Along with challenges like culture shock, finding jobs, and language barriers, homesickness is a major obstacle for international students.
According to an HSBC report, two-in-five international students feel homesick at least once a week. Nearly half believe missing family and friends has impacted their academic performance, while two-in-five say it has affected their ability to get a good night’s sleep.
When Harpreet Singh arrived in Canada in Sept. 2021, he had high expectations for the future. He had everything planned, but he didn’t count on homesickness.
“Having grown up in a joint family, I was attached to home and my two-year-old nephew, Gurniwaz, who was always around and brought smile and happiness. It was an immediate change for me to live alone, and I wasn’t prepared for it,” said Singh.
Adapting to different kinds of food is also a significant challenge for international students.
Perth Chopra, a University of Calgary student, misses homemade food and affordable Indian street food. He still manages to get something similar occasionally, but it’s expensive.
For Nigerian student Aziz Sanyasi, financial stress is one of the main factors that lead to homesickness. Due to the burdens of tuition and work, he doesn’t have time to hang out with friends.
“The best thing for you is to have your tuition before you come to Canada, so you don’t have to stress out with work and school at the same time,” said Sanyasi.
Despite all these challenges, international students find ways to cope.
Abdul Rehman, a SAIT Student and former national soccer player from Dubai, connects to other international students using social media. He started a soccer team with friends and started playing after class.
“If I’m stressed, I play soccer. If I’m lonely, I play soccer,” said Rehman. “Soccer is my first and last hope besides life.”
Singh and Chopra, meanwhile, get strength from strong cultural and religious ties. After struggling with homesickness for almost a year, Singh finds peace in his religious beliefs.
“My family back in India is very religious,” said Singh, who visits the Dashmesh Cultural club every weekend. “I still celebrate every occasion and meditate regularly. It keeps me connected to my roots and gives me peace.”