by Ciara Drummond, Staff Writer

Source: Berkay Gumustekin, Unsplash

“The bird, born in spring, took its first flight in fall.” 

The first year of university is a hard adjustment. For better or for worse, you have left the comfort and familiarity of high school and entered more of a “real world” environment. Regardless of if you are from the city, you commute, live locally, or come here internationally, curating the unique path of your education has been, and will continue to be, a challenge. 

Before starting university, I watched a countless number of movies and read countless novels. I dreamt about my freshman year when I could finally move out and start this new chapter of my life. I had dreams of eating luxurious food, exploring new and unique places, and meeting all new groups of exciting and wonderful people. While the latter is true, the flaws of being on my own quickly emerged from the shadows. 

“The picky bird will always find something wrong with their nest.”

Everything is so expensive. 

The bed is too tall. 

The residence is too hot. 

The food needs more spice. 

There are too many cars trying to run me over. 

The libraries are too big and confusing. 

But I could get all over that. It does not actually bother me. Except, the most important thing, there are no cats or family here. That is my biggest problem. 

“The bird, born in spring, took its first flight in fall, but the song of the nearby nest alway called it home.” 

There is a period between being uncomfortable and acceptance which I like to call the “Mediocre Adjustment.” During this time, you begrudgingly accept the predicament at hand and do what is necessary to get through it, but, nonetheless, you lack all the requirements for being content. You are, for the most part, fine, but there are still those moments where everything seems to fall apart. 

My new friends have settled in comfortably, and they are thriving during this strange, wondrous experience. Many of them have joined a bunch of clubs, discovered the best restaurants, and explored Toronto. I, however, have not and am experiencing, for the first time, a mediocre adjustment. I have many conversations about my friend’s quick recovery period from being homesick to quickly building a new home here, on campus. But I have not adjusted so perfectly. Actually, I want to go home all the time. I want to be surrounded by those I have lived with my whole life and know me inside-out. The fact that my home is just close enough that I can commute to it once a week, but not close enough that I can live there full-time, has hindered my ability to truly transition into this new stage in my life. The loneliness of being at university not only took me by surprise, it has become my biggest enemy. What makes it worse is that… 

“The bird, born in spring, took its first flight in fall, but its broken wing sent it straight for the ground.” 

I feel ashamed because it seems like I am the only one still struggling. If everyone else has adapted to this new life so quickly, why am I the outlier? I had to wonder what was wrong with me for the universe to sentence me to this strange and unusual punishment. I am surrounded by smiling faces, who seem to mock me with their happiness here. So instead of lingering in sadness, I have packed my schedule so busy to keep me from feeling the looming loneliness of my new life. Unfortunately, I cannot outrun the confines of my dorm room—my almost home. That is when the strangeness of life and the sense of emptiness within my temporary dorm’s walls hit me. I have not been able to explain how, although I live in my dorm room, it feels not inherently mine. Each time I make a little progress in my ‘‘character arch’’ or start to feel a little bit better, a small inconvenience will cause me to reset—restarting the cycle of awkward shame that I seem to experience alone. 

“The spring babe leaves home to find the fall flyers.”

I cannot be the only person who misses home. So, to all the other students who miss their families or simply are having a challenging time adjusting, know that you are not alone. Each student is adjusting at their own pace, and your journey in adaptation does not have to be linear. You do not need to have the “perfect” university experience: your university experience is enough. You made it here, and now you can decide what to do with it. No mediocre adjustment or amount of loneliness can stop you. Life’s rollercoaster has its ups and downs after all. Just remember to live your downs with the same confidence and self-love as any other part of the roller coaster. 

“The baby bird’s wings finally take wind, and an adult bird is born.”

Be proud of the person you are starting to become.

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