Where is home for you? That’s usually one of the first questions we ask people when we first meet them. For some, it’s an easy answer but for many others it is a complex question with no singular answer. What happens when you were born in one country, raised in another and attended school in a different country? I was born in England, spent the first 15 years of my life in Nigeria and have been enrolled in school in Canada for 6 years. In my 6 years in Canada, I’ve lived in 4 different cities and moved houses 6 times. Nigeria is where a lot of my childhood memories were formed and Canada is where I began to discover myself and have developed a global perspective on life.
I cried during my first night at boarding school in Canada because it dawned on me that I was in a new city, all alone with no friends or family near me for the first time in my life. At age 15, that was quite a scary feeling as I had never experienced homesickness before. Not only did I have to deal with being away from my family and friends but I also had to deal with the many stark differences between Nigeria and Canada such as the weather, different time zones, food and culture differences. What helped me through my first few months in Canada was face timing my friends who were sharing this experience with me and also living in different countries away from their families. Integrating into the campus community made a huge impact and allowed me to get involved with clubs on campus allowing me to regain a sense of belonging to a community. I had to understand that my feelings of missing home were expected, that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for feeling homesick and regained my energy and developed new perspectives by doing little things that reminded me of being in Nigeria.
There is a misconception that only international students feel homesick but in today’s world many of us are global citizens who may have raised or attended school in a different country, or even a different province which can bring about feelings of homesickness. The situation gets trickier when it’s hard to identify a place to call home, especially for someone who travels a lot or moves houses often. Although I am Nigerian, I have really only lived there for less than 3 months in the past 6 years. In this time, I have had to consistently re-negotiate what home means to me. During my first visit back to Nigeria, I experienced reverse culture shock as the snapshot of home that I had preserved in my memory had changed and evolved. At times, I felt like an outsider in my own country as I had become accustomed to Canadian traditions and could no longer relate to some of the ideologies I grew up with. I realized that I had changed, developed and evolved into a different person who now saw issues with a global perspective. I consider myself to be a mix of different cultures and shaped by different countries. To me, home is not a physical location, it is wherever makes you feel like you are most yourself.