious parts of being back home: having a parent-enforced curfew, not being able to hop on transit to go anywhere and a general lack of that sweet university freedom.

Thinking back, I remember how caught up I was in explaining to my family that as a fully grown 20-something, I was entitled to go where I please. The ensuing fight definitely wasn’t worth it. My last piece of advice is that missing home when you’re away is one thing, but try to hang on to that feeling, when you do get the chance to visit again. It’s easy to appreciate that casual connection mentioned earlier, but it’s even easier to lose that appreciation a few days in to a cable TV binge.

So, just as you’re taking the time to appreciate Vancouver while you’re missing home, remember to appreciate home when you’re missing the freedom of university, as both are equally fleeting.

A new semester means new questions. Send all your questions to or anonymously at