By: Elizabeth Iwunwa
I was elated when I discovered that I would be going to University in a land far away. That might not have been the case for some of you but as one of three children of over-protective parents, coming to University was more than just a step further in my education. Canada became my “Promised Land”. And without much ado, I packed my bags and left my loud, sweaty and exuberant Lagos to Charlottetown. I had not known that foxes walked people home at night then. Everything was a complete opposite of what I was used to. I left a country where we had Jollof rice and chicken for lunch to one where people ate sandwiches and yogurt at noon. I made some mistakes and would like to share them, so you don’t have to.
First, do not spend money on anything but basics until you determine and understand the value of the new currency. I remember almost spending my rent for the month on my first trip to the mall. Back home, five thousand bucks could buy groceries that would last roughly two weeks. I had not realized the ones and twos of Canadian currency added up fast. To avoid this, I suggest you pay the important bills like rent and electricity first and then make a list of what you need. (We don’t want you out on the streets now, do we?) Develop a table either with a pencil and ruler or Microsoft Excel and create two columns. One will represent debit and the other credit. The debit column represents your expenses and the credit column represents all forms of income. Balance them on a weekly basis to figure out how much you really spend. If all of this sounds too tedious, check out some apps that can help you monitor your funds. In addition, many stores have discounts on select days or throughout the week, take advantage of those.
On the other hand, avoid converting every cost to your home currency. I have done this a number of times before. The reality is that if you keep doing this, you might not even buy toothpaste. Understand that the economy here is different and so it requires a different system of operation.
The next point is with respect to goals and aspirations. As a first year student, I vaguely knew that I wanted to “do well”. I did not put it in writing. Although I did not fail, I knew that I could have done so much better. There is power in writing down your intentions and having a plan. Set goals that are feasible and realistic and then write out the steps to achieving them. Focus less on the goals and more on the steps. In the end, motivation will get you going but determination and consistency will keep you going. Planning your day is crucial to getting anything done.
Also, homesickness is a never-ending battle, especially for me. I do not by any means imply that homesickness is a mistake. It is an experience. It is most certainly difficult leaving a place and people you have spent a huge part of your life with. I remember felling like I was floating and lost. One thing I’m sure of is that it will pass. If it doesn’t, seek help. There are many people willing to walk you through this new phase of your life. Try as much as you can to connect with your family regularly. Hang up photos of your loved ones in your space. You could also wear a piece of jewellery that reminds you of home. In addition, find a mantra or come up with one that steadies the ground beneath your feet. You could borrow this one:
“I have fear, fear does not have me
I have doubt, doubt does not have me
Fear is a liar; I will call its bluff
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul”
Finally, get involved. This is a phrase you will hear throughout your stay at UPEI. It might be is uncomfortable breaking out of your comfort zone. Just remember that you did not travel halfway across the world only to meet and mingle with people like you. Volunteer for the Cadre (very shameless plug), sign up to join societies, and attend events that will happen across campus all year round. There’s usually a huge chilli lunch at the end of every semester. It is a great way to meet and connect with interesting people.
After all is said and done, take a step back and enjoy the process. UPEI will change your life, if you let it.