Wanderlust and Missing Home

14 April 2023

Student Nancy Yang writes about exploring can help with homesickness whilst studying abroad

It’s nearing the end of December which is insane. It’s been a rollercoaster in the absolute best way and has stretched me so much - socially, academically, and emotionally.

It seems that many university students, especially those on exchange, experience homesickness at some point in the year. As Christmas festivities start to make their appearances and finals lurk around the corner, it’s the little things I miss. The smell of home when I open the front door. That green kitchen table cover. Sitting on my bed with my sister. My cat’s purr. Catching up with friends. I even miss popping by M&S, strolling through the aisles to see all the niche things that they have. Fun fact: Vancouver had an M&S a few years back, but it got shut down. I guess there’s just something about Percy Pig and the UK ;)

I find it helpful to have regular catchups with friends and family from back home. Since there is an 8-hr time difference, I call them in the mornings or early afternoons, and this starts off the day nicely. Sending postcards is also a thoughtful gesture and they are lovely to receive. I would get some from the UBC Bookstore and send them off at the post office on campus.

Something else that helps with homesickness is exploring! Canada is a gorgeous country and Vancouver is the perfect balance of city and nature. Exploring allows us to appreciate what we have, the opportunity to go abroad, and really enriches one’s time here. We have a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started.

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
At the start of the academic year, the weather was amazing, though it continued to be abnormally sunny throughout October (climate change). I went on a retreat to Vancouver Island with a UBC club called the Navigators. Vancouver Island, an island just west of Vancouver, is only an hour or two away by ferry. It was a great time to develop relationships, deepen my faith, and we even saw a deer and its fawn! It’s worth a visit. We stayed in Nanaimo, and I had my very first Canadian hike.

Stawamus Chief Trail
Speaking of hikes, if there is anything one needs to do in Canada, it is to hike at least once. The views from the mountaintops are spectacular. Right before Raincouver hit, we had the chance to go to Stawamus Chief Trail, which is near a town called Squamish, in the north of Vancouver. The hikes vary in difficulty and length. On the same day, I had turned down an offer to go to Grouse Mountain as the unique selling point was that the hike consists solely of stairs…and that sounded brutal. Little did I know, a third of the Stawamus Chief Trail would be uninterrupted stair climbing, which later morphed into chains that we used to pull ourselves up. I LOVED IT. We climbed the first and second peak and had lunch on the mountaintop. I still remember the breeze on my face as we stood on the summit. I think it’s best to have proper hiking boots though…I went in trainers…but luckily still survived! Looking back, I wished I’d gone to more hikes like this.

Richmond Night Market
Back on ground level, and literally geographically south of Vancouver, the Richmond Night Market is a popular destination throughout summer. As the name implies with jazz hands, it’s in Richmond, close to the Panda Pod Hotel where I stayed over on the first day. Richmond, part of Metro Vancouver, is well known for its delectable Asian food, so a market full of tastes was very exciting to try. I went with a friend, and we shared a couple of cuisines between us. We even bumped into some exchange students too! The fusion wrap was my personal favourite, and the cumin lamb chops, a taste from home. We also tried beavertails, the national trademark dessert. Think of a sweet, fried pizza (sorry Italians!).

Canucks, Ice Hockey
Some sporty things. For those ice hockey fans, the Canucks are the Vancouver team. If you weren’t an ice hockey enthusiast before, you might as well be by the end of the game, because same. The intense match can be watched in the Rogers Arena. If you sign up to UBC’s Exchange Club, they have an offer for about 50% off tickets. The game was seriously good. It was like a mix between a hockey game, talent show, and talk show all on one night. I would totally go again. Honestly it was so fun, and we even won! Well, the Canucks did, 4-0 against LA.

All that to say, to be honest, going to all these events are super exciting, but chilling with flatmates and exploring niche cafes by yourself in Vancouver can be just as fun. As a matter of fact, Vancouver has even been dubbed as one of the best food cities in the world. 

Coming back to the present day, it’s snowing! Campus looks like a big winter wonderland, and our accommodation has turned into a little ski resort. The other day, as I was coming back home, I passed by some brave souls perched outside with their winter gear, nibbling on ice cream in -6-degree weather.Want to go skiing? Look no further because the streets of Vancouver are perfect for cross-country skiing.
See you next year.