By: Rachel Atsma | December 12, 2023
The Christmas season is finally upon us. We have finished our papers and midterms, and the only thing left is our final exams. Soon we can take a much needed break, the first deep breath since September.
Most of us will be headed home for the holidays, be it a 20-minute drive or a 5-hour plane ride back to the West Coast. The latter is the case for me, and will be my first time going back home since June. It is safe to say that homesickness has gotten the better of me in a couple of cases. Redeemer’s population has representation from nine provinces across Canada, as well as 27 countries across the world, so I assume many are in the same boat.
Christelle Darla, a third year international student from Abu Dhabi, shared what the experience has been like for her being far from home.
“It’s a pretty constant aching,” she said. “It’s weird to have built a life in Canada that you enjoy and delight in but you have a whole other one at home that you miss.”
In many cases this means a sort of compartmentalizing, trying to be fully present in one reality while having the other in the back of your mind.
Darla, like many other international students, is unable to go home for Christmas. However, she says the feeling isn’t sequestered to only one day or holiday.
“Not being home for Christmas is a big one, but it’s more constant than that…in a day-to-day perspective, it’s knowing and experiencing people going home every weekend, or [having] the option to do so.”
From my own experience I can also touch on the mental block that comes with being a flight away. In all reality, I live closer time-wise than some of my fellow students, but there is a difference between being able to drive last-minute for hours and having to jump on a plane to get where you need to go.
So how do you fight this feeling? For those experiencing the separation for the first time, Darla may have some words of wisdom.
“I would recommend fully embracing the community you have built here at Redeemer,” she said. “While it doesn’t completely erase it, knowing and loving those around you can help ease the ache.”
For myself, I have found that the time away, though sad, does create a sense of appreciation for home that I didn’t have before. Thus, I would encourage out-of-province students that do get to go home to make the most out of the holidays. Though it may be a limited time, spending it with those you love and doing the things that are special for your family or friends can make all the difference. Finally, I would encourage you, rather than viewing the break as a too-short time away, to view it as a refreshing restart preparing you to hit the books again in January.
Homesickness is an appropriate topic for Christmastime, but not only because there is a break from school. The celebration of Jesus’ coming to earth as a baby reminds us that this earth is not our forever home. As students we are homesick for the places we are coming from, but as Christians we are homesick for a place that is not yet here. And if Jesus had to be separated from His Father and the ultimate home in heaven for 30 years, I think we can manage for a semester or two.